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Eastern Sierra Front

#263: OWENS GOLD & TAHOE WHITE

TAHOE NUGGET #263: OWENS VALLEY GOLD & TAHOE WHITE:

PHOTO ESSAY: Last week I spent three days exploring the Owens Valley region and the majestic Eastern Sierra Front. The area had yet to experience a winter storm so the aspen and cottonwood trees below elevation 8,000 feet were offering great displays of autumn color.

On the afternoon of Day #2 I drove 15 miles out toward Death Valley on a closed mountain road where I saw just 4 cars in 3 hours. I went far enough east to leave trees and vegetation behind, but even in that desiccated zone exotic high desert wildflowers were in full and vigorous bloom.  

On the way back on Day #3 I explored Rock Creek above Tom’s Place on Highway 395, about 20 miles north of Bishop. This trail of moderate difficulty along Rock Creek leads through Little Lakes Valley that showcases a necklace of pristine, glacially-fed lakes in the John Muir Wilderness. This hike is rated moderate and family friendly, but the trail head starts above 10,000 feet in elevation so uphill sections along the way winded me a bit.

Returned to Tahoe this weekend to winterize my property in anticipation of the region’s first robust cold front of the 2014 winter season forecasted to hit last night. Today woke up to 6 inches of fluff and the season’s first shoveling session.

Found this set of three photogenic cottonwood trees in the Carson Valley on the morning of Day #1. Similar to aspen trees, cottonwoods indicate water in dry country.

Sierra peaks loom over aspen groves near Grant Lake along the June Lake Loop off Highway 395.

In September 1871, 29 hardened criminals violently escaped from the Nevada State Penitentiary in Carson City. Six fled south toward the rugged eastern Sierra mountain country of Inyo and Mono counties. A posse captured several fugitives and they were taken to the nearby Bishop jail. As the prisoners were being escorted back to Carson City by wagon, a large group of vigilantes lynched two of the men in this grove of trees located along the old Sherwin Pass Grade. For the full story check out Nugget #93. 

Today the Owens River flows peacefully south through its namesake valley, but the region has a history of violent conflict between local ranchers and farmers against Los Angeles politicians and businesses. The classic 1974 movie “Chinatown” starring Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, and John Huston is based on the fight over Owens Valley water.  

 On the road back to Owens Valley from Death Valley, I observed a landscape reminiscent of an “Indiana Jones” movie. Does anyone else see the ancient skulls in the porous rock?

Cottonwood trees take on a luminescent glow at sunset near Big Pine. 

The Rock Creek Trail is the gateway to a series of pretty alpine lakes near the eastern border of the John Muir Wilderness. This is Mack Lake. When I arrived at noon there was still a film of ice on the water. I saw bountiful numbers of trout. (I took many photos on this October road trip, but a Nugget requires judicious editing so this is the only pic from the Little Lakes Valley.)

The pier at Garwood’s Grill & Pier in Carnelian Bay took on a curious, regimented look this morning.

Yesterday Garwood’s Restaurant sat customers on its lakefront deck to enjoy Sunday Brunch. Today the outdoor seating looks somewhat less appealing.

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