Some hidden gems along the Eastern Sierra – Scenic 395

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Convict Lake

We’ve been on this road before, yet the scenery on Highway 395 remains awe-inspiring. We had never explored much of what lies beyond the highway, the less-traveled roads that brought us deep into the area’s natural wonders and very colorful history.  Folks who have a strong interest in geology would find this place paradise.  For us who simply want to gawk and experience its beauty, it’s best to simply spend as much time discovering hidden corners and appreciate it firsthand.  We are a couple of weeks late in enjoying the full fall splendor, as the autumn colors are beginning to fade and the temps are dropping.  And yes, we realize we can’t do it all at once – especially with some areas already closed for the season.  However, there were enough beautiful sights here to persuade us to extend our stay for a couple of days.  We will come back again to do more of our favorite outdoor activity – hiking.  There are many opportunities here but we are somewhat rushed to outrun the winter weather.  I know what you’re thinking – oh those poor people with nothing else to do but follow the sun!

The Eastern Sierra is an abrupt wall reaching two miles above the floor of the Owens Valley.  It encompasses  everything from desert scrub and alkali springs to lush alpine meadows and jagged mountains holding glacial ice.  We are experiencing golden autumn leaves – fantastic fall colors in some areas.  We explored a few creeks, lakes and canyons.  But this is also a great place for so many other activities – mountain biking, 4-wheeling and lots of hiking.  And of course you skiers would be in heaven up here!

June Lake Loop– a scenic 14-mile mountain drive where massive glaciers have carved out a steep horseshoe-shaped canyon.  The area has four lakes known not only for fishing but also for many year-round activities. At the entrance to Oh Ridge campground, a slot machine has been erected in concrete to commemorate a lost slot machine supposedly tossed into June Lake in 1941 when “the Feds” were looking around for bad guys.

June Lake Loop

June Lake Loop

Mono Lake – Travelers along scenic 395 can’t possibly miss this – the oldest lake in North America.  It is described as hauntingly beautiful and its most distinctive feature is its eerie tufa towers – mineral structures created when bubbling fresh-water springs intersect with the lake’s alkaline waters.

Mono Lake

Mono Lake viewed from an 8000′ overlook.  You can’t see Steve in front of the RV on his ladder – busily cleaning the windshield so I can take more pictures!

Tufa

Steve checking out a Tufa

Crowley Lake is considered one of the best spots for trout fishing and is the focal point of Mono County’s fishing season.  To my fishermen friends, make this your next fishing destination.  The lake is named after Father J.J. Crowley, the popular “Padre of the Desert.”

Crowley Lake

Crowley Lake

At the McGee Creek Canyon we parked our car at the end of the paved road and walked further to view the wildly colorful mountains with swathes of red, orange, brown and gray.  Geologists call these “roof pendants”- chunks of older rocks remaining on top when the great gray granites Sierra rose up beneath them and glaciers ground most of the older rock away.

Mcgee Creek Canyon

Mcgee Creek Canyon

Red Mountain

Red Mountain

Convict Lake  was the site of a shootout in 1871 that occurred when local law enforcers tracked down escapees from a Nevada Prison.  The lake sits on a spectacular setting of rugged mountain peaks.  Simply beautiful!

Convict Lake

Convict Lake, my personal favorite among the lakes we visited

We drove to Rock Creek Canyon, known for its vibrant fall colors but because we blinked or we were late in the season our chances to ensure the best show had just passed.

Rock Creek Canyon

To Rock Creek Canyon

Due to the high elevation, the aspens here were the first to shed all their golden leaves.  As we drove back to camp  we saw snow starting to fall on the mountain peaks.  Time to move on!

Conway Summit

Conway Summit

Desert Scrub

Desert Scrub

Bishop

Bishop

We witnessed a beautiful sunset on our last night at Brown’s Town Campground in Bishop.  Stay tuned for more stories about our stop here!Sunset at Bishop

Begin Eastern Sierra Scenic Byway – Mono County

Comments 13 Standard
Bridgeport Reservoir with Sawtooth Ranges in the background

In the past we have driven over most of highway 395 but never stopped to smell the roses, for we had to go from point A to B and overlooked many beautiful locations.  Besides, those times we drove during summer and winter season and it is quite different now in  the fall.  We will be sharing beautiful sceneries that are often overlooked by Californians when driving through this road, us included.

Leaving Sparks, Nevada behind we head south and took highway 395,  the Scenic Eastern Sierra Nevada.  For several hundred miles the highway traces the dramatic eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada, diving down into the deepest valley in North America (Death Valley) and passing roadways and trailheads that lead to all kinds of natural and historic wonders.

Highway 395 outside of Sparks, Nevada

Highway 395 south of Sparks, Nevada

Our first stop on this highway was at Bridgeport, where we set camp to explore and be awed by the beauty of the surroundings.  Bridgeport is a popular destinations for fishing – a town backed by the jagged spires of the Sawtooth Range, aptly named because of its knifelike spires of granite splitting the sky with splendid accuracy.

Bridgeport Reservoir with Sawtooth Ranges in the background

Bridgeport Reservoir with Sawtooth Ridges in the background

Driving around here we noticed the vast sage brush rangelands with wide open spaces for which the west is famous, and the vast ranges where  the happy cows from California reside.  We believe they are happy, since we noticed them smiling each time we took pictures of them!

Happy Cows from California

Happy (and lazy) cows from California.  Hey, get up and get back to work!

The interconnected Twin Lakes (located about 13 miles west) are beautiful and worth the drive; each well over a mile long, and about half a mile wide.  These lakes are nestled under the jagged crest of the Sawtooth Ridge, and the icy blue Matterhorn Glacier; they’re really something to look at.

Upper Twin Lake, Bridgeport

Upper Twin Lakes

Lower Twin Lakes

Lower Twin Lakes

Deer along the highway

Full Moon

View of Full Moon from our Kitchen

More beauty along  the Eastern Sierra Scenic Byway in Mono County.

Highway395 Highway 395

Our digs with a view at Paradise Shores RV park.

Paradise Shores

Our digs for two nights

Paradise Shores RV Park

Morning View at the Park

The mornings at Bridgeport were “brisk” – into the low 20’s and a little colder than we like to subject Betsy’s systems to.  The elevation here was over 6400′, so our next stop will be at Bishop, which is closer to 4000′ and will give us milder nights.