Eastern Sierra New Year 2015

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Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

DAY 01: “Victorville to Lone Pine, CA”

On December 31st 2014, I made a last minute decision to hit the Eastern Sierra Nevadas yet again. My mission was to get a lot of pick up shots that I may have missed on my last great adventure there with the talented Julia Starr. Our previous excursion took us on a Giant Eastern Sierra Photo Venture for seven days and resulted in the biggest blog entry to date. Although I had the time of my life with Julia, unfortunately I would be flying solo on this trip.

“The Starship was ready to hit up some serious highway travel.”
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“As I approached Owen’s Lake, I encountered quite a formidable dust storm”
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Lone Pine, CA

GPS Coordinates: 36.583147°N, -118.07851°W

“I got to Lone Pine in just two hours and had plenty of sunshine for some good shooting”
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“I drove the Mt. Whitney Portal Road to see what shots I could get with the available light and weather”
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“The road was ‘Kinda’ closed to the higher portions of the road up the mountain, so I just hung out grabbed some pics”
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“Capturing images of the mountains while I wait for the clouds to clear and grab a shot of Mt. Whitney’s peak”
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“Managed to get a really nice close up of Mt. Whitney as the clouds began to retreat from the peak”
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“Playing with light refraction on the mountain peak”
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“Exploring the immediate area around the road closure”

“Totally having a blast up here!”
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“Setting up the shot and taking a moment to soak it all in”
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“The view of Mt. Whitney from this area was stunning!”
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I found this memorial that was built for two fallen Marines. The side facing the Alabama Hills was dedicated to Lt. Donald D. Brooks, Born March 7th, 1964 – Died July 1st, 1987. The side facing Mt. Whitney was dedicated to Hans F. Weber, Born June 23rd, 1964 – Died July 1st, 1987.

“The vertical support post had an appropriate “Semper Fi” carved into both sides.”
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“What better a location for a memorial than at the foot of the tallest mountain in the contiguous 48 states”
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Alabama Hills, CA

GPS Coordinates: 36.6034923°N, -118.1126547°W

The sun was starting its journey beyond the horizon, so I felt it was time to make for a change of scenery and romp around a bit through the Alabama Hills. I had gotten to know this place a lot better and took my rig through some narrow trails in the name of new exploration. After a short while, I was flagged down by a family of Europeans driving two rental R.V. campers. When I slowed, they kindly asked me if I could show them the way to the Mobius Arch and I said, “But of course!”

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I let them turn around and follow me to their destination and once we arrived, I tipped my hat and bid them safe travels as I departed to trails that led me further into the Alabama Hills. Now I have to say that Alabama Hills is very well maintained so you can enjoy an Auto Tour of the place with any old car, but some of the more isolated areas may require a bit of Off Roading expertise and a high clearance vehicle, preferably with 4 wheel drive capability.

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“Apparently I had traveled far enough to discover that there was a northern entry point to the park”
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“Alabama Hills is one of my favorite places to drive around off trail. If you are an off road enthusiast, I highly recommend it!”
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“The moon was on it’s way out to play”
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“There were countless rock formations that your imagination could run wild on”
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“After the sun disappeared behind the mountains, it was time for me to skedaddle”
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After playing around in the dirt for while, I made off back to town and finally got checked into my room. I decided that the Dow Villa would be just fine as the last time I went there was pretty good. It was New Years Eve and I wanted to take a little stroll through town to see what I could find or treat myself to.
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“Ah yes, a nice comfy bed in a nice quiet room on an end unit with no second floor”
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Seasons was the name of the restaurant that was recommended the last time I was here, but it was closed at the time. Tonight it looked like they were definitely open for business and I wanted in! Typically I am quite strict about my diet, but seeing as how this was the last day of 2014, tonight I would definitely indulge myself =D

“I ordered an Iced tea which came in a nest personal sized Carafe and a bowl of French Onion Soup which was quite delicious!”
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For my primary dish, I ordered a dish that was exclusive to only New Year’s Eve, a Rib Eye Steak smothered in sautéed mushrooms and a side of steamed broccoli and basil mashed potatoes. This meal was most savory down to the last bite and easily rivaled some of the finer meals I’ve had on my many ventures.
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“After a filling meal, I had to take a stroll downtown, I stopped at my favorite shop which was now closed”
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“Eventually, I cruised over to the Totem Cafe to finish the night and the rest of the year off with a big dessert”
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“The tree in the lobby was looking nice, stayed up til’ midnight… tired, but happy!”
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“The weather was quite chilly this time of year”
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“HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!”

