We did an impromptu trip to the Eastern Eierras after realizing all campgrounds were full a 3 day backpacking trip we wanted to do on the Skyline-to-Sea Trail. Even though most of the fall colors got washed away from a recent storm, and most campgrounds were closed/booked we decided to try our luck and go for it. Worst case scenario we can stay in a warm temperature controlled hotel room with a real bed.
On the road. Day 1.
It was a 4 hour drive from San Jose to our first destination: Bodie State Historic Park. So we hit the road at 5am and took Highway 101 -> 680 -> 580 -> 205 -> 108 -> 395 and got off 270 to reach this former gold-mining community turned ghost town.
We had many distractions on our way as the fall colors were still showing and the mountains had some snow up on top.
This time around I got new gear than what I brought two years ago. Moved from a Canon 5dmk2 to a Fujifilm XT1. A heavy Manfroto tripod to a Gitzo GT 1531 carbon fiber tripod, a Really Right Stuff (RSS) BH-40 ballhead and L bracket for the Fuji. I think this entire setup was a lot lighter than the 5dmkii with a 24-105mm lens.
Bodie State Park
On your way to Bodie State Park, you’ll drive some part of it on a maintained dirt road. I would not sweat having your car make it across unless you’ve lowered it or have low profile tires. If your car is un-modified your ok. I’ve seen a Prius and Honda Accord make it up there no problem.
Also, please bring cash. It makes life easier if you bring exact change and they do not accept credit card (they are in the middle of nowhere!). It is $8 per adult.
I advise taking the self-tour option and getting the map from the state park ranger at the entrance. You’re free to roam around the park except the Mill.
Since we are not backpacking, no need to stick to what i’ve packed to eat. We stopped by a place in Bridgeport called “The Burger Barn”. I honestly recommend any of the wraps as their burgers were a meh.
Sunset at Mono Lake
Last time I was here, it was in the afternoon, hot and stinky. Mono Lake is definitely a place to check out if you are in the Eastern Sierras. Its a rather large lake that you cannot miss when traveling down 395. If you have an interagency pass, you can use it here and not pay for parking.
We made it to Convict Lake and had plenty of open campsites. The fee was $23 per day and steeper than what i’m used to.
Campsites can be either open if you are staying on the outside of the campground, or you can move more on the inside to get more privacy from bushes. Each campsite has bear lockers so you do not need to hang your food, a bench and a firepit. While at camp, the sky was nice and clear and the milky way was out to play. We decided to walk in the dark for 15 minutes to the area where we would take a sunrise photo 8 hours later
I kept waking up at night since it was so cold. It must of been in the low 30s. I must of gotten a couple hours of sleep before the alarm went off at 06:30 to catch the morning sunrise at 07:00
We went onto the next adventure a couple miles away to a place called Hot Creek. Its a couple miles away and features a geothermal spring. You’ll need to drive on a dirt road (much better condition than Bodie as its flatter terrain). No admission fee needed, just stay on the trail and don’t jump in the hot water.
There are three vault-style unisex bathrooms at the parking lot incase you need to take care of business. The “hike” is a pathway from the top of the parking lot that leads you down the valley. Its an easy walk.
Devils Postpile National Monument
To finish off day 2, we visited the Devils Postpile National Monument. Again, if you have an interagency pass, no need to pay admission fees. There is not much to see here if you are driving. Two main point of interests is Devils Postpile and Rainbow Falls.
You can hike a couple miles down from Devils Postpile to Rainbow Falls, or be lazy in the high elevation and drive. You still have to do a 2.6ish mile round trip hike, but its better than 6 in 7000ft above sea level elevation.
Once we were done with the hike, why not treat ourselves. Roberto’s Cafe in Mammoth Lakes is worth checking out. The Carne Asada was great!
We packed up camp and decided to take highway 120 across Tioga Pass, check out Yosemite Valley and head straight home. Last time I was on this road, I kept falling asleep and waking up and seeing the same one lane highway and a lot of trees.
We decided to check out Lembert Dome first, Olmstead Point, and random turnout before going down to the valley.
There is never a bad time to visit Yosemite. I’ve been there in Spring, Summer and now Fall. Each visit is a different experience and looking forward to visiting in Winter.