Lone Pine Winter Storm 2017 – Chapter 03

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DAY 04 – “That morning light on high sierra granite.”

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

I woke up at 6 AM again on the nose and took a quick look outside to see what the weather was like. It was mostly clear and the Eastern Sierra peaks where definitely in view. I geared up fast and loaded everything into the Starship. I knew that I had to get out to a decent point along Whitney Portal Road if I was going to capture some Mt. Whitney alpenglow. Once it begins, good alpenglow will only last from five to eight minutes tops and the rose-pink color then becomes typical daylight. The sun had already broke as I was arriving to my destination, revealing just the slightest sliver of pink atop Mt. Whitney. There were some low-lying clouds that were obstructing the light near the Inyo Mountains, so it was going to be a gamble whether the Sierra peaks got the full alpenglow effect or not.

“The morning sun begins to break over the Inyo Mountains and through some clouds.”

“I lucked out!, Dawn had come through and brought Mt. Whitney a beautiful cascade of rose-pink light.”

“At 14,026 ft. (4,725 m) Mt. Langley is one of the first after Whitney to get a share of the morning light.”

“Finally Lone Pine Peak is next to follow in the rose-colored morning light show.”

“The details covered in snow and lit in rose-colored light are absolutely mesmerizing.”

From the point at which it started, the Alpenglow ceased about seven minutes after it started, partly due to some cloud interference to the east. I was fortunate enough to have captured the shots I did before it vanished. The thought of staying another day did cross my mind, but unfortunately my budget was already stretched to the limit with these past four days. I’ll just take what I can get and go for one last adventure today before I commence the long trek home.

“Whitney Portal Road was re-paved in Autumn 2016 and it’s so much more photogenic against the winter scenery.”

“The Iron Tree”

Along Whitney Portal road is a sculpture that I have seen for many years now and only this time around did I finally stop to get a good look at it as well as capture some shots. There is a small, deteriorated flyer dispenser near the base that appeared to have some water damaged flyers, so I took one to see what it said. The following is what you will find on the flyer in regards to the tree sculpture and the artist who made it:

The “Iron Tree” is a gnarled Pinyon Pine, as often seen in the foothills of the Sierra, just west of here. Local artist Dan Dickman mounted this 800 pound (362.87 kg), 12 foot (7.32 m) abstract sculpture on two, on-site granite boulders in 2010. The trunk and branches are tubular steel of varying dimensions, and sparse needles above are irregular plates of steel screening at varying angles.

The inspiration for the Iron Tree came from dual sources, says Dickman. Primarily it was the Owens Valley environment. Occasional rain and wind can be harsh, but yield this natural beauty of a place. Secondarily it was the travail of development that birthed the Portal Preserve that is portrayed in the pinion crag. A rustic, gnarly pine that endures harsh elements, but finally yields its seeds for human wellbeing. Dan Dickman, of Keeler, CA, is a multimedia artist who works in watercolors, lithographs, and steel. He studied art in his hometown of Riverside, CA. and has lived in the Owens Valley since the early 1970’s. Lithographs inspired by local Native American stone art are displayed in the Board of Supervisors’ room, Independence.

For more information about artist Dickman, go to dandickman.com

Developer Jim Walters says that the Iron Tree is “like a fine impressionist painting, in that it’s a bit abstract. You need to step back 30 or 40 feet (9 or 12 m) to get the real impact. This rust-colored sculpture doesn’t dominate, but complements nature in the manner we hope residences will blend into this unique landscape.”

“The Iron Tree with Lone Pine Peak to the left and Mt. Whitney to the right.”

After getting in a few shots of the Iron Tree, I took a small walk around and found some pretty gorgeous photo ops. The snow was about mid-shin deep so my Levis jeans were starting to get damp again. It was too long of a drive back to the Mojave Desert to be doing it in wet jeans, so I restricted my snow trekking unlike the little bunny that left these tracks behind in the fresh snow.

“Elmer Fudd would have a field day here…lol!”

“The early morning view of Owens Valley and the distant, snow-capped peaks of the Coso Range Wilderness Area.”

I was starting to get very hungry, but there was so much beauty to capture with my camera that I wanted to stay out here a bit longer. I tried to hold out more, but eventually my hunger won as I began to feel a bit weak. It’s my last day in town so I wanted to have a breakfast that would count…

Alabama Hills Cafe

GPS Coordinates: 36.6042071° N, 118.06522° W

Before I got completely checked out of my room, I had to make one last stop at my favorite place for breakfast. I sat down and tried the super amazing French Toast made from their home-baked cinnamon swirl bread loaves which were so fresh out of the oven that they had to cool for a moment. I reviewed all the shots that I had taken earlier and I was super excited with the results. I wanted to edit them right there and then, but I was focused on a tasty breakfast adventure.

“Fresh Cinnamon Swirl bread is brought out of the oven to cool for a bit.”

