The time spent soaking at all the various hot springs in the Mammoth Lakes area was as usual, very relaxing and enjoyable, but with all then tents moving in around us, Hailey didn’t have the chance to spend as much time outdoors as usual. Much of my time was also spent on the phone with the Galaxy Broadband people trying to get my satellite system back online.
It’s always interesting people you run into while soaking in the hot springs. Several times it was agreed by all that there would be no political discussions, but inevitably the results of the recent election and the likely ramifications got hashed over yet again. Fortunately, it seemed that everyone there was on the same page. As per usual (!), some of these nice folks had no idea where Alberta was – even one lady who said she had lived in Seattle for 3 years!
I was also able to watch both the rise and setting of the largest, closest moon in about 70 years, from separate hot pools. But even with the brightest moonlight ever, some of the visitors were using headlamps to simply navigate the trails to the springs! Mammoth mountain had just opened for skiing, so that no doubt increased the traffic to the hot pools.
After being thoroughly soaked for a few days, we pulled in the slides (including one that has started to insist on being cranked in by hand), hooked up and headed on down the road. Bishop was the first stop for some fuel and propane, then we rolled on down the 395 into Big Pine. The elusive stealth blogger Wandering Willy had recommended a drive up to the Bristlecone Pine area. So with that in mind, the rig was dropped at a convenient spot right next to the highway, and we were off for drive to 10,000’.
The visitor center was closed for the season, but there are lots of outdoor exhibits and some nearby trails that are still open. The road carries on past there, but the pavement ends and the gravel road was much too rough to be enjoyable, so we retraced our steps and coasted back down into the Owens valley.
Carrying on south from Big Pine, we spotted a road heading west that I thought might join up with the famed Movie Rd in the Alabama Hills at Lone Pine. After one wrong turn that ended up at an old abandoned mine site, and some quality washboard, we were indeed on Movie road. My scenic spot from last year was taken, but I found an even better spot that was closer to town, yet further off the road.
It was not a good sign to see a local kangaroo rat running around under the rig eagerly looking for a way in even before things were unhooked. Speaking of unhooked, the bits of quality washboard on the way in had done a nice job emptying some shelves and upsetting everything that wasn’t tied down ;-(. In the morning, Hailey was keen to get out and check out the scenery and views of Mt Whitney. After a short orientation on leash, she was off climbing over, under, through and around the rocks to her hearts content. She really seems to like rock climbing!
Previously, on visits to the area, we have driven up to Whitney Portal, which is a long climbing switchback up to campgrounds and trailheads for Mt Whitney. But further to the south, I had seen another road that also switch backed it’s way back up into the mountains. I had assumed that it was likely a very rough 4x4 route, or at least gated. But much to my surprise and pleasure, it was open and paved all the way up. Unlike Whitney Portal road, that ends in a fairly shady, dark canyon, this Horseshoe Meadows road comes out on a wide open flat plateau complete with campgrounds, equestrian areas, and trailheads leading up the the Pacific Crest Trail.
The temptation was just too much, so the hiking boots were strapped on and I headed up the trail to see where it went. Hailey had stayed behind as a welcoming party for any kangaroo rats that were foolish enough to try to get into the rig.
Our camp was about 4400’, and the road climbed to 9600 according to the altimeter on my watch, so it was soon above 10,000 as I followed the trail towards Cottonwood Pass.
After a time, and a bit of huffing and puffing in the relatively thin air, the summit of the pass was reached at 11,200 feet. It was cool and breezy up there, with a few tiny snow patches. Unlike back home, there are still large trees at this elevation.
After getting back to the truck, there was still a lot of scenery to take in on the drive back down. The views across Owens Lake and the whole Owens valley are unobstructed from this road clinging to the edge.
That’s our camp in the centre of the photo just off Movie Road.
There were some more beautiful moonlit nights back at camp, so It was time for some more 30 second time exposures again.