Need Advice on High Sierras - Lone Pine area

Discussion in 'Geographic Location' started by JeffD, Aug 5, 2006.

  1. JeffD

    JeffD Member

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    Hello,

    I have a week available, and am toying with the idea of spending it in the High Sierras of California. I reside in the Southeast, in the Atlanta area. I've been thinking some wide open spaces out west would be a nice change for me. I have been to yosimite before- driving out from San Fran, and am not really interested in re-visiting this area. In particular, I was thinking of the Lone Pine area. I typically shoot 4x5 black and white.

    Here is some things that I hope maybe some people can give me advice on: particular sites of interest- best/worst times of the year to travel to this area, lodging/camping, other things I might consider in the general area, advice as to maps and navigating, and maybe any other tips you would like to share.

    If the trip comes about, hopefully I can reciprocate by sharing some photos here. Thanks for taking the time to comment.
     
  2. Eric Leppanen

    Eric Leppanen Member

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    Lone Pine and Bishop are great base locations to visit a wide variety of sites. Best time of year depends on what you are looking for. Here are just a few ideas that barely scratch the surface:

    - Alabama Hills with Sierra mountains in the background. Best time of year is winter, when the Sierra is covered with snow and the air tends to be clearer. Contact the Interagency Visitor Center in Lone Pine for more information; they have a map of the Alabama Hills among other goodies.
    - Death Valley is also nearby, best visited during the winter.
    - Further north in the Bishop area you have Devil's Postpile and Bristlecone Pine forest (best visited in summer and fall); Mono Lake (all year, although winter visitation requires good snow management skills); Bodie (late spring, summer and fall are all good); and fall colors (typically October, June Lake loop is a good place to start).

    Of course there are a hoard of guidebooks written about all of these places. Photographically I would suggest reading several issues of the Photographing America newsletter that cover the area, i.e.:

    http://www.photographamerica.com/issue01.htm
    http://www.photographamerica.com/issue19.htm
    http://www.photographamerica.com/issue81.htm

    Good luck!
     
  3. eclarke

    eclarke Member

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    Alabama Hills!! When you think the sun has gone down, stay another hour and just observe..BEAUTIFUL light...EC
     
  4. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

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    I plan to be in the Eastern Sierra in early September. Mammoth, Mono Lake, Bishop, Lone Pine, etc. Should be beautiful! But be prepared for sudden electrical storms in the mountains.
     
  5. jimgalli

    jimgalli Subscriber

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    What they said. DO NOT miss the Ancient Bristlecone Forest. Be prepared for some light you've never experienced and pray for clouds. In bright sunlight at 10,500 feet with 8% humidity the differece between sunlit and shadow areas is the most extreme on earth. If you shoot color you'll need an 81C and a polarizer.

    Contact our own Death Valley Phil and get his input. He's a very nice guy (but he needs more LF gear.) His Sierras' site is: http://www.mtwhitneyphoto.com/
     
  6. ccbob

    ccbob Member

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    I visit this area frequently due to the fact that I live a couple of hours to the south of Lone Pine. Everyone has already given most of the best locations, but I would also throw in Onion Valley (Independence - north of Lone Pine), Big Pine (south of Bishop), and also Horseshoe Meadows (south of Lone Pine). There are trails leading to several lakes in all these areas.

    But be aware that this time of year most of these locations are very popular, worse of course on the weekends. But there is so much to see, you shouldn't have trouble finding a treasure-trove of photographic possibilities waiting for you.

    Good luck and enjoy your stay.
     
  7. hortense

    hortense Member

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    South Central Sierras

    http://thesierraweb.com/lonepine/
    This is a pretty good description so you can choose your base camp. Pleased to answer any unanswered question.
     
  8. David Henderson

    David Henderson Member

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    Just a couple of comments.

    First be aware that snow can affect your ability to get around until late spring in the northern Sierra and even close to Lone Pine. I travelled this area in late April/early May this year and was unable to access Bodie, and several higher roads that would often be open were closed. Of course this might not happen again ( and of course snow on the Sierra might enhance the photography), but certainly in the spring the window between wintry conditions and too hot can be short and unpredictable. If I visit there again it will likely be in fall.

    I would not, personally, want to spend a week photographing out of Lone Pine. I do like the Alabama Hills, but a couple of days will do it for me. Even adding in a bit of time round the Owens Dry Lake and around downbeat, quirky little places like Keeler if I were you I'd fix at least one, maybe two other bases. If you haven't photographed Death Valley before it would be a pity to miss it.

