DAY 03 – “A break in the storm brings some blue skies.”
Monday, January 23rd, 2017
The past couple of nights were rough due to the sound of howling winds blasting ice pellets at my door and window. The wall heater also joined in the midnight orchestra by occasionally popping loud enough to startle me awake when it cooled and then roared when it fired back up. None of that mattered however because I was having a wonderful time and looking forward to what the weather would bring for the following day. I got up at 6 AM again without the need for an alarm. My body and mind were in “Venture Mode” which allowed me to operate with even the slightest bit of sleep. I suited up for the cold and walked over to the Alabama Hills Cafe for another amazing breakfast. The snow on the ground was a far cry from the previous morning, but some of the signs and posts still carried the tell-tale frost from last night’s weather.
“I have a feeling all this snow will be gone by tomorrow.”
“Frosty signs were in abundance all over town.”
“Even though the snow was starting to disappear, it was still beautiful sight.”
“Frosty barrels placed all along the downtown strip revealed the direction of the icy wind blasts last night.”
Alabama Hills CafeGPS Coordinates: 36.6042071° N, 118.06522° W
“I ordered myself the Alabama Omelette and one of their fresh-baked cinnamon rolls.”
Time for a bit of morning exploration
Shortly after a good, hearty meal at my favorite place, I grabbed my camera gear and set off to capture all great photo opportunities that I could in the area. The clouds had covered most of the Sierra Nevada peaks except for an occasional break in the cloud cover. The blue skies were taking effect over the Inyo Mountains which meant it was time to get westward. As I got closer to the mountains, the view revealed a wonderful post winter storm beauty that I had never experienced here in my life. This morning will yield some pretty amazing results.
“Lone Pine Peak was the only mountain that wasn’t completely hidden in the clouds that morning.”
Whitney Portal RoadGPS Coordinates: 36.5945928° N, 118.1599973° W
Possibly one of the best drives near Lone Pine, Whitney Portal Road delivers all the amazing views that any photographer could hope for. There is such a distinct separation of environments. You have this great desert scene that transform into High Sierra wonderment in just a few short miles. If you wanted variety in your photos, this was the place to be, however the snowfall had really hit hard since my arrival two days ago. The Snow Plows around town were working double duty to maintain the 395 and the more traveled roads so the higher sections of Whitney Portal Road were not given priority. Naturally, this would require a bit of a snow romp to get further up the road.
“Whitney Portal Road was clear up until about 2 miles before the first switch back.”
“I turned around and saw my photo opportunities appear by the dozen.”
“Seeing blue skies over the Inyo Mountains after a massive snowfall like this were so awe-inspiring.”
“A massive inselberg floats in the snowy plains below.”
“The views here were so grand and beautiful.”
I had stopped off the side of the highway several times before deciding to make a detour on to Horseshoe Meadows Road. There were other views here that revealed incredible photo opportunities. I found a good place to park and hiked around the rest of the way. Although it wasn’t snowing, it was still pretty damn cold.
“Horseshoe Meadows Road, an often overlooked gem.”
“The giant snow-covered switchbacks up to Horseshoe Meadows can be seen going up the mountain.”
“The Starship leaves a pretty sweet footprint.”
“These tiny shrubs looked like miniature holiday decorations.”
“This place is like Joshua Tree National Park’s little sister, only with more snow.”
“The pathway through the small rocky valley went on for a mile or so.”
“Nothing like beating others out to a footprint free virgin snow.”
“Snow and Blue Skies are the perfect pair.”
“Ugh!, wet jeans again!, gotta go back to the motel and get a dry set.”
Traveling to Bishop along highway 395
I spent a good two hours shooting the Alabama Hills area and thought it was about time to head north on highway 395 to see what the storm had delivered. Mt. Whitney was still hiding in the clouds so a good drive toward Bishop should allow enough time to for the clouds to clear a bit and hopefully catch a glimpse of Whitney. I knew that I wasn’t going to get far past Bishop due to white out conditions that had been causing the 395 to be shut down frequently on Sherwin Pass. With that in mind, I would just take my time and absorb all the beautiful winter scenery along the way.
