We pulled onto Whitney Portal road right about 9:30 and made the drive towards the famous landscape. Just as we were to make the turn onto Movie Rd a bright light appeared on-top of the mountain. At first, it looked like maybe a vehicle coming down the road, but soon the light began to cast light like a search helicopter. It was coming right at us as we pulled over to get out of the vehicles for a better look. We stood there in awe once we knew it wasn’t a car, helicopter or plane. Our adrenaline pumping as whatever it was passed nearly right above us. Was is a meteor? A failed rocket launch? A disintegrated plane? Nearly a minute went by as we watched whatever it was come apart in the dark skies – fragmented fireballs scattering as it flew over the eastern horizon. Throughout it all, I kept thinking I should grab my camera but for some reason never did. Sort of bummed I didn’t.
We continued to our camp for the night to relax around the propane campfire before calling it a night. A long adventure awaits us in the morning.
Since we were in the valley the temperature rose quickly and as a result we packed up quickly to get our way towards higher elevations. We’d have to make a stop in Bishop for fuel and breakfast at Schat’s Bakery. By the way, how is it even possible to make bread that good?
The drive up to Bishop gave us some free time to research what last nights fireball was all about. Turned out to be the second stage from a Chinese rocket disintegrating in the atmosphere. How it just so happened to become visible at the “official” start of our trip was pretty cool.
From Bishop we’d skip taking the 395 any further north. Time for some dirt. A route through the Volcanic Tablelands would guide us up to Round Mountain – east of Lake Crowley, via Casa Diablo Rd.
The slight elevation gain gave us some relief from the heat, but it was still in the high 80’s. Definitely cooler then back home. As we approached Lake Crowley the group decided to take a break along the waters edge and relax a bit and soak in the view. Being that it was a Thursday, we had the entire beach to ourselves.
A bit more refreshed we began the trek into Long Valley and the Hot Creek area. Winding our way through the trees and various trails, we’d eventually end up dropping off at highway 203 into Mammoth.
As soon as the tires hit the pavement it started to rain – which sort of worked out since we were getting hungry. Decided to stop at Roberto’s Mexican Cafe for some killer food and a ice cold cerveza while we waited for the weather to clear before our next adventure. Well, the weather ended up making real a mess of things rather then clean. The dirt and dust we collected so far turned into spots and mud. Couldn’t complain too much – after-all it is a off-road trip…
Deadmans Pass northwest of Mammoth was next up.
We didn’t spend much time at the top. Though the views seemed endless and the cool breeze was nearly perfect, we needed to start towards our camp for the night – Laurel Lakes.
Coming up to the trail-head that leads to Laurel Lakes, there were a few vehicles in the parking area as well as a few people that appeared to be completing a day hiking throughout the local mountains. A bit further up a gentleman was walking up the trail with a gas can in a basic backpack which seemed rather odd. As we approached he turned around obviously now aware of our presence and stuck out his thumb. “Oh great…” was my first thought, but as I pulled along side I can see he couldn’t have been a hiker as he was too clean cut and not dressed the part. “Anyway I can get a ride to my truck? Can’t believe I did it, but ran my Colorado out of gas” he said as I got within earshot. Usually I’m not one for picking up hitchhikers, but the guy seemed genuine enough and didn’t appear to have bad intentions.
Told him to throw his pack in the bed and hop in. We began the journey up the long and windy mountain side and struck conversation. Ended up being a super nice guy – a local to the Mammoth area and a previous resident of North County San Diego. Before long we rounded a corner to discover his truck parked along the hillside. Bid farewell and continued towards the Lakes.
Upon reaching the high point of the trail the rain returned, bringing lightning and thunder along with it. Seeing a bolt strike the mountains peak right next to us then hear the sky rip apart was exhilarating and frightening all at the same time. We rushed down the switchbacks and found a spot suitable for the 3 rigs where we’d wait for the storm to pass. Eventually it did and gave way to some great weather to explore our surroundings. We found that we had the entire place to ourselves – just the way we like it.
It was a long day and ended it like we always do – around a fire and looking at the stars.