    I won't make suggestions a long way up the 395 since thats going to take you close to areas you might have seen already, but I would mention Convict Lake, a little to the south of the June Lake loop. If you do happen to be round there in late spring, with snow on the Sierras a still morning there can be very productive. Finally, I visited the Trona Pinnacles for the first time this year and if you get to walk amongst them with a decent sky there will be some fine photographs. I haven't seen many shots from there that haven't been rather dull long distance views of a row of rocks of uncertain size. Much more impressive close -up.
     
  9. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Another place worth visiting, even if not the most productive photographically-
    the Manzanar internment camp. It gives you a whole lot to think about, especially in this post- 9/11, Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib world.
     
  10. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    There is also Manzanar a little north of Lone Pine, which was one of the Japanese Internment camps from WW II (http://www.nps.gov/manz/). Fossel Falls (www.blm.gov/ca/ridgecrest/fossil.html). The Pinnacles near the metropolis of Trona, just west of Death Valley (already mentioned, but worth a 2nd). Red Rock Canyon on highway 14 north of Mohave. Generally the high passes (4000 + feet or so) will be closed from October through the winter. If you'd rather be in high mountains, there is Kennedy Meadows, and Sequoia Nat. Park on the other side of the mountains that run to the west of Highway 395

    For semi-ghost towns there are Johannesburg and Randsburg on highway 395, touristy in summer, but not so bad in other months. This time of year, daytime temperatures are 100+ (more like 110+), cooler in the mountains. Other times of the year daytime temps in the desert are generally 60 - 80, and as low as 'teens and twenties at night. For places to stay, in addition to Lone Pine, consider Ridgecrest, about 60 miles south, or perhaps Mohave, about 100 miles south. Best airfares are probably to Las Vegas, otherwise Ontario is the closest large airport, and of course L.A. Las Vegas and L.A. are roughly equadistant from the area, 150 - 200 miles. From Las Vegas, the shortest path takes you through Death Valley.
    The west is famous for sunsets of course, but sunrises looking across the high desert are stunning too.
    Be prepared for long driving distances, and carry water.
     
  11. wfwhitaker

    wfwhitaker Member

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    You're not kidding. The eastern Sierra would be a dramatic change and a great experience. After a year back on the east coast, I could use a dose of US395 myself. Follow the advice others give/have given; you won't regret it.

    Ditto the Bristlecones.

    Cheers,
     
  12. eclarke

    eclarke Member

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    I don't think you will have any trouble finding subject matter for photos. Make sure and spend time in Bishop, it is a wonderful Main Street town with great restaurants and ambience. The bakery there is just fabulous for A.M. coffee and treat...EC
     
  13. ccbob

    ccbob Member

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    And while you're on Main Street in Bishop, make time for a visit to the late Galen Rowell's Mountain Light Gallery... it is truly inspiring.
     
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  15. climbabout

    climbabout Member

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    Although it's already been suggested - I can't stress enough - Alabama Hills and the Death valley area - a great time for both would be between February and March - I have been to both several times and never tire of the area.
    Climbabout
     
  16. JeffD

    JeffD Member

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    Sorry for the delay in answering back to my own post. First, I want to heartily thank everyone for good leads! I'll be googling a lot attemping to find out more about all the locations you alluded to! I am getting psyched.

    I am looking at probably being in the area the second week of October, and, after reading the posts, I probably won't be confining myself to one area- looks like I'll be driving a lot, but I like that. I hope October, generally speaking, will be nice, weather wise. Or, at least, I hope I won't roast, or freeze. I am already roasting in Atlanta, currently.

    I am intrigued by the Bristle Cone forest people have mentioned. Can anyone comment a bit further on it? Where exactly is this? Even better yet, if someone has a topozone url, for a location, that would be awesome (www.topozone.com).

    Again, thanks for the wonderful response. I know I'll only scratch the surface in a weeks trip, but at least I won't feel quite as clueless as I prowl around looking for images.
     
  17. jimgalli

    jimgalli Subscriber

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    The topo map for Schulman Grove is here.

    Some 5X7's done about 3 years ago are here.

    The Ancient Bristlecone Forest is in the White Mountain range E. of highway 395 and Bishop / Big Pine Ca. The white mountains are the e. border of Owens Valley with the High Sierras being the W.

    What month would you be coming? Death valley is great in the winter while Bristlecones are great in summer. 11,000 feet elevation difference in a very few miles as the birds fly.
     
  18. JeffD

    JeffD Member

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    I'm thinking I'll be there in mid October, if things pan out right. Looks like 395 has plenty of diversions for a photographer!
     
