East of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, not far from Mammoth Lakes is an area known as the Long Valley Caldera. This is a geologically active area with steam vents, geysers and hot springs, the remnants of an ancient volcano. I’ve been visiting the Eastern Sierra for several decades and only this year decided to check out the area known as the Hot Creek Geologic Site.
My plan was to scout the location with the intention of returning in the morning when the steam from the many steam vents would be visible in the cool morning air. As it turned out, we had some dramatic weather with rain and hail and that was enough to appease my photographer’s eye.
There are a number of trails you can hike in the area with signs warning you to stay out of the water. Some of the pools are boiling hot. Despite the warnings we did see several people in the creek.
From the Hot Creek site we decided to head for camp. Our intended camping site was a spot referred to as Laurel Springs on iOverlander, a “wild” campsite site just off of Highway 395. In trying to locate the site we apparently drove past it. Rather that turn around we decided to follow the forest service road to see if we could find another suitable spot to park our rig. It wasn’t long before the road deteriorated a bit and I shifted into four-wheel drive. Then as the road got a bit rockier it was four-wheel low. You can see a photo of my shadow on the road looking east with Crowley Lake in the distance. We climbed up a valley to a ridge and there at the end of the road was a campsite with a picnic table and an incredible view. On one side of the ridge we could look east with a view of Crowley Lake, on the other side was a view of Convict Lake. In the morning I put the drone in the air to capture a view of our rig with Laurel Mountain and Convict Lake in the background.
The next morning, October 11, we broke camp and continued our journey home. We made a quick tour of the June Lake Loop, stopping at Gull Lake to walk the dog and admire the view. We found quite a few pockets of fall color, but for the most part the aspen were still green.
Our route home took us over Tioga Pass on highway 120. Near the summit we stopped for one last peek at the fall color on the mountain side. Then we drove down into Yosemite Valley thinking there might be a remote chance of camping. We were impressed by how busy the valley was. No luck on finding camping so we headed home. More photos are available online.
After three days of chasing fall color I was starting to feel overwhelmed. I felt like I had to give my eyes a rest, and yet we’d find another grove of aspen in full splendor, I’d grab my camera and start snapping photos. And then I’d be asking myself how the image I’m capturing differs from the many thousands of photos I’ve captured over the past 50 years. In any event, every photo is another adventure and the magnificence of the changing seasons never gets old. I’m always looking for a way to create unique photos that celebrate the glory of God’s creation.
Fall color in the Eastern Sierra usually starts in mid to late September with the aspen at the higher evaluations changing color first, and the color progressing down the canyons over the course of several weeks. I usually start to watch the fall color reports in mid September. This year October 4 was the earliest date we could get away, so we stocked the camper with food for a week and hit the road.
From our home in Albany, CA, we decided to take California State Route 108 over Sonora Pass. After passing the summit we stopped briefly near a grove of aspen, admired the view, and then decided to head to our intended camping destination on Green Creek. We were hoping to camp at the Green Creek Campground. Why? Because we wanted to fire up our Dutch Oven to cook dinner; for that we needed a fire ring in an established campground. The campground was closed. There are plenty of places to boondock along Green Creek so we found a comfortable spot to park our rig. We implemented “plan B” for our menu which did not require a fire ring. I was a little annoyed though when campers not too far away from us lit a campfire, something that’s prohibited in the dry conditions. I was too shy to confront them. What would I say?
We were so impressed with the fall color along Green Creek, we decided to spend a second night although we moved our rig a mile down the road. The road into Green Creek is a dirt road. For the most part it is navigable by passenger car, although close to the campground it get’s a little rocky.
From Green Creek we headed towards Bishop by way of Dunderberg Meadow Road. We admired the aspen along the way and set up camp at the Sabrina Campground in the afternoon. The fall color was about peak there. In the morning we drove to North Lake where I spent some time with my camera and tripod capturing fall color. We also gave our dog Carson the opportunity to hike with us off-leash.
From Bishop Creek we drove to Bishop where we spent the weekend with family. Then we headed home after spending one night camping on a ridge overlooking Convict Lake. We had intended to spend more time on the road but the furnace in our camper was not working and getting up in the morning with the temperature in the 30s was wearing on us.
More photos are available in an online gallery.