DAY 02: “Lone Pine, CA”

Thursday, January 1st, 2015
I got up super early to grab the first light of 2015 and with it, a balmy 18 ºF (-7.7 ºC)! I didn’t grab breakfast right off the bat as I was in a hurry to capture the scenery around Lone Pine. The day before, I took an exploratory drive east of Lone Pine to see if I could find a great spot to capture the town with the mountains in the background.
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“Seeing the town of Lone Pine from this perspective really puts things into scale”
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“Although Mt. Whitney is the more known mountain, Lone Pine Peak stands quite prominent at 12,949 ft. (3,947 m)”
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“A much closer look at the Granite Behemoth”
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“After driving around for an hour, I was starting to get hungry, so I made a pit stop at my favorite place”
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“My first meal of 2015 would be a most delicious one”
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After wrapping up with breakfast, I hauled off on the highway to a place I had not been to before. Little Lakes Valley Trail was reputed to be one of the most beautiful hikes in the Eastern Sierra Nevada and I wanted to see first hand what I was missing out on. The drive from Lone Pine was an easy 90 miles (145 km) and so I was off!

“Along the way, I caught this unique form of billboard near the town of Big Pine.”
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“I had to stop along the way to snag this beautiful shot of Mt. Tom rising so massive over a field”
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After a while on the highway, I ended up at Tom’s Place, a small town that was the “Gateway” to the Little Lakes Valley area. Parts of the highway were spotted with patches of black ice, so I took it very easy as I made my way. Just as I was closing in on my destination, “Bam!”, the road was closed so I could not get in. According to the map, I would have to hike a few miles to the trailhead and then begin the hike, but I was not feeling like I had the energy that I would need to do that hike, so I just explored the region around the closure a bit more.

Little Lakes Valley Winter Closure Gate

GPS Coordinates: 37.4944423°N, -118.7177014°W

“Rock Creek was about 70% frozen with some areas of water flow”
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“The texture of the icy sections of rock Creek were unlike anything I had ever seen before”
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“A closer look revealed what I could only describe as ice scales”
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“I love the snow!”
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I wanted to stay longer, but I had the urge to hit the highway again. I started my way out and rather than hopping into Highway 395, I wanted to explore Crowley Lake Rd. which traveled parallel to it through some small towns such as Aspen Springs in Bishop County and Hilton Creek in Mammoth Lakes County. These places were seated at 7,000 ft. (2,133 m) of elevation so the snowfall here is typically a guarantee during the winter months although not lately as much thanks in no part to the serious drought that is plaguing California currently.

“The small town of Hilton Creek from 7,200 ft. (2,194 m) and the Mammoth Mountains in the distance”
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“Eventually I got back onto Hwy 395 and started north toward Hwy 120 to pick up some shots that I wanted from the last trip”
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“One of the beautiful granite mountains that guard the East Entrance to Yosemite National Park”
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Yosemite Winter Closure Gate, Highway 120

GPS Coordinates: 37.93092°N, -119.166089°W

“Naturally the Road Closure was still in place since my last visit and this time there was snow covering the highway into Yosemite”
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“This granite wall was as impressive as it was three weeks ago!”
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“I parked my truck and started to take a stroll up the snow covered Tioga Pass a.k.a. Hwy 120”
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“Hiking along snow covered highways that are closed has become a favorite pastime of mine”
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I got out to maybe about a mile and then decided to turn back. I also noticed more folks taking up the same idea shortly after I arrived and as they approached, I was headed back. It was a Russian family having fun in the snow and trailing behind was a woman who stopped me and asked me if I could take her photo. I took a few and she seemed happy with the results. By now, I knew that I wanted to drive Highway 120 East like last time except that this time I wanted to try out a highway that Julia and I had passed under the assumption that it really didn’t lead anywhere, but of course after further research, it turns out that it does in fact take you out toward Lake Crowley and back onto Highway 395.

“Of course I had to leave my mark before I left”
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As I got onto Highway 120 East, I had to make a stop to capture Mono Lake. I had not seen the lake this peaceful during the day in a very long time, the high winds coming through Conway Summit just north of the lake typically create a choppy surface during the day. Nine times out of ten, the best time to get a smooth lake surface shot would be around sunrise or sunset.

