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June 11, 2018 / annakpf11

Sierra Time

“The mountains are calling and I must go.” —John Muir

DAY TWO: Silver Lake to Lone Pine

We wake before seven and prepare our respective breakfasts: muesli and banana for Dave; miso soup, seaweed, hard-boiled egg and tempeh for me (don’t knock it ‘till you’ve tried it). Then, in no time at all (unlike the machinations necessary when towing the Airstream), we are underway.


Our first stop of the day is for a short visit to our family cabin. The unpaved driveway is steep, and obscured by low-hanging branches, so we park Suzy on the side of the highway and complete the pilgrimage on foot.


Mountains are a place where we go to refresh the spirit, a place we feel at home. And this particular place in the mountains is full of meaning and memories. We spent our honeymoon here, and long before that, spent days hiking, canoeing, cooking on the woodstove and bathing in the lake. Evenings sitting by the fire playing charades or monopoly or attempting to read by dim propane lamplight. Nights sleeping outside on the porch, lying on our backs gazing at the Milky Way and counting shooting stars. “Glorified camping”, is how Grandma Suzy used to describe summers at the cabin. Her ashes are resting here now, along with Carl’s, beside the path to the lake, marked by a smooth granite stone.


Dave and I pause for a moment and breathe in the memory-laden scents of this singular site on earth. The peace of the place surrounds us. Thus grounded and fortified, we hike back up to the road and carry on over Carson Pass, through Hope Valley, and along the East Carson River to Monitor Pass.


Suzy makes easy work of the 5.5 mile, 2,628 foot climb to the top, a wide open meadow bordered by Aspen trees just coming into leaf.

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Once upon a time, (28 years ago to be exact), I rode a bicycle up this pass, down the other side and then turned around and pedaled back up and down again. Today I’m quite happy to travel in our sprinter van, with Dave at the wheel.


The descent snakes down 3,238 feet in 9 miles, a bit like a slow motion giant slalom course. By bike, car or campervan, Monitor Pass is a breath-taking ride.

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Our route now heads south on Highway 395, the backbone of California, a north-south conduit than runs 557 miles from the Oregon border to the Mojave desert.

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We’ve been looking forward to driving this section of the road, known for dramatic vistas of the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

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After only 15 miles, we round a bend and see that traffic has slowed and stopped. And then we see why. A semi-truck is sprawled across the highway, completely blocking both directions. Paramedics and highway patrolmen are on the scene, and bystanders are out of their cars, standing in the road and gazing at the crumpled giant, lying on its side.

A lean, middle-aged man approaches our window from the direction of the wreck and informs us that it could be at least three hours before the road is re-opened. While we consider whether to wait it out or seek out an alternate route, we step into the galley and make lunch. I do love traveling with a kitchen.

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Dave finishes his turkey sandwich, executes a three-point turn and heads Suzy back the way we came, past a steadily growing queue of cars, trucks and motorhomes. He has found a work-around.

We expect our unplanned detour to pass through a flat, arid landscape, but instead we discover herds of Black Angus cattle grazing in spring-fed meadows against a backdrop of snow-painted peaks. I wish I could capture the sight in a photo, but there’s no place to pull off the road. I will remember. A black cow and her white-faced calf, standing chest high in a field of green grass and wild iris.


Eventually, we rejoin highway 395, and for the next several hours we drive through towns we’ve heard of but never visited: Bridgeport, Bishop, and Big Pine (not to be confused with Lone Pine, tonight’s destination and, to Dave’s dismay, another hour further down the road).


We have a reservation at Lone Pine Campground, in the shadow of Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states. Rising 14,505 feet above sea level, it is higher than Colorado’s tallest mountain by 66 feet.

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By the time turn onto the narrow track that supposedly leads to our campground, we have been on the road for 8 hours. Suzy bumps through the sage-covered landscape, and we wonder where our campground could be. All we see is sand and scrub–brush and the steep upsurge of snaggle-toothed peaks.

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Until the ground opens beneath us to reveal a dusty road descending into a shallow, hidden canyon (hopefully not a flood zone) and the Lone Pine Campground. Never mind that there is not a pine tree in sight, or, for that matter, much indication that anyone else is camping here.

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A hand-written sign pasted near the camp host’s trailer announces DAY OFF.  Another sign warns, “Entering Active Bear Area”. The dry, rocky landscape does not seem like prime bear habitat, but we resolve not to take any chances.


Our pre-reserved campsite offers a lumpy, half-paved strip of sand that makes it impossible to level our rig. Fortunately, there are other empty sites available. We inspect our options and swap our site for a creek-side corner ringed by granite boulders and sparse wildflowers. The only sounds we hear are the breeze in the cottonwoods and the soft rush of water. And our shared sigh of relief.


The weather is too warm for a campfire, and besides, it’s getting late. We heat up one of the two made-ahead-and-frozen-meals we have brought from home, Ropa Vieja (a sort of Latin goulash), and serve it with sauerkraut, potatoes and a glass of Mourvedre.

In hope of dissuading hungry bears, after dinner I wrap and stow all foodstuffs and dispose of our rubbish in a bear-proof bin. Dave somehow finds the energy to play guitar, but not for long. He soon follows me to bed and we sleep with our windows open to the sound of the creek. No bears disturb our dreams.


Leave a Comment
  1. Eric Moe / Jun 11 2018 4:14 pm
    • annakpf11 / Jun 11 2018 4:32 pm

      What a great idea! We’ll get right on it…

  2. Juanita / Jun 11 2018 4:47 pm

    The eastern Sierras is our favorite area.

  3. Karin Ort / Jun 11 2018 5:25 pm

    Amazing views, you two!! What lucky things you are. So glad you didn’t have any visits from a bear!! Thank you for sharing the nearest thing to a holiday we have had for 15 months!!! (Though Peter says my life is one big holiday🤔!!) I am looking forward to reading more! We went to Sydenham fair with Peters 3 grandchildren who are settling in well next floor to us. We had a lovely day but there were no Morris Dancers and no pony rides ( health and safety issues & insurance!!!!). Big disappointment😔! Ben is painting the outside windows and doors at Long Barn this week. Take care and enjoy your travels! K xx

  4. Krzysia Gossage / Jun 12 2018 9:42 am

    Beautiful combination Anna, your word-pictures alongside the photo ones… thank you for finding the time and energy to share these wonderful experiences with us all. Can’t wait for more! K xx

  5. Clint / Jun 12 2018 11:45 am

    Wow! That road is my spiritual highway.
    Just north of Bishop, near Tom’s Place, are a few “primitive” camp sites overlooking “the gorge” of the Owen’s River. 800 ft below there is wild trout fishing that hasn’t changed in the 60 years I’ve been making pilgrimages there.

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