Tuesday, October 4th, 2016
Today I set off on a journey to the Eastern Sierra Nevada to see if I could capture some of the beautiful autumn scenery that was setting in before winter. It was going to be a 328 mile (528 km) drive to the place I had wanted to explore. From there I would start my way back south over the next day to capture the effects of autumn at various locations along Highway 395. I took all my camera gear and started early. The drive would have me traveling for well over 5 hours and the scenery after a couple of hours provided such awe inspiring beauty that it was difficult to convince myself to not stop.
“Highway 395 northbound near Mammoth Lakes, the jagged peaks in the distance are called the Minarets.”
Lava Springs, CAGPS Coordinates: 38.4046529° N, 119.4036393° W
After driving for quite a long time, I finally got off Highway 395 and on to Burcham Flat Rd. It was a typical two-way washboard dirt road that traverses a long way off road, but I would be making a right turn at 4.3 miles (6.9 km) in. The smaller single vehicle dirt road has no identification, but it can be followed to Lava Springs which is the center of the aspen forest that was going through the annual color change. If you travel the dirt road beyond the aspen trees, you will enter small patches of pine trees and eventually take you to the higher elevations of the surrounding mountains.
“This is the first sign you see after leaving Burcham Flat Rd.”
“Lava Springs is a short and somewhat rough little off road trek from Burcham Flat Rd.”
“Unparalleled beauty was hiding in these colorful forests.”
“There were so many various warm hues among the aspen trees here.”
“Playing with the sun through the leaves. Always wear dark sunglasses when you do this!”
“Before stopping in the aspen forest, I wanted to check out a small lake near Mount Patterson.”
“From this higher elevation, I had a clear view of where I had driven from.”
Exploring Lobdell Lake
I drove pretty far past the aspen forest at Lava Springs to see what was further ahead. The road eventually took me to an elevation of 9,500 ft (2,896 m). There was a man made lake located in that region named Lobdell Lake, but it was a rather sad echo of what it used to be. Perhaps the approaching winter will change that. I stepped out to stretch my legs and the first thing I encountered was a yellow jacket that was buzzing around me and getting a little too close for comfort.
I had been stung by one of these little bastards last month and it hurt like hell. Not wanting to ruin my day with another sting, I got back in my rig and slowly pulled away. I noticed that there were dozens of them flying around where I had just been. I decided to turn back toward Lava Springs to spend the rest of the available daylight capturing the beautiful colors of the aspen forest.
“There were quite a few creek crossing like this, but nothing too crazy.”
“Lobdell Lake was not a very impressive lake at all, so I just turned around here and went back.”
“The sun was getting a little lower in the sky which made for some very nice atmosphere through the pines up here.”
“Heading back to the aspen forest provided one hell of a sight!”
“As I got closer, the atmospheric haze diminished and the colors really started to pop!”
My favorite aspen colors were this shade of fiery orange!”
“The shades of amber and gold against the blue sky were stunning!”
“The Starship rests among the beautiful Autumn foliage.”
“This colorful tunnel had a few creek crossings as I drove through.”
“This golden color was too beautiful to pass up, I loved the vibrance that surrounded me.”
“The trail was just an amazing experience, I didn’t want it to end.”
“After spending several hours here, it was time to ride off into the sunset.”
The trip to Lava Springs was totally worth the 5 hour drive. I could see that some of the aspen trees had already lost most of their leaves, but the remaining trees were still plenty and created a magnificent display of color. As usual I used my Canon 5D MKII with my Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L USM armed with a Circular Polarizer to enhance the colors and my Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L USM II. These two lenses seem to be my workhorses lately as they perform beautifully together to capture the best of moments during my photo ventures. The aspen forests throughout the Eastern Sierra Nevada will be exploding with color over the next two weeks so if you get a moment and live relatively close, take a drive and experience it for yourself!
-Until the next travel blog, remember to get out there and “Shoot the Planet!”
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