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Eastern Sierra Fall 2010

Day 1 of 4

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Friday, October 8th
Drive to Mammoth Lakes via Sonora Pass

After hardly visiting the Eastern Sierra for many years, we were now making our fourth trip to the Eastern Sierra in the last 16 months (and our second fall trip in as many years). Part of the reason is simply a function of trying to explore new places. As much as I love Sequoia/Kings Canyon, I've already done most of the short hikes there. The same goes for much of Yosemite and Lake Tahoe. So that leaves the Eastern Sierra as a place I haven't yet explored a lot.

One of the nice things about visiting the Eastern Sierra is that you can drive up and down Highway 395 and visit several different trailheads with relative ease on the same trip. Although sometimes you can find more than one hike from the same general area, as we did on this trip.

Having hiked in the Sierra Nevada for 15 years, I love the fact that even after all that time I'm able to find places I've never visited. I can take a trip like this one and afterwards I'm looking forward to planning more trips, to explore even more. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Our trip began in the Bay Area, which we left at 2:15pm on a Friday. We ran into traffic near Pleasanton, being delayed about 20 minutes, but that was about the extent of traffic. We stopped in Oakdale for food and gas before reaching the 108/120 split at about 5pm. Last year, I had made the mistake of driving Highway 108 at night and swore that I would never do so again. It's a dark, steep, winding road that's best driven during daylight hours. However, as I approached the split I did a little calculation and figured I could get across most of it (to Highway 395) before dark. I figured it would be best to cross the Sierra as soon as possible, so I took Highway 108 instead of Tioga Road.

While it was sunny and relatively warm (and the forecast was for much of the same), it had snowed a week earlier. When we reached Sonora Pass, we could see a light blanket of snow covering much of the higher elevations. It was a very pretty sight, and one which I'm sure not a lot of people get to experience since the road is closed during the winter.

Just after starting our descent, I saw several black shapes in the fading light close to the road. My first thought was -- are those BEARS?! This is the most BEARS I've ever seen in one place in my life! But then just as I passed them I realized they were cows. Ha ha. It was getting dark, what can I say? Just be careful you don't run into them.

We did make it down most of the way to Highway 395 before it got dark. I would say I had to drive about the last 15 minutes or so in the dark, not too bad. It's pretty much straight for the last 3 or 4 miles, and then Highway 395 is relatively straight.

We reached Mammoth Lakes at 8:15pm, where we stopped for groceries. Then it was off to the Swall Institute, otherwise known as the House with the Red Windows (as our kids call it), between Bishop and Mammoth Lakes.

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