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The Eastern Sierra (Part One)

Midnight Rambler

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WARNING: This thread contains over 30 high quality 1024x768 pictures. Your modem will not survive, so those still living in the stone age are advised to turn back now before it's too late.


If you were to ask most Americans, or even most Californians, what first comes to mind when they think of the defining features of the state's landscape, you'll most likely hear about Yosemite, Tahoe, the Central Coast, the Mojave Desert, the Sequoias, and the Redwoods, and little else. I guarentee almost no one will mention the Eastern Sierras. Why? Because almost no one has even heard of the place.

Hidden away on the far side of the state is, in my opinion, one of the most awe-inspiring and sublimely beautiful regions in North America. Stretching from Kern County, about two hours from Los Angeles CA, all the way to Reno NV, the Eastern Sierra is a land of startling and magnificent contrasts: a flat and sometimes barren desert lies at the foot of one of the tallest mountain ranges in North America; its dense forests, winding creeks, and lush meadows surrounded by perpetually snow-covered granite peaks. The following pictures really cannot do justice the sheer awesomeness of this place, but hopefully they will open your eyes a place you might not even have known existed.


These photos were all taken during one rather amazing day in March. I decided that since almost all my teachers were gone, I might as well ditch school and do something that would better benefit my intellectual advancement. So I got in my 1991 Honda Accord EX and drove a total of 800 miles because I felt like it. (I apologize to those familiar with the area if certain attractions along the way seem to be missing from my travelogue, but I had a schedule to keep!)


I-405 / I-5 / CA-14 / US-395





This little truck stop (about 1 1/2 hours north of Los Angeles) isn't just the intersection of routes between SoCal, Bakersfield, Las Vegas, and Mammoth - it's also home to the truly surreal "Airplane Graveyard" where planes go either to die or be mothballed in the blistering desert heat. It's called Mojave for a reason, folks.



CA-14 looking north from Mojave. The barely visible mountains on the left are part of the Tehacipi Range, whose low peaks will eventually evolve into the towering granite monoliths of the Sierra Nevada


Owens Lake & Lone Pine

The Sierra Nevada Range, from a rest stop on US-395 south of the Owens Valley. At this point, the mountains are still below ten thousand feet, but still very impressive.



Looking South



Looking North. The mountains on the right are part of the Inyo Range, which parallel the Sierras for roughly 80 miles to form Owens Valley between them. The Inyo Mountains eventually become the White Mountains. That range's northenmost peaks are some of the few in the country that can rival those of the Sierras in size.


Growing Sierras


Looking East, we see the Inyo Mountains behind Owens Lake. Once a beautiful blue inland sea plowed by steamboats carrying silver and borax from the local mines, around the turn of the century Owens was literally bought and drained by the parasitic city of Los Angeles to meet its own aquatic needs. (So really, we're a desert stealing water from a desert.) Owens was turned into a desolate salt flat and the local farm-based economy collapsed almost instantly. During the winter, heavy winds would blow across the lake bed and whip up dangerous alkalai storms, turning the sky above Owens Valley an awful dark brown and making the air nearly unbreathable. Rightfully pissed off, Mono County decided to sue Los Angeles and, as a result of the settlement, we have to return water to the lake. Alls well that ends well, then... except for about one hundred years worth of economic and enviromental damage.







Looking South, the Sierras are really starting to get big now.


Some trees (50 yards), the very rocky and very red Alabama Hills (2 miles), and the peaks of the Sierra Nevada (25 miles) from a rest stop just south of Lone Pine.




Looking Southwest. Those diagonal lines on the mountain face are actually the switchbacks of the road up to Horseshoe Meadow, supposedly one of the most beautiful spots in all the range. Unfortunately, as I soon found out, the road was closed to due winter snow (read: due to lack of plow funds thanks to Bush tax cut) so I couldn't go all the way up.



Looking East, towards the Inyos


Looking back at the Sierras from about two miles down the road to Death Valley offers a better perspective on their size... that size being "fudgeing huge".








Mount Whitney (14,494 ft) is at the center of the photograph. It looks smaller than the mountain to the left because it's further back, but it is the tallest peak in the contiguous United States.


South, towards Owens Lake (not visible)


Southeast, towards the Inyo Mountains and eventually Death Valley


Northeast, Inyo Mountains



North, Owens Valley with Sierra Nevada on the left and Inyo/White on the right.


Mt Whitney & Horseshoe Meadow Roads

On the road to Mt Whitney, the peak itself is obscured by a telephone pole.


The rocky Alabama Hills, with the Sierras as their backdrop, have been the setting for many Westerns, most of them starring Republican nut job and confessed hippie-hater John Wayne.


Can you spot Mt Whitney?


I can.


Looking East towards the Inyo Range from Horseshoe Meadow Road, which runs perpendicular to the Whitney Road and parallel to the Sierras.


Looking Southwest along Horseshoe Meadow Road towards the Alabama Hills and the Sierras.



West towards Sierras


East towards Owens Lake, the Inyo Mountains, and the Panamint Range near Death Valley. Badwater, at -279 ft, is the lowest point in the contiguous United States, at the center of Death Valley it is only 85 miles from the highest point, Mt Whitney. Crazy...



Northeast along Horseshoe Meadow Road towards the Alabamas and the Inyos


One of the many granite peaks of the Sierras, with some local flora.




Zoom Zoom (those trees are like 30-50 ft tall)


Mt Whitney



South, Sierras


North, Sierras


Looking East from the winter end of Whitney Portal Road towards the point where the Inyo Mountains become the White Mountains. I don't see the difference between the two, but then again I haven't yet graduated high school, so who am I to say.


Looking North one can really appreciate the trough-like shape of Owens Valley. Millions of years ago, before erosion built up a smooth, soil-covered bottom, the valley was more like a v-shape all the way to sea level. Those are stone sculptures covered in snow, by the way, and I have no idea where the hell they came from and what they mean but I see them everywhere, sometimes even when my eyes are closed.



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What a great set of pictures. It's so beautiful out there in its own way with all of its the grandure and vistas. It reminds me of NM, dry valleys with snow capped mountains. Even the plants are similar with the sage and Chamisa.

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The Eastern Sierras are beautiful and astonishing, a perfect getaway for those tired of urban life. One of the things that amazes me there is that many bristlecone trees grow in the dry, high, cold, harsh Sierra. They are usually less than 10m tall, but they are 3000-4000 years old and they look like wind sculptures more than trees. In the lowlands, there's the desert and I love deserts. To the West, high 4,000m peaks rise precipitously; they are snowcapped for most of the year and you can see it from the hot desert valleys. I've been up hiking in the steep eastern slope of the Sierras and you have to see it to believe it! :lol: These peaks also house tundra, cold lakes and some small glaciers. I've hiked to the Palisades and they tall, but I've have never really got the feel of the low, desert valleys.


Palisade Glacier


Lyell Glacier (Mt. Lyell, Yosemite Nat'l Park)

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