Hot Creek and Grandview
In the first post-NBA season camping trip of the year, we traveled up Highway 395 to see some recently-thawed lakes with snowy mountains behind them. A visit to local hot springs would be our first, and seemed like something that was long overdue for us. Record amounts of snowfall this winter have produced enough snow to keep many of the roads closed so we wouldn’t be able to get into the mountains like we did this time last year.
We arrived just after sunset to set up camp at Tuttle Creek, only to realize we left a few things back in Los Angeles. These items included a tent, a stove, and some food. Luckily, we had packed some extra food and was able to cook it over an open fire. And I brought my hammock, so the sleeping situation was solved pretty easily. Tuttle Creek Campground was packed and was the most crowded I had ever seen, and it looked like we were the only ones in tents.
Mt. Whitney from the Alabama Hills
The weather was great – it probably dropped down to the high 40s at night with little to no wind. On our way out the next morning, we stopped by the Alabama Hills to take a quick walk along the Arch Trail. That provided a neat view of Mt. Whitney from deep within the wind-carved rock formations.
From there we headed north on Highway 395 towards Convict Lake. This was my first time back there since January when it was still frozen over and covered in multiple feet of snow. Today, all the snow that remained was on the peaks of mountains in the background of the lake. After a short stop at Convict Lake, we drove to the June Lakes Loop where the road had just opened the week before.
June Lake was easily the most impressive of the four along the loop, and after a short trek up a hill for a better viewpoint, we headed back south towards Mammoth in search of hot springs. On the Eastern side of Highway 395 lies Hot Creek Geological Site, home to some of the craziest scenery in the area.
The smell of sulphur dominates the air as you come up on the hot springs. Multiple signs are posted warning of the dangers of touching the scalding hot spring water. But the views are spectacular – a creek running through the canyon with the snow-covered Sierra in the background is a mind-opening sight. As you walk down closer to the creek you can get a better view of the springs thrusting water into the air, or relax in the grass and watch fly fishermen test their luck in one of the more difficult fishing spots near the Eastern Sierra.
Snow-covered Sierra Nevada behind Hot Creek Geological Site
Our campsite for the second night would be in the White Mountains, at Grandview Campground. This site is over 8,000 feet elevation, and about four miles from the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. Once the sun went down, it was pretty clear how this campground got it’s name. Between the current new moon and the lack of light pollution due to elevation, the nighttime views were incredible.
Campsite from Grandview in the White Mountains
There were only a handful of other sites taken at this campground, which wasn’t too surprising considering how early it was in the season. The next morning we packed up and drove to see the Bristlecones, only to be met by a barricade with 2 miles remaining. We would have to hike 2 miles just to get to the trailhead, but it would be worth it. A majority of that hike was on snow at least a foot deep, but it was decently packed so it wasn’t too difficult.
The visitor center was almost completly covered in snow, while the parking lot was still at least a few feet under. It was my fourth time seeing these ancient trees, and the first time with snow on the ground. This served as a good scouting trip for the coming months, to see how much snow was still keeping roads and campgrounds closed.