We left Yosemite National Park right before a storm was to move in, bringing rain, possibly snow, and high winds. We drove to the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada range hoping to see some fall colors. A week before we left on this grand vacation, I had seen blog postings on the Internet showing the trees had started turning already, a week or two earlier than normal. I was keeping my fingers crossed that the wind and rain wouldn't result in bare trees by the time we got there.
We arrived on the eastern side in the afternoon. Prior to checking into our hotel, we explored a few places, including Lake Elerbee (just outside Yosemite), Lee Vining Canyon, and Mono Lake. By the time we got to Mono Lake, the winds were howling around 45 MPH. We could hardly stay upright walking from the parking area to the lake. That evening, Tioga Road, the only road through the mountains, was closed due to high winds. While we missed the rejuvenated waterfalls in Yosemite, we would have missed more had we not gotten over the mountains when we did.
Lee Vining CanyonLee Vining Canyon
Cascade on Lee Vining CreekCascade on Lee Vining Creek
Before checking into our hotel, we visited Mono Lake. Mono Lake is a large, shallow saline lake with no natural outlet. On the south side of the lake is an area with "tufas," columns of volcanic ash. The wind was so high, a "salt storm" was visible on the other side of the lake from the wind picking up salt and blowing it across the lake.
Tufas on Mono LakeTufas on Mono Lake Blowing Salt and SandBlowing Salt and Sand Approaching StormApproaching Storm
It was cold and rainy at the hotel in Mammoth Lakes the morning of the second day, but the weather forecast for the Bishop area (about 40 miles south and east) was for clear skies and warm temps. We were planning to head north, but decided to head south instead. Less than 10 miles east of Mammoth Lakes we turned around and saw a stunning rainbow. This rainbow (and sometimes a double rainbow) lasted for about an hour and was visible no matter where we went.
Full RainbowFull Rainbow
We headed further south and ventured into Bishop Canyon. As we drove into the canyon, the storm clouds were not too far in front of us. I wasn't sure how far we would be able to go before we got rained out. We found a small stream and some colorful trees, but nothing too spectacular. And then we came to the town of Aspendell, where we were greeted by a stunning display of yellow aspens.
Sunshine Peaking Through the Clouds Intensifies Color of TreesSunshine Peaking Through the Clouds Intensifies Color of Trees White Trunks and Yellow LeavesWhite Trunks and Yellow Leaves
After lunch, we drove further south and east up into the White Mountains to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. This Bureau of Land Management area contains the oldest living things in the world, with the oldest tree there being more than 3,000 years old. There were two trails through the forest. With the elevation being near 11,000 feet, we opted to take the shorter trail, which contained the second-oldest living tree in the world (the other, longer trail had the oldest tree). For preservation reasons, the BLM doesn't say which of the trees you are seeing along the path are the oldest ones.
Ancient TreeAncient Tree - Seems to be smiling and saying, "Hey, you looking at me?"
The third day in the Eastern Sierras greeted us with continued rain at the hotel, but it looked like it would diminish during the day. We visited Lundy Canyon and Virginia Lakes to the north and drove the June Lake Loop on our way back south. To the north, we saw snow in the mountains surrounding Lundy Lake and the last bits of color holding onto some of the trees. Around June Lake, the aspens had more of an orange hue to their leaves. Again, the color was spectacular. We couldn’t have asked for anything more.
Snow in the Mountains and Color Around Lundy LakeSnow in the Mountains and Color Around Lundy Lake First Snow in the Mountains Surrounding June LakeFirst Snow in the Mountains Surrounding June Lake
The last place we visited on the eastern side of the Sierras was Alabama Hills, another BLM recreation area. The Alabama Hills are a range of hills and rock formations east of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The rounded hills and rock formations, including a number of arches, are in stark contrast to the rugged mountains that stand to the west. The most notable mountain that can be seen from this area is Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states.
Mt. Whitney and Sierra Nevada Range from Alabama Hills Mobius ArchMobius Arch with Mount Whitney in the background
Click here for even more pictures from the Eastern Sierras.
Keywords: Alabama Hills, Bishop, Bristlecone Pine trees, California, Eastern Sierras, Lee Vining Canyon, Lundy Canyon, Mono Lake, Mt. Whitney, Sierra Nevada Mountains, White Mountains
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