Location: Eastern Sierras, CA
Here are a collection of images I captured last month during an Eastern Sierras road trip we took. As it was early in the season, I have a few quick tips for others seeking the same sort of adventure in their lives. We took this trip on April 9th, 2018.
First we'll start with the pros - less crowds (depending on where you go), a lot of water in the rivers and lakes, snow capped mountains, pretty flowers, and generally clear roads with mostly mild to cool temperatures depending on your elevation.
If you're into hot-springs, and who isn't? Mammoth lakes area is where to find some really great ones with sweeping mountain views, this is due to all the volcanic activity in the area. Some of the privately owned hot springs are just off the 395N highway while some other hidden gems are a bit more of an adventure to get to over bumpy off road trails.
Over the years, some of these locations have really blown up in terms of crowds.
I think this is mainly because of geo-tagging images and social media, but you should expect other (perhaps nude) groups to share your experience if you do choose to visit these places. It's better without them, but there are ~7 billion people on this planet and we need to learn to co-exist with crowds even in the areas we go to seek solitude :*(
One place you probably won't run into crowds are all the abandoned mines along the Eastern Sierras, if you do your research you will find quite a few of them! Here is one we visited and it was eerily quiet. It was only after I entered this bunker that a bird roosting in the upper rungs came out flapping around everywhere, it spooked me for sure. In the skeletal image above I used all the color-tips for Night-Writer, my light-pen that I take everywhere and do this sort of light-drawing with.
The thing I love about the Eastern Sierras in Spring are all the snow-capped mountains you can see if you look West. This past year had record snowfall, so there is still quite a bit and it may last at higher elevations until early summer.
Now lets talk cons - one thing about an early Spring trip is you run the risk of it still being very cold at the highest elevations and the roads can be icy. Take for example the image above, where we got stuck on an ice patch at 11,000ft elevation trying to get to Patriarch Grove on the White Mountains. Here the temperatures at night are around 22 degrees! It was pretty bad.
I used a skateboard to pry and dig our way out for hours until exhaustion and then slept in our car - this is why we keep blankets, snow clothes, cold weather sleeping bags, and plenty of water in our car whenever we travel. You don't want to be out here without them, it can save your life!
Even though we were stuck and a bit fearful for our future, I managed to capture this pano before we hit the hay. In the morning we were greeted by another adventurous couple that also got stuck in the same ice patch! After a few hours of digging and bringing in rocks and branches for traction along with a bit of teamwork, we all managed to break free.
Here I am, a free & happy man after an exhausting night. You can purchase the hoody I am wearing by clicking the image above, my friend Justin is doing these and they are awesome!
Next stop for us was Mono Lake, which is where some of the most amazing sunsets happen. Here I tested out a long-exposure using my new Color-Caster tool I'm planning on making available on the Night-Writer shop soon.
Lastly, I will leave you with this pink skeleton in the lake using my Night-Writer + pink color-tip during blue hour. It was a fun trip and I'm always glad when we survive it! :D