Eastern Sierra’s – Part 1

This trip to the Eastern Sierras was originally planned to take place last summer as a way for us desert dwellers to escape the heat. But as our departure time grew closer, personal plans began to change and ended up not working out. In a way, it was better that way – giving me time to refine the trip to best utilize our time. And now, looking back, it would have been mostly disorganized chaos compared to the epic trip we just had. This trip wasn’t without change though – what originally started out to include our entire group slowly dwindled down. 6 vehicle and 14 people reduced to 3 vehicles and 4 people. In addition, the girls decided to stay home so that meant only one thing… Man trip. :friday:

Our newly found freedom allowed for some welcomed flexibility – leaving a day early, more diverse camping spots and the ability to cover ground more efficiently. This ended up turning into a win, win, win situation!

We left Wednesday after work and met up at the Pilot at the 15 & 395 interchange. Fueled up, grabbed a quick bite and set off for our first camp which was to be in the Alabama Hills, just west of Lone Pine.


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.





By | 2017-01-19T15:08:26+00:00 August 8th, 2016|Trip Reports|3 Comments

About the Author:

Desert explorer. Photographer. Vehicle enthusiast. In constant pursuit to find something new. Mining history buff.


  1. John Wymore October 14, 2016 at 11:13 pm - Reply

    This was a good read. I found your site through the Expedition Portal site. I really liked all of the pics. I’m familiar with some of the areas that you went to up there, especially Bodie. That’s just about my favorite place in the world. A few years ago I took the family up to Laurel Lakes for a day trip to do some fishing. I was in my Chevy Silverado crew cab, short bed. The Duramax made it up all the way, but it sure was a slow, tough drive in that thing, especially with my wife cussing my name the entire way; what a gorgeous place. I recognized those roads above Lundy Lake too. I stay up at Virginia Lakes almost every year and try and get out to explore and do a little bird hunting. If I’m not mistaken, you had to of been on the Jordan Basin Rd. as it came off of Virginia Lakes Rd. That’s my guess anyway. I recognize that view overlooking Mono Lake. I only have one complaint though, you shoulda lent a helping hand to the people stuck in the sand, to drive away and not at least try to get them out was a dick move. You’d of been OK, they weren’t gonna hurt you, they were stuck. You were correct when you said that you were overthinking the situation. Anyways, I’ll hop off of my soap box now. Another place you might want to check out next time you make it up that way is Green Creek, especially in the fall. It’s an easy drive, in and out. Last time that I was there the aspens were turning to gold and we watched a beaver swimming up the creek. Thanks for the write up, it was great to see all those places.

    • Kyle Mac October 15, 2016 at 11:09 am - Reply


      Thanks for taking the time to read about our trip. We’re usually desert dwellers and it was refreshing and awe inspiring to see some greenery and spend some time in the mountains. I’m thinking we might have to modify our group name to something along the lines of Explore Desert & Mountains! Ha.

      Laurel Lakes is quite amazing and we were fortunate to have the place to ourselves. Too funny about your wife, I’m sure it was all worth it once at the top. And yes, that in fact was Jordan Basin Rd up in Copper Mountain. Spectacular area and the views were second to none.

      As for the Tundra – I’ll copy what I wrote in response to a similar statement as yours:

      “You never know who you might come across or what their intentions are in today’s world, regardless of if it’s in downtown LA or in the Eastern Sierra’s. I try and give everyone a chance but my personal, family and vehicles safety comes first. It’s easy to come to conclusions and speculate when oneself is not there.

      * Hitchhiker – More or less was accentuated in favor of story telling. I suppose I could have made this a bit more apparent, but in the end he did end up getting that ride =).

      * Stuck Tundra – People didn’t seem very friendly. Wasn’t going to jeopardize getting stuck myself. No winch or Maxtrax to aid in recovery. They said they had all provisions needed until help arrived. They already had made contact and said a tow truck was in route. I did the honorable thing by stopping, making sure everyone was ok and if they needed anything. Offering recovery assistance was not in the cards given their situation, nor mine. They had help on the way.

      * Splitting up and communications – Our group was separated by less then 2 miles as both trails basically paralleled each other. We were in constant communication the entire time, all of us aware of each others location and status. Truly splitting up or being outside of radio range is out of the question for us.”

      This took place in soft sand. Where the truck was located was in-between bushes on a incline. I already had to keep momentum myself and ensure I stopped on a downhill slope in order not to get stuck. To aid in recovery I would have had to bypass the truck, then backup and stop in a low area, hook up a tow strap more then likely become buried as well. It is what it is, I’ve helped countless people throughout the years and I have no problem doing so, but this was a no win situation.

      We’ll be sure to check out Green Creek next time up in that area, I appreciate the recommendation.

  2. John Wymore October 21, 2016 at 9:16 pm - Reply

    Right on.

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