Mount Whitney Zone
This was a quick overnight trip, leaving on Saturday morning and returning on Sunday. Some of my favorite trips into the Sierra have begun with me waking up only a few feet above sea level only to finish a hike around 7,000-8,000 feet in the same day. This was my first time heading towards the Mount Whitney Zone as well as getting to see snowcapped ridges of the Eastern Sierra.
Date Range – January 23-24
Campground – Tuttle Creek
Distance – 218 miles
Closest Town – Lone Pine, CA
Traffic getting up to Lone Pine was almost non-existent and the weather was great all weekend. On the way to the campground we stopped at the Easter Sierra Interagency Center for a few updates on winter trail conditions. Most of the trailheads were either partially or completely snowed in, but we did find a few options.
Sunrise hitting the Eastern Sierra
When we showed up to the campground, we had our choice of all but about five of the 83 sites. I was surprised at how few people were there, even in January. Our individual campsite was relatively close to the creek, but not quite as close as Upper Sage Flats was to Big Pine Creek.
GoPro nightlapse of the Mount Whitney Zone.
The full moon was out for my third straight camping trip, overpowering the starry sky with brightness. Usually I would consider that a bummer, but the snowy mountains behind us were lit up and visible throughout the night. I was able to make my first attempt at a GoPro nightlapse video, stitching together frames taken every 30 seconds.
On Sunday we drove west down Whitney Portal Road to take our chances on the Whitney National Recreation Trail. The rangers we talked to said this hike was doable for a few miles until the elevation got high enough to cover the trail in snow. The trail was pretty exposed for the first mile or so before weaving through pine covered mountain sides. The trail eventually became too dangerous to continue on, but at the same time yielded a spectacular view of Owens Valley shaded by the White Mountains to the East.
View of Owens Valley from the Whitney National Recreation Trail
Even though this was a short trip, it was much needed. Getting out of the downtown scene and into the wilderness is something I place a personal priority on. I feel that even short trips into the wilderness are soothing for balancing out your mental state of mind. Of course, not everyone has these interests but I consider them a necessity.