Monday, October 8, 2018

Eastern Sierra Fall Foliage 2018

It is that time of year for the colors of fall leaves. Yes, we do have fall foliage here in California.  We just have to travel to see it. Hwy 395 on the east side of the Sierra Nevadas offers many places to camp and take in the colors of fall. Veronica and I headed out on Monday 10-8-18 traveling through Yosemite National Park. Even on a Monday in October you will find traffic driving across Tioga Pass in Yosemite and the park enforces a 25 to 45 MPH speed limit. But this is a drive to be enjoyed. Leaving the parks east entrance at 9943 feet we see some of the first aspens of the trip. Surprisingly still a lot of green even at this elevation.

You drop almost 3,000 feet to Hwy 395 and lunch at the Whoa Nelle Deli. We have stopped here many times and will continue to, the food at the gas station is just so good.  They did not have our favorite Mushroom Sherry soup so the Ceaser Salad with Strip Steak will have to do. You really need to stop and try this.

I wanted something lighter so I tried the Chicken Salad, good but the steak is better.  After lunch, we had a short drive to our campground for our first night, Gull Lake on the June Lake loop.  Normally the June Lake loop would have a fine show of yellow aspens on both sides of the road. Today they were green and the color was only seen far up the mountains.  We turned into Gull Lake Campground and found all the lakefront sites were taken and all open sites backed up to the main highway. Back to plan B and on to the June Lake Campground. Here we found a nice site and set up for the night. 

After we set up our camp it was time for a walk. The Village of June Lake was close and we headed out. Shops offered fishing tackle now and were changing over to snow skis and winter gear. Veronica spotted a pottery shop off the main road.
Horseshoe Canyon Gallery was fun to visit and the potter Kenny Willingham gave us a great tour. Veronica did find a bowl to bring home.  Nice to meet and talk with the artist who made the bowl. We walked down the hill and by the lake as we headed back to our camper. The camp host told us it was 21 degree in the morning so we knew our heater would be running the following morning.

After our walk, we enjoyed the afternoon sitting out until dark. Reading our Ipads and listening to NPR on the radio.

Dinner was a sandwich and chili we purchased at the Whoa Nelle Deli. Hit the spot on a cool evening. Normally I leave the heater programmed to come on at 6:00 AM and warm the camper to 70 degrees when we get up. I asked should we leave the heater off and sleep in. Veronica said yes we should sleep in. Nature call at 4:00 AM and I get up. How damn cold is it? A quick look at the indoor/outdoor thermometer and I find it is 33 degrees inside. When on the heater will keep the camper at 45 degrees overnight and I turned it on before returning to bed.

The next morning we found frost and ice outside. We were warm and toasty inside our camper. We had our normal camping breakfast, coffee,  homemade muffin, yogurt, and a hard-boiled egg.  We planned our day and headed for Mammoth Mountain.  It had been over 20 years since we went into the city of Mammoth Mountain, what a change. Found a Starbucks for coffee and to use their wifi.  We also stopped at the NFS information center and picked up information on the area and asked where to drive and see the fall colors in the area. We were told to drive Sherwin Creek Road.  Nice drive on a dirt and gravel road near the base of the mountains. Still not a lot of color, we were a week early.

Sign on the gate said NO CAMPING!     I just don't like LADWP. 

After Mammoth Mountain, we headed up Rock Creek Canyon. This was a new area for us and had some great color as we got higher up the canyon.

Rock Creek gave us our first good color of the trip bright and dark yellow with touches of red.

Rock Creek's parking area was 10,240 feet elevation and this is before we started to hike.  We decided to hike to the closest of the lake. Later we found out we could have gone just a little farther and seen several more lakes. Well, that will be our next trip.

We did find snow on the trail in several places. There was a storm 3 days before and the night time temps are in the teens at this elevation. 

My iPhone showed 10,410 feet as the highest we reached on our hike.  Thank you 24-hour fitness and Silver Sneakers.

When we got back to our camper we popped the top and made lunch. Had several people stop by and ask about our camper. Always glad to give a tour and pass out my travel card.  One gentleman said he played at the Wawona Hotel and to stop by if we are ever over there. He also said he was going to Woodland to check out FWC and Sacramento to see ATC.  We parked next to an FWC Hawk and there was an FWC Gramby and another Hawk parked not far away. Popup campers are showing up everywhere.

We headed back to Hwy 395 and followed the directions on the Mono County Fall Color Map.  It showed a Lower Rock Creek Road just down Hwy 395. We took the turn and found many aspens by the creek. All were still green. But the road was fantastic, smooth turn after turn. Will have to take this road the next time I am up here on my motorcycle. Lower Rock Creek dropped into the town of Paradise.  I did not know there were two towns named Paradise in Californa. Back on 395 we headed to Bishop for a gas stop and to look around. Eric Schats Bakery is always crowded. Tuesday was no exception, this place makes so much bread it is hard to believe they sell all of it in Bishop. We got some goodies for dessert later and headed for our next campground Convict Lake.

