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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Eastern Sierra Weekend Get-away

California's Eastern Sierra is one of my favorites for a long weekend get-away from San Diego. Mind blowing sceneries are everywhere, from the alpine and snowy sawtooth peaks of the Sierra Nevada,
Mammoth Mountain @ Mammoth Lakes
to its sparkling lakes, gushing waterfalls and surreal desert landscapes. I got inspired sharing our itinerary for a weekend get-away in the Eastern Sierra since one of my Salitype sisters will be visiting this part of the world. Hopefully, this post will help a little bit in their trip planning.

day 1, September 27, Saturday: San Diego to Mammoth Lakes
We left San Diego early morning of September 27, and the first town in the Eastern Sierra we stopped for fun exploration and sightseeing was Lone Pine.
A. Lone Pine
Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, CA
The town of Lone Pine is at the base of Eastern Sierra and is known as Hollywood's gateway to fun. One of the local attraction at Lone Pine is Alabama Hills, which is just 2.5 miles West of Highway 395.
Photographing the Photographers :) 
Re-enacting John Wayne Movies :)
Probably your eyes may have set on Alabama Hills, but you may just not be aware of the name of the place. This place is frequently used as location for Western, sci-fi and other movies set in an archetypical rugged environment.
Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous US, from Alabama Hills
Some of the movies shoot here are: Star Trek IV and VII, Gone in 60 seconds ( Nicolas Cage), Terminal Velocity ( Charlie Sheen), Joe Kidd ( Clint Eastwood), many of John Wayne's movies, among many others. The movie "How The West Was Won" selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant", was filmed mostly here in Alabama Hills. For those who are interested in going here, for a specific direction to find the many arches, you can click here and here. There is also a guide posted at the bulletin as you get near to the park or you can stop by Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce for specific direction before entering the park.
After Alabama Hills, we continued our drive North of Highway 395 and our next stop was at Bishop Creek Canyon. Now, if Alabama Hills was a world of rocky outcrops where you see sea of rocks as far as your eyes can see, Bishop Creek Canyon looked something else!
B. Bishop Creek Canyon
North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon
Who thinks that desert and forests could not co-exist? At higher elevation, the rugged desert environment disappears to give way to a lush pine and aspen forest. After Bishop, it was getting late and we went straight to Mammoth Mountain Inn at Mammoth Lakes where we stayed in this long weekend.
C. Mammoth Lakes
Road to Mammoth Lakes
Fishing @ Mammoth Lakes
slept at @ Mammoth Lakes

