Discovering majestic Mt. Whitney – She’s a beauty!
After having a wondeful time at Bishop, we packed up and drove into Lone Pine – 60 miles south on scenic 395. We spent a couple of nights at the Boulder Creek RV Park so we could catch up on a few things, ie. laundry 😦 We also wanted to prepare for what we hoped would be our longest stretch of boondocking (dry camping) yet. Once we located the perfect patch of desert for Betsy, we moved her there and got set up with fantastic views of the nearby Alabama Hills and Mt. Whitney.
Our next activity was to explore Mt. Whitney while we were assured of good weather. As you may know, Mt. Whitney is the highest peak in the contiguous United States, at 14,497′. The peak was named in honor of Josiah Whitney, who was chief of the survey team working at the mountain in 1864. Whitney doesn’t look as imposing as mountains like, say, Shasta, because there are several other high peaks around it. However, it has very striking features and we loved looking at it as we first drove to the 8300′ elevation.
To get an unobstructed view of the peak, we drove up a long switchback road on Whitney Portal Road (about 13 miles from the town of Lone Pine). We saw a few deer crossing the road on their way to breakfast.
The drive ended at the Whitney Portal Family Campground – elevation 8,360′. Even if you aren’t interested in hiking further up the mountain from here, YOU MUST drive up this road if you get a chance just to enjoy the enormous panoramic views of Owens valley and the Alabama Hills. There is also a beautiful partially-frozen waterfall at this elevation. Wow, this drive gets a “10” from us!
Since we weren’t planning (that is, in good enough shape) to climb the higher elevations of the mountain, we settled on a less stressful hike that still provided fantastic views and a good workout. We took the Lower Trailhead which begins at the west end of the Lone Pine Campground, starting at elevation 5,640′ then climbed to over 7000′. This trail is 4-miles one-way. As we hiked up, we enjoyed the views of Mt Whitney, Lone Pine Creek, the Inyo Mountains, the Owens valley and of course the Alabama Hills to the east.
We stopped for lunch at the rock grotto near the crossing of Meysan Creek and Lone Pine Creek. This trail will end up at the previously-mentioned Whitney Portal Campground at the top. And the hike back, as they say, is all downhill.
Heading back down, the Alabama Hills came to view. Beautiful!