“Like a gigantic natural mirror”
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“The road to the White Mountains is a fun roller coaster of curves and hills so steep, it feels like there’s no road when approaching a peak”
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“White Mountain Peak with actual snow on it this time around”
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“Time to pick up the pace and hunt down Benton Crossing Road”
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“Finally made it to Benton Crossing Road which became a bit of a steep climb”
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“One of the first great sights on Benton Crossing Road was this awesome rocky outcrop with the White Mountain range in the background”
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“Discovered the Devil’s House on this road, Ha!”
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“Found a frozen lake off the highway, so I stopped by to check it out”
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“There were quite a few people out walking on the frozen lake”
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“With the sun dropping fast behind the granite curtains, I could only think of a late lunch at Mahogany Smoked Meats in Bishop”
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Mahogany Smoked Meats

GPS Coordinates: 37.3760404°N, -118.417644°W

This place and Eric Schat’s Bakery are pretty much the two best reasons I will always have for making a trip to Bishop and of course the third reason being that the entire place is surrounded by amazing beauty! =)

“Finally!… time to feast!”
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“Although they had other sandwich options, I decided to go with my favorite, The Rodeo”
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“After a good hearty meal, I decided to pick up a few things before I headed back to Lone Pine… Pig Ears for the Pups”
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“And of course 3 pounds of Jerky for myself including the delicious half pound of Peppered Wild Boar Jerky”
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DAY 03: “Lone Pine, CA”

Friday, January 2nd, 2015
GPS Coordinates: 36.583147°N, -118.07851°W

After a most kick ass first day of 2015, I figured it would be great to have another because why not!?
Even though this was my last day here, I planned out how I would make the most of it over breakfast at, “You guessed it!”… Alabama Hills Cafe! I had plans to check out the Mt. Whitney area again and then quickly head north to other points of interest =)

“French Toast was made from their own homemade cinnamon bread loaf and it was gooooooood!”
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“Visiting Mt. Whitney and friends again this morning”
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“Today was a super clear day so I grabbed my awesome birthday binoculars that my Mom & Pop got me and scoped out Mt. Whitney”
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“Lone Pine Peak on the left, The jagged peaks of Mt. Whitney and sisters to the right”
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Making my way northbound again, I wanted to visit a place that I had passed during the last visit here. Manzanar, which sits just 10 miles north of Lone Pine, is a National Historic Site which is most known as one of ten camps where over 110,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II. The United States had ordered more than 110,000 men, women, and children to leave their homes and detained them in remote, military-style camps.

This area represents one of America’s darker times, but more so for those who had lived and died within the confines of these camps.
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“The Last remaining Patrol Tower”

Manzanar Internment Camp

GPS Coordinates: 36.7271512°N, -118.1467866°W

Manzanar is a large place so they offer an auto tour that allows you to travel to various distant exhibits via dirt road. There are a few building that have been restored and offer a lot of great information regarding what life was like in the camps during the World War II era. Despite the grim reality of what Manzanar represented, one cannot help but to appreciate the sheer beauty of the snow covered peaks of Mt. Williamson and the surrounding mountains in this area.

“I have a huge interest in WWII history and I’ve been wanting to visit Manzanar for some time, the history here is sad, but interesting to learn about”
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“The first building I ran across was a barrack for the residents here”
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“The interior was drab and left no room for privacy at all. The restrooms were in a building outside, but are no longer standing”
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“That building in the photo Mess Hall #14, just one of many where people gathered for daily meals, dances, parties, and other social events”
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“This was possibly a delivery truck of sorts for the Mess Hall”
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“Photo of a Photo, daily life at Manzanar (photographer unknown), This was the access door for the cooks at Mess Hall #14”
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“The dining area was pretty large and looked very well kept”
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“This is the kitchen of Mess Hall #14. It’s in pretty good shape for a 70 year old building”
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“One of the last remaining Patrol Towers stands the test of time and the elements here”
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“I REI TO”

This is how you pronounce the Japanese Kanji characters on this monument dedicated to Manzanar’s dead. It means “Soul consoling tower”
The Master Stone Mason, Ryozo Kado is the man who built it and Buddhist minister Shinjo Nagatomi designed the iconic tower.

