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Eastern Sierra Fall 2011

Day 1 of 4

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Friday, October 7th
Drive to Mammoth Lakes via Sonora Pass

As we've done for the past 3 years now, we planned an October trip to the Eastern Sierra many months in advance. Since fall colors and weather are so variable, it would be better to schedule it on the fly, but we're at the mercy of our kids' school schedule.

As (bad) luck would have it, after weeks of sunny weather, a cold storm blew in a few days before our trip and dropped 12-18 inches of snow in most places in the Sierra. Tioga Pass and Sonora Pass were closed, and I worried that any turned leaves on the aspens would have blown down. However, the storm was pretty much done by Thursday morning, and the forecast for the next few days was clear.

Knowing what awaited us, on Friday I packed our snowshoes and winter boots. I didn't know if we'd use them, but I wanted to be prepared. Around 10-11am, I learned that Sonora Pass was now open, a welcome sign that would reduce our driving time.

We left the Bay Area at 2pm and encountered little traffic. While on the road we learned that Tioga Pass was now open, as well. We stopped once for gas, and then again in Oakdale around 4:10pm for an early dinner. I actually checked my own web site at this point to see when we'd reached the highway 108/120 split last year. I wanted to make it over Sonora Pass while there was still light. We made it to the junction around 5:10pm, and went over the pass with plenty of light to spare. It was a beautiful drive, with snow all around. We noticed some people camping, braving the cold, although most of them were in trailers, not tents.

As the light faded, we headed out toward Highway 395. Reaching it, we turned south and stopped in Mammoth Lakes around 8:10pm to buy groceries. We eventually reached our rental house between Bishop and Mammoth Lakes around 9:30pm, after roughly 5 1/2 hours of driving and 2 hours of breaks.


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