We have been to Convict Lake before but have never camped there. We also had not dined at The Resturant at Convict Lake. Several people have told us about it, all said we should eat there. Also, we were told to get a reservation.

We found a site near the bridge that crosses a creek to the restaurant.

Time for a little relaxation. Used to carry a book to read now we download from Prime or the local library.  Have to say it does work well.  The picture on the left me perfecting my relaxation.

Veronica reading and relaxing. We are getting good at this retirement stuff.

We did a walk by the lake before dinner. There was a wedding on the shore you can just see in the picture. This was on a Tuesday afternoon with around 40 people. Must have been a special place for the wedding couple. 

Dinner at the Resturant at Convict Lake did not disappoint. We both had the 1/2 Ceaser Salad and the fresh Trout.

The trout was a generous portion and may be the best trout I have ever had in a restaurant. Excellent service and we did not have a long wait even with the wedding party having dinner at the same time.  A solid 4-star white tablecloth restaurant at a campground. Be sure to stop if you are in the area.

After dinner, we headed back to our camper and dessert from Eric Schats Bakery.  Chilly walk back so we did turn the heater for the night. Made a big difference keeping the camper at 45 degrees and the heater coming on in the morning.

Coffee is a necessity in the morning when camping. Susan Noack, a good friend who I worked with for 30 years gave me her aunts vintage Revere Wear coffee pot. We use it every morning camping and think of Susan every time we do.  We had planned to spend the night at Lundy Lake. Listening to the weather radio we found there was a small storm front coming through overnight. Rain lower and snow where we would be camping. A decision was made to have a long day and be home tonight. We again used the Mono County information to plan the day. Back Road tours of Mono County showed Dunderberg Road off of Virginia Lakes Road. We would do this drive after Lundy Lake.  First, we wanted to go back to Convict Lake for the morning sun.

We found the lake still and giving us a reflection of the mountains and aspens. 

As we left Convict Lake we decided to take a drive around the cabins they rent. We were treated to a family of deer walking around. They looked to be locals who knew where to find food. Not frightened by our truck at all.
Goodbye Convict Lake we will be back. 

Our next stop would be Lundy Canyon and Lundy Lake. First, we did another stop at the Mammoth Lakes Starbucks.  Good coffee and free wifi to catch up with our email.

Lundy Canyon was a new spot for us to check out. We had planned to spend the night before the change in the weather report.

The drive up Lundy Canyon was a nice paved road with aspen trees on the sides. At the Lundy Lake Campground, the road turned to gravel for the last 1 1/2 miles to the trailhead. Not much parking at the trailhead just small spots between trees.

Our goal on the hike was the overlook of the Lundy Creek Falls. This hike was just under a mile.

Our selfie overlooking the Lundy Creek Falls.

As we were taking in the scenery there was a young lady walking up the trail. We visited for a short time, she came from the San Francisco Bay Area and was spending the week looking at the colors. I gave her one of my travel cards and asked if I could take her picture. I told her I would include her in my trip report.

The walk down was just breathtaking. Aspens from side to side in the canyon. Lundy Canyon may be the best color of our trip.  Next time we will camp and walk farther up the canyon and over the crest. We were told there is a big grove of aspens just over the top. Not enough time this trip.
I did a short video showing the trail and view walking down Lundy Canyon. You can see the marsh area below.

Veronica taking pictures from the marsh area below the falls.

Our next stop was Virginia Lakes Road. We did this road two years ago and found the great color we were looking for.

This year we found most trees past their peak. Many with their leaves stripped from the wind.

The Back Road tours of Mono County showed Dunderberg Road off of Virginia Lakes Road as a good drive. This was our next stop, just a short drive down from Virginia Lake to the turnoff.

The road ran through the middle of several aspen groves. Unfortunately, most of the leaves were gone.

This area must have been at its peak two weeks ago. If we would have been earlier the view would have been fantastic.

As we drove down the hill toward Hwy 395 we could see several aspen groves some near peak to past peak.

After we got back to Hwy 395 we head north to Sonora Pass and home.  Clouds are getting thicker and dark, rain cannot be far away. 
We took Sonora Pass so Veronica could see the damage caused by the Donnel Fire. This is all that is left of the Dardanelle Resort. I took this picture on an earlier motorcycle trip. The NFS now has no parking and keep out signs everywhere. Sad to see all the loss. 

Our last stop in the Sierras was the Donnell Lake Vista. From here you can see where the Donnell Fire started in the picture below.

As we dropped in elevation the sky opened up and the rain started. This made us feel better about cutting our trip a day short. We were about a week early to hit the peak color in most areas. Some of the higher areas that were open to the wind were already stripped. We hope next year will be better and we will return.  Our next trip should be Death Valley in the winter.