The point of the obelisk aligns perfectly with the peak of Mt. Williamson in the distance. This monument was erected in 1943 by the people of Manzanar.
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“Ready to hit the road again for the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest”
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Owens Valley Radio-Telescope Array

GPS Coordinates: 37.2288362°N, -118.2805087°W

Driving up Highway 395, I broke right at Big Pine and hopped onto Highway 168 toward the Ancient Bristlecone Forest. I was moving along at a steady pace eastbound when I suddenly hit the brakes and took a quick detour on a 3 mile stretch of road northbound toward what I had been wanting a photo of the entire time. The Owens Valley Radio Telescopes were always viewable at quite a distance when driving along Highway 395, but this time I found a road that led right up to a gate.

“This was one of the biggest of the Radio-Telescopes that were out there and a most impressive site”
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“The other two in the distance were the next largest dishes”
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“This one seemed to be the smallest of the operational dishes in the area”
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“The road to Bristlecone was very steep and curvy and my transmission was feeling it, good thing I rebuilt it recently”
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“At one point, Highway 168 becomes a very narrow one way road with steep rocky walls”
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“After maneuvering my way up, I broke off onto White Mountain Rd. and drove through ice patches until I could not go further”
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Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Vista Point

GPS Coordinates: 37.3559671°N, -118.1858109°W
The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is a large protected area located between 9,800 – 11,000 ft. (2,987 – 3,353 m) above sea level, in xeric alpine conditions atop the White Mountains in California. The Bristlecone Pine species can easily be as old as 2,000 years and the most popular being “Methuselah”, an Ancient Bristlecone Pine that is worthy of it’s name. Methuselah is an incredible 4,846 years old, that makes it older than the Giza Pyramids. For many years Methuselah was the world’s oldest known living non-clonal organism, until superseded by the discovery in 2013 of another bristlecone pine in the same area with an age of 5,064 years!

These ancient trees have a gnarled and stunted appearance, especially those found at high altitudes, and have reddish-brown bark with deep fissures. As the tree ages, much of its vascular cambium layer may die. In very old specimens, often only a narrow strip of living tissue connects the roots to a handful of live branches.

“I backtracked about a mile to a vista point that had several parking spaces available”
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“That tiny town below is Bishop, CA from an elevation of 9,200 ft. (2,804 m) and Mt. Tom is in the Background”
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“When I faced East, I could see the northernmost mountain ranges of Death Valley National Park in the distance”
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The temperature up here was a balmy 18 ºF (-7.7 ºC) and I knew there would be a lot of snow further up the road. In order to get a photo of an Ancient Bristlecone, I knew that I would have to trek over two miles past the closure in freezing temperatures at an an elevation that would have me clear over 10,000 ft. (3,048 m). For this, I suited up and got very warm, brought plenty of water, snacks, and of course a bag full of camera gear.

“At this altitude, I knew this would be a serious challenge for me with a 36 lb. (16.3 kg) bag.”
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“Someone had dropped a brand new pair of gloves, so I left them a message”
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“After hiking past icy patches and snow for some time, I had finally reached the Park’s Welcome Sign”
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“I had to take a break after the first mile to fight the onset of altitude sickness, but after taking a break to relax, I carried onward”

“I finally made it to my destination, but I was running short on daylight”
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“I found my Ancient Bristlecone and she was an absolute beauty!”
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“Looking back, I saw that the sun was setting quickly and I knew that going back, I would have to be fast yet cautious about the ice”
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“The setting sun cast a very golden light onto the rock that lined the edges of the road”
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“This was a beautiful sunset, but I could feel the temperature dropping very fast so time was an issue as I still had about a mile to go”
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“I got back shortly after the sun had set and took one last photo of an airliner crossing through the branches of a tree”
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Although this was a quick three day trip, I have to say that it was by far the best New Years I have experienced on record and look forward to a year full of amazing travel opportunity. My only regret is not have someone to share it with, but it was still a lot of fun regardless. with only two days left before I had to return to work and 2.5 hours of travel time to get home, I headed north about 15 miles (24.1 km) to Bishop and stopped to splurge at my favorite place, Eric Schat’s Bakery. I wanted to bring home a sweet surprise for my Mom and Dad from the Eastern Sierra Nevada’s =D

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Thanks for visiting!, please check out some of my other travel blogs and remember to “Shoot the Planet!”
“Cheers!”
~Indi

©Indigoverse Photography. All Rights Reserved.

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