Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Back from the mountains

My friend Michael is a nature photographer and I was able to mooch my way into joining him this past weekend on a trip east into the mountains. This would be a weekend of many things: camping, backpacking, snowshoeing, and seeing a master at work.

DAY 1 - Friday
We left the Bay Area about 9am and headed East through the pass that goes by Kirkwood. On the way down the east side of the Sierras, we stopped at a waterfall and took some digital pics (I'll add some of those later). We made our way over to 395 and then headed south to Bishop to find out about backcountry access to a few locales. We had wanted to get to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest and head to the Patriarch Grove, but that road was closed. We ended up setting up camp at the Grandview Campground (oddly named as there is not a grand view from there) and headed to the Schulman Grove to find a good spot to take some sunset pics. Michael seemed to be happy with the results of that night and we returned to the campground for some dinner. We were the only ones on the mountain...had the whole park to ourselves.

DAY 2 - Saturday
Morning temp: 41. We woke a little before 5am and headed for a new vantage point. We found one and I think he was again happy with the results. Getting one good image makes his day.

Back to camp to nap some and then we headed into Bishop to get some sunglasses for me, though we had to take a detour due to the Mule Days celebration. Next stop...Mammouth Mountain for a snowshoe/backpack trek into the woods. Our goal was Garnet Lake, but due to the amount of snow we've had this year we had to start hiking from Mammoth ski area parking lot instead of Agnew Meadows which added about 3 miles to our trip...too much added distance in fact. We didn't make it to Garnet Lake, but did get a good hike and snowshoe trek: ~8.5 miles. The slope from the valley up into the mountains wore us out. By 7pm we decided to call it a day, set up camp and relax (collapsed in the tent is more like it) as the winds started to pick up (40 mph gusts throughout the night). We stayed in the tent while Michael boiled some water under the fly for our dinner. Sleep came around 10pm.

DAY 3 - Sunday
Morning temp: 38. Dawn came fast and Michael was able to sneak in some pics in between the gusts. We broke camp and hit the trail for the return around 9am. The trek down the mountain was much more relaxing this time, even if my boots were soaking wet. We passed a waterfall and some black & white pictures were taken. At the bottom of the hill, we made our way back through the woods and across the meadows and then back up the long windy hill to the summit and then a slight decline back into Mammoth Resort by 1pm. Once our gear was back in the car, we went over to the resort and had a couple of beers and some r&r on a couple of couches.

Next up...a drive up North to see some more lakes off of 395 and then to Mono Lake. We set up camp nearby under the Mono Craters, hung our socks on a tree and my boots under the tree and then went over to Mono Lake and Michael gave me a tour of the tufa. Back to the campsite, only to see that the winds had blown our tent a few dozen feet away. Time for some reading, snaking and napping. The two days of backpacking wore us out and we ended up not having dinner and fell asleep around 8:30pm.

DAY 4 - Memorial Day
Morning temp: 34. At 4:30am, we woke up and headed back to Mono Lake to get some pictures. We were vehicle #2 there and Michael had warned me about the dueling tripods (there were probably 8 or 9 photographers there at the peak that morning). We jigged and jagged and he finally got a few shots off.

Back to camp we went, had breakfast and packed up and headed to the ghost town of Bodie. At its peak in 1879, Bodie had 10,000 people. Goldmining during the day and drinking and gunfighing at night were the norm back then. Today, less than 5% of the buildings remain standing.

By 10:15am, we left and headed back home, up through the Sonora Pass which had opened up a few days earlier. If you have a chance to drive though there, it is a must go...soaring mountains, deep canyons and some stretches of road that are at a 24% incline.

I got home around 5:30, unpacked are realized that my boots are still under that tree at the Mono Craters. Time to do some shopping...next camping trip is two weekends away!

Here is a link to more photos...thanks Michael!

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