“The obvious choice for a brekkie that morning was a French Toast made from that delicious fresh-baked bread.”


GPS Coordinates: 36.7272331° N, 118.1549834° W

I had visited this place once before during my Eastern Sierra New Year 2015 blog post. This was the first time visiting this location after a big winter storm. It seems a bit ironic, but for a place that represents such a dark chapter in American history, it sure yields some very beautiful scenery. Manzanar is literally a 12 minute drive north of Lone Pine, CA., so I had to visit before I went home. There was a whole lot more snow on the mountains than before which made for some very great imagery.

“Quite possibly one of the best looking signs I have seen in my travels.”

“An old Ford delivery truck sits outside of the Mess Hall #14 exhibit.”

“Mt. Williamson is so beautiful and worthy of any Himalayan Peak.”

“Random posts along the self guided tour and some snow-covered Inyo Mountains in the backdrop.”

“Kanji characters pronounced as ‘I-REI-TO’, meaning ‘Soul consoling tower’, a monument dedicated to Manzanar’s dead

“After exploring the region in and around Manzanar, it was time to saddle up again and head south.”

Back to Lone Pine and then Homeward Bound

At a mere 12 minutes north of Lone Pine, the visit to Manzanar was not a big dent in my travel schedule so I had one last opportunity to get some photos of the Eastern Sierra Mountains as seen from Highway 395 throughout Lone Pine. I had wanted images before from the highway, but the cloud cover was overwhelming and left no view at all, but today was a different story and the Eastern Sierra Nevada range was standing mighty and proud just beyond the Alabama Hills.

“From highway 395, the view feels so massive, note the tiny trucks in the field below.”

“The Inyo Mountain Range was looking fantastic with its clouds and snow-covered surface features.”

“Mount Langley was looking pretty majestic over the Alabama Hills.”

“This place never gets old no matter how many times I visit, in fact it just gets better and better.”

“Hundreds of pinnacle-type rocks point skyward as if to say, look up!”

“Lone Pine Peak is a total optical illusion of elevation, it is much smaller than its neighbors, but still very photogenic.”

“Farewell Lone Pine – Escape via Route 136.”

It was time to leave the Eastern Sierra Nevada all together now. Rather than take the same drive back home along the 395, I wanted to have one last exploratory venture so I took Route 136 to 190 in Death Valley. The entire morning I had been hearing what sounded like thunder. I spotted an A10 Thunderbolt dog fighting with an F18 Hornet at really high altitudes. I know that military jet maneuvers are typically conducted throughout Death Valley and some areas around the Eastern Sierra Nevada, but today the activity was the highest I had experienced. I even witnessed a fleet of Sikorsky Sea Stallions passing over town.

“Looking back at the Sierras from Route 136.”

“The Starship had such a good time she even took some muddy souvenirs with her.”

“The Inyo Mountains along Route 136 to 190 present a beautiful subject matter.”

“This is what the town of Lone Pine looks like from the junction at Route 136 and 190 to Death Valley.”

At one point while I was driving the 190, I heard a low hissing sound in my truck that seemed to get louder and just when I thought something was wrong with the Starship, “BOOM!” an F18 Hornet buzzed me on the highway flying no higher than at least 500 ft off the ground. He was following Route 190 and suddenly banked left. Probably the best experience I had like that in a very long time…”So cool!” My dashcam caught it, but the resolution was terrible so just in case I got buzzed by another jet fighter, I wanted a much better quality video so I pulled over and mounted my GoPro cam to the hood.

“Ready to catch another jet fighter pass if I can.”


“No jet fighters passed again, but I did get this 5 minute video taken from Father Crowley Overlook to Panamint Valley Road (sped up 300%).”

“Panamint Valley Road is a rough, but extremely scenic drive.”

“A communications facility aids military aircraft as they perform maneuvers in Death Valley’s many dead zones.”

“A closer look at another communications facility I spotted along the drive.”

“The Panamint Mountain Range is very beautiful. Home to the tallest mountain in Death Valley, Telescope Peak @ 11,043 ft. (3,365.9 m).”

“Oh man, I discovered a ghost town, I will definitely have to venture out here again when I have more time.”

“Last shot for the day, Panamint Valley at the top of the pass before Trona and all points south.”

The last four days were by far some of the best that I had ever experienced in the Great Eastern Sierra Nevada. This photo venture has set the bar pretty high for the year of 2017. I don’t know if the next photo venture will match or even top this trip, but regardless I’m still excited to set off on another journey to the Eastern Sierra Nevada during the Spring. The immense amount of rainfall and snowpack this year should pave the way for some serious floral blooms. With that said, this travel blog trilogy comes to a close.

If you missed the first two, you can view Lone Pine Winter Storm 2017 – Chapter 01 and start from the beginning.
Until the next travel blog, remember to get out there and “Shoot the Planet!”



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