Sep 10, 2011

Eastern Sierras \ US 395

View Eastern Sierra Road Trip in a larger map.

Total Miles\kms covered in this trip: 910\1464 round trip.

Autumn has always been special. With summer dying down and autumn taking its place with the crisp cool air, leaves changing their color, everything looks soo beautiful and serene around. We stumbled upon US of the most stupendous and breathtaking routes of the western US in California. US 395 starts in the Mojave desert, extends to Bishop, slowly rises over the steep slope into the Sierra Nevada skiing resort area Mammoth, Mammoth mountain, June and Mono Lake.

US 395 & the Eastern Sierras in the background

One October 2010 weekend, we decided to visit 395 \  Eastern Sierras to see the scenic route and the fall colors. I found a wonderful website that gives details on weekend reports from peepers. It was a wet, gloomy, rainy friday the day we left for Bakersfield, a 4 1\2 hours drive from home, a small town that was equidistant from our destination.

We left via CA 178 E, \ Kern Canyon road to Aspendell. The route was nice, passed by some vineyards, ranches, a fast flowing river probably flowing from Isabella Lake and a  long winding road over the mountains for part of the journey. The end of the route is very beautiful and we found this the best part of 395. You will know when you reach 395. With jaw dropping vistas in front of you, the picture is unforgettable.

The end of the road was a vast open stretch of land with just 2 main roads that led to as far as the eye could see. The view was terrific and were in awe! This was the gateway to the Eastern Sierra.

US 395
  • Our first stop was Aspendell, 20 mins from US 395. It was a rainy morning with low clouds and cold temperatures. With an umbrella in one hand and the camera in another, I was able to get this shot!
Aspens @ Aspendell
  • Next, we visited Bishop Creek on our way back from Aspendell.

Bishop Creek

  • One of my favorite places on this trip was Convict Lake. The view was spectacular!. The huge boulders near the walkway along with the brilliant colors on the hillside reflecting in the clear waters just added to the beauty of this place. Convict Lake was named after an incident in 1871, where a group of convicts escaped from prison in Carson City. A posse, led by Sheriff Robert Morrison, encountered the convicts near the head of what is now Convict Creek.

Convict Lake

  • June Lake our next destination was another beauty. The first lake on the CA 158 loop and closed in winters. it is often referred to as the Photographers paradise. A storm was expected that evening and looked beautiful as the clouds descended on the lake below.

June Lake
  • A six minute drive from June Lake led us to Silver Lake which was a short walk from the parking lot. This paved pathway was surrounded with Yellow Aspen trees all glowing in the late afternoon sunshine.

Silver Lake path
  • Our last stop was Mono Lake. It is situated on highway 395, 13 miles east of Yosemite National Park, near the town of Lee Vining. Mono Lake is famous for its tufas. South Tufa receives thousands of visitors annually and is one of the largest tufa groves on the lake. The spectacular "tufa towers," are calcium-carbonate spires and knobs formed by interaction of freshwater springs and alkaline lake water. Freshwater evaporating from the lake each year has left the salts and minerals behind so that the lake is now about 2 1/2 times as salty as the ocean and very alkaline. 

Panoramic view of the Tufas
Here are a few tips if you plan to visit. You can refer to the Mono lake website for more information. 
  1. This is the best place to visit if you have time for only one stop. South Tufa is a Federal Fee Area; adults are $3.00, children under 16 are free. Federal Fee Area Annual passes are valid here. There is no shade, a hat and drinking water.
  2. Layered clothing is recommended as the temperatures changes frequently. Wheelchair and stroller accessible till the shores of the lake.
  3.  The lake looks gorgeous after sundown and lights up the lake at dusk making it a popular place for photographers. 
Tufas @ Mono Lake
  •  We decided to return home after Mono Lake. The only route that we had that would take us home in 6 hours was via the Tioga pass. It was around 6.30 pm that we reached the junction. The total route via Tioga is 58.5 miles from lee Vining junction to Big Oak Road. It is the mountain pass over the Sierra Nevada mountains reaching an elevation of about 9943 ft.  We missed seeing this pass as we travelled after dusk. But from what I have read online, it is a very very scenic route that is not to be missed, but the single lane road that goes on for miles can be overwhelming specially for those who fear heights and dropoffs. It is however worth plucking up courage and taking the drive at least once. 

 395 is very beautiful with the snow clad mountains around. Have a safe and enjoyable trip here.. 

Aspens along 395 route

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