day 2, September 28, Sunday: Mono Lake and Yosemite National Park's High Sierra at Tioga Pass
This was my favorite part of our trip, and actually the very reason why we went back to the Eastern Sierra. Summer of 2008 we left the valley of Yosemite National Park late in the afternoon heading to Mammoth Lakes. As we passed by Tioga Pass, which is considered as one of the most scenic "high country" roads in the world, we were totally awed by the scenery that we pulled over the car every 100 ft for pictures.
Tuolomne Meadows, Yosemite National Park summer 2008
Ellerly Lake, Tioga Pass, Summer 2008
 When we reached Mono Lake, it was already dark. Though we had decent pictures of Mono Lake at dark, but it felt like we did not have enough. 
Mono Lake in the Dark, summer 2008
Thus we planned for a weekend get-away back to Mono Lake and Tioga Pass. Our goal this time is to photograph Mono Lake at sunrise and sunset, and then, explore some more of Tioga Pass during the day.
A. Mono Lake
About 25 miles from Mammoth Lakes is Mono Lake South Tufa State Reserve. Since we were very excited, we woke up early enough to drive to Mono Lake South Tufa Reserve for sunrise. 
Mono Lake @ Sunrise
Mono Lake @ Sunrise
Mono Lake is a Bird's Refuge Providing them with trillions of visible alkali shrimp floating on the lake
Mono Lake is one of the really "must see" scenery in the Eastern Sierra, and one of my favorite places to wander and wonder about nature. For more about Mono Lake, you can find the link to my Mono Lake post here, and for the Mono Lake State Park site here. Our hotel also provided us with directions on how to get there, but then, with navigators these days, all we had to do was enter "Mono Lake South Tufa State Reserve" and driving to the place was not a problem.
After we were done with Mono Lake at sunrise, we drove back to Highway 395, drive North and then East at Tioga Pass. 
B. Tioga Pass and the High Sierra of Yosemite National Park.
13 miles Northwest of Mono Lake South Tufa State Reserve is the East Entrance of Yosemite National Park. However, the entire drive at Tioga Pass from Highway 395 was simply amazing! 
Fall @ Tioga Pass
Though Yosemite Valley was only an additional 30 minutes from Yosemite's Toloumne Meadows, however, our last visit and hikes at Yosemite was centered around the valley, thus, this time we spent more time at the High Sierra of Yosemite National Park. 
@ Pothole Dome with Tuolomne Meadows Below
Reflecting Pond @ Tuolomne Meadows
World of Rocks @ Yosemite's High Sierra
Olmstead Point
Clouds Rest, Half Dome and Tenaya Canyon from Olmstead Point
There are many hiking trails to explore at Yosemite's High Sierra at Tioga Pass, for more information about places to explore, you can click here
C. Mono Lake Again
This time, we were so careful not to miss the sunset at Mono Lake. We left Yosemite's High Sierra about an hour before the sunset heading back to our hotel at Mammoth Lakes, however, along the way, we stopped at Mono Lake again for sunset pictures. 
Mono Lake looking West, sunset
Mono Lake, looking East, at dusk
Mono Lake, looking East, at dusk
day 3, Monday, September 29: Attractions at Mammoth Lakes and then back to San Diego
This day, we did not start our day until past sunrise because we know that the shuttle to Devil's Postpile National Monument starts at 7:30 am. 
Devil's Postpile National Monument
The Devil's Postpile formation is one of the world's finest examples of columnar basalt that towers 60 ft and display an unusual symmetry. The columnar rocks resulted from the basalt lava which erupted less than 100,000 years ago. As the lava cooled, it contracted and cracked, forming vertical columns. 
 The top of the Postpile are hexagonal tiles, nature's way of using the least length of line to enclose the most area. There are more to explore at Devil's Postpile aside these columnar basalt rocks. Another interesting place to hike inside the park is Rainbow Falls. During summer and fall, access to this park is through Red Meadows Shuttle Bus from Mammoth Mountain. For more information about Devil's Postpile National Monument and it's natural geological wonders, please visit the park's site here. After we were done at the Red Meadows Area, we thought of taking the gondola to the peak of Mammoth Mountain and take in the 360 degree scenery of the Eastern Sierra at the top, however, stormy skies started rolling in that we decided to avoid being caught in the storm. We were glad we did because it would be very hard to drive on treacherous mountain roads with all the snow pouring in. We were lucky in this trip, since the next day after we left, it was reported that the fall colors were gone because of the pounding snow storm in the area. But then, again, maybe Mono Lake would have been prettier with snow around it. 

To Chay, I hope you will have a wonderful time staying at Mammoth Lakes like we did! Eastern Sierra is such a place of awe and wonder. 

Visit Outdoor Wednesday to learn more about outdoors thorough others posts.


  1. wow! it feels like i just came from a paradise! i love all the photos Beth, spectacular! would love, love, love to visit those places with all the salitype sisters. :)

  2. I have just finished the walk with Ratty, and now continue the few days journey with you.

    I shall never complained. The journey is terrific.

  3. I've never seen so many gorgeous photos in one place...APPLAUSE!!!

  4. Wow!!! What a beautiful place! Thank you for sharing, and for visiting me over at Color Outside the Lines! :)

  5. Stunning scenery! This is just the most amazing place and so inspirational.

  6. Nice time of the year to visit Eastern Sierra, FALL or almost Fall. We were there in the Springtime so we missed the colors. Next time, I might go this year in the probably the 2nd or third week of October. If you are going back this year, please let me know. We can caravan.

  7. whew! looking at the photos felt so heavenly! wow!

  8. Fabulous place, very scenic. I would love to be there in person.

  9. beth, you have this incredible way of taking your readers to places they (we) have never seen before through your spectacular nature photography! i just read about your weekend get-away to California's Eastern Sierra, and i can almost feel my heart pounding fast right now.. that's what your photos and descriptions of your trip do to me- makes me feel like i am part of the great adventure you recently enjoyed!

    i have to say that one of my favorite pictures among these collection of yours is the one you shot at Mono Lake (at dusk, i believe). i am in awe at the very clear reflection of those rock structures in the water .. perfect mirror images! i would probably cry tears of happiness if i ever got the chance to see such an awesome sight as that.

    you and khai are so lucky you have the chance to go on all these nature trips ... to marvel at the astonishing rock structures and embrace the Great Outdoors that God created for us all. and we, your friends, are very blessed to take part in a way, in all your trips, by viewing your beautiful photos and reading all the useful traveling tips and descriptions you share with us. thank you, beth!

  10. We have spent a lot of time in the Eastern Sierras! It was fun to see so many of the places we have hiked and camped captured so beautifully in your photos.

  11. wow! how beautiful! I live in the middle of the US and it is so fun to see other areas via your blog! your photos are amazing!
    Dee Dee




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