  19. tim rudman

    tim rudman Member

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    Just to add to what others have said about the Bristlecones - keep going right to the top but be aware that the track is rough and consists of sharp flinty stones for some miles. If you take highway tyres they may not survive the trip.
    I went in a hired 4x4 and had a completely shredded tyre. Local people who stopped (always very briefly!) as they passed me changing the wheel all advised at least 6-8 ply tryes and 2 spares. My 4x4 had highway tyres. Alamo were very unco-operative and pointed out that according to the small print on the contract I shouldn't have taken the 4x4 off a tarmac surface, (which seemed rather pointless to me to pay all that extra to stay on a sealed road!) and that 'violating' these conditions made all the insurance void - so be warned on both counts. It's worth it when you get there though and when I go back I will explore the possibility of hiring a true off road vehicle by the day.
    Tim
     
  20. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Jeff-

    Mid-October is a fantastic time to be there - the weather is terrific. All of 395 has something for the photographer. Another thing to look for are the Native American petroglyphs. To get a map/directions to visit them, stop in the Bureau of Land Management office in downtown Bishop (it's right on the main street, with a little park out front). They will give you a pamphlet with driving directions on how to find the petroglyphs, but you will have to sign an agreement to get it. This is to prevent vandals from going out to deface them. If you decide to do this, I can also advise you to be very careful with the directions. They tell you how to find everything in miles travelled from certain points. There are no markers on the road to indicate where to stop for the petroglyphs, again, to reduce the possibility of vandals. I went to find some, wasn't paying attention to specific distances, turned off the road (which is a maintained, but not sealed surface road), and ended up getting my car stuck on the extremely high shoulder of the road. Thanks to a AAA bureaucratic snafu, I ended up spending two hours sitting in the sun on the side of an empty desert road, with my vehicle the only shade in sight. For future advice, to avoid this problem, just park on the edge of the road and walk back. Traffic on the road in question is very minimal, so nobody will come along and be unable to get around you.
     
  21. jimgalli

    jimgalli Subscriber

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    Contact Per Volquartz to see when his free workshop in the Eastern Sierra falls. If you are lucky enough to be there at the same time you may run into a bunch of the nicest people with big cameras and like minds on the planet.
     
  22. Gary892

    Gary892 Member

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    I just returned from Bristlecone on July 23 and I agree with all of what tim said. I would like to add, bring and drink lots of water!! At that altitude I got a headache and stomachache within an hour. The water seemed to relieve the symptoms. The road leading up to the Bristlecones is winding and one needs to be careful. Maybe Tim, you would be interested in sharing rental costs next time for a off road vehical.

    I am ready to go back.

    Gary
     
  23. tim rudman

    tim rudman Member

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    So am I. But not with Alamo!
    There must (I imagine) be some local hire facility that will hire vehicles that are suitably equipped for the terrain, as opposed to the Alamo 4x4s that are intended for shopping only!!
    Anybody know?
    Tim
     
  24. David Henderson

    David Henderson Member

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    "There must (I imagine) be some local hire facility that will hire vehicles that are suitably equipped for the terrain, as opposed to the Alamo 4x4s that are intended for shopping only!!
    Anybody know?"

    Well it isn't Avis or Hertz, both of whom fit street tyres. Admittedly though when I got a puncture up near Eureka Dunes a few weeks ago Avis were very flexible about how it got fixed (I wanted to buy a tyre at Stovepipe Wells rather than wait for their roadside assistance). They agreed to this and even paid me for the tyre when I got back to SF, which amazed me.

    I do agree that the tyres fitted to most rental SUV's are inadequate for many gravel roads. But of course the rental companies will say that they aren't, according to their contracts, taking responsibility for the performance of the vehicle on that terrain so why should they need to equip them for it? I guess I'd love to find a rental company that will guarantee proper switchable 4wd and a contract that accepts that you're going to drive on dirt or gravel. I bet those vehicles would come with decent tyres.
     
  25. Bill Mitchell

    Bill Mitchell Member

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    Warning! It's an incredibly beautiful area for photographing, but I nearly died (literally) while going to Per Valquartz's first free workshop in nearby Mammoth. Although I allowed a week in Reno to readjust to altitude before driving on up into the high Sierra, I suffered severe altitude sickness, which eventually took six months to completely recover from.
    <p>If you're not in perfect (youthful) health, be aware of the possiblilties.
     
  26. tim rudman

    tim rudman Member

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    You were luckier than I.
    The other thing I argued about with Alamo was that they insisted that I drove north from Lone Pine to Reno for them to replace the tyre. I pointed out that I was heading south and on a schedule, Reno would give me a 400 mile round trip (if I remember correctly) the wrong way - and without a spare! they wouldn't budge so I got a replacement in bishop and argued at the end of the trip that they were being irresponsible.