“A brief video of some very cool highway steam on 395 north.”
“Just north of Big Pine, a stretch of highway 395 was generating steam.”
“Traveling past Big Pine, the mountains began to look absolutely phenomenal!”
“Some mountain areas looked like they had white dunes of snow at their feet.”
“It almost felt like I was taking a drive on the planet Hoth, now if I could just find some wandering Tauntauns.”
“Okay, so I have a special place in my heart for Peterbilt Big Rigs.”
Bishop, CAGPS Coordinates: 37.3665175° N, 118.4066317° W
Bishop is the biggest little town along highway 395 and has some pretty great places to stop for some chow or just a walk through town. If I were to set roots down, this might be one of the towns I would look into. I frequent this town so much I may as well call it home. If I could have it my way, I would totally set up shop in Mammoth Lakes, but for now that will just remain a pipe dream for me. I am fortunate enough to live within a matter of hours from all this Eastern Sierra splendor!
“Just before lunch time, I stopped at my favorite store in Bishop to pick up a few stickers.”
“I ordered my usual Rodeo Sandwich combo at Mahogany Smoked Meats… So damn good!”
After lunch, I took a little stroll through town when it suddenly started to snow again. This time it was coming down pretty hard. I didn’t want to risk getting stuck so far from my motel room, so I got in the Starship and set my destination southbound along the 395. The highway had closed the previous morning due to white out conditions from Big Pine to Bishop and I wanted to avoid that. The drive south looked pretty clear once I got past the initial snowfall, so I gunned it and raced back to see if the clouds had cleared a bit more. There wasn’t a whole lot of daylight left and I was hoping for a great sunset.
Lone Pine, CAGPS Coordinates: 36.5831265° N, 118.1485501° W
I made it back to Lone Pine with just an hour to spare before sundown. The crazy thing was that I happened to run into my buddy Max again. This time he was set up on a small hill at the south entrance to the Alabama Hills. I rolled my window down and said I would be back shortly to join him. I wanted to capture some shots from Horseshoe Meadows Road again. I had to move quickly because the light disappears fast in the last hour of the day. So many amazing visual anomalies can occur in that small window of time, so being ready to capture it when it happens is integral to a unique and great shot.
“Whitney Portal Road is home to so many great photo opportunities.”
“The intense backlighting of the setting sun created some wonderful imagery!”
“Some of the crepuscular rays were just out of control!”
I quickly drove back to the south entrance of the Alabama Hills to meet up with Max. The setting sun caused the temperature to drop pretty fast, but the views were too gorgeous to ignore so I bundled up some more and stuck it out. I set up my tripod and realized that I had brought the wrong one because the head was missing… “Damn!” All I had to shoot with now was my really small Hi-Hat stand, but it did the trick just fine. I fired a few rounds off at Lone Pine Peak, then looked back and was blown away by the way the light was acting on the Inyo mountains to the east.
“A pair of military fighter jets pass in formation just over the top of Lone Pine Peak.”
“The Inyo Mountains beyond the Alabama Hills were lit up so beautifully that evening.”
“The final moments of sunlight pour over the Inyo Mountains as darkness approaches.”
Max and I parted ways once again as we both set course for home. My goal for tomorrow is to get a clear shot of some serious alpenglow on the Eastern Sierra Nevada at sunrise. This evening’s sunset was a beautiful light show filled with all sorts of great photo opportunities and being that it’s my last night in town, I am hoping that tomorrow morning will bring even more amazing photo ops. For the last entry of this awesome winter travel blog, check out Lone Pine Winter Storm 2017 – Chapter 03 and if you missed the first entry, go here: Lone Pine Winter Storm 2017 – Chapter 01
Until the next travel blog, remember to get out there and “Shoot the Planet!”
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