Eastern Sierras

Hey Everyone! Who’s ready for a thanksgiving feast? I am! Thanksgiving is just 2 days away and Scott and I are super excited for all the food we get to indulge in, what’s your favorite meal for Thanksgiving? We had an awesome time road tripping to the Eastern Sierras in October and have lots of great images to share with you today! As usual, we are gonna start with our detailed account of what went down during our travels 😀

For this road trip, Scott and I left early in the afternoon on a Thursday after Scott was done teaching his class. He had Friday off so we took advantage of a 4 day weekend for our road trip 🙂 Our plan was to drive all the way to Yosemite stopping at various spots along the way to admire the Eastern Sierra Mountains. Big Pine was our first days end destination, and we had stayed there before on a road trip to explore Alabama Hills, but this time we would only be spending the night there. Since we left around noon, we got to the town of Lone Pine (about 30 minutes before Big Pine) around 3pm and decided to check out Alabama Hills again because we really loved visiting there, not to mention it’s one of my favorite places! It was great being in the rocky environment again especially having the drone this time around. I “rock climbed” for a little while while Scott flew the drone around me, it was a good time. We snapped some pictures and had been talking about visiting the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, just east of Big Pine, before the sunset so we wrapped up our filming and got in the car to check into our motel and then head up to the forest. We stayed in the exact same motel that we had last trip and were very pleased with it, it’s not a scary place to spend the night at all and it reinforces our idea that motels are underrated 🙂 After we unloaded some stuff into our room, we made our way up into the mountains. Luckily for us the entrance to the forest was literally right across the street from where we were staying. We drove up the mountain for about 45 minutes, and just before we reached the spot that we were going to stop, a big group of deer jumped out into the road and we had to slam on our breaks and let them pass. There was about 9 of them and it was quite a sight watching them walk into the brush with the mountains and setting sun behind them. Once we got to the top, we had just enough time to set up and capture the sunset. The view was so beautiful with the sierras in the distance as we watched the sun slowly fade away. It was cold up there but wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. After the sunset, we headed back down the mountain to grab some dinner and call it a night. We had planned for the next morning to wake early to watch the sunrise at North Lake (going west into the Sierras) and then heading back down to the highway to continue our journey to our next stop-Mammoth Lakes.

We woke up around 4:40am to make sure we had plenty of time to set up and watch the sunrise from North Lake, we had never been there before, so we wanted to give ourselves enough time. We left our motel which was located in Big Pine, and drove north to the Bishop area where we would turn off of the main highway and head up into the mountains. As we headed west up the windy road into the Sierras, we saw many signs leading to various lakes, and we were a little confused at times but had finally stopped at a campground that we believed would lead us to North Lake. The sun was just about to peak out over the mountains so we had to hurry. As we were walking, Scott felt that we were not at the right lake and that we might have passed the spot we were looking for while driving in. We weren’t sure what to make of it so we just continued to walk around the campground, taking pictures until we headed back to the car. Scott wanted to see where North Lake was, so we back tracked a little and saw the lake from inside the car. Our morning didn’t go as planned with capturing the sunrise, but that didn’t stop us from making the most out of our day in the mountains. We continued to stop and look at the many lakes in the area, and when we had explored all of the road that leads west into the mountains, we were ready to head back down to the highway to make our way to our next stop. Once we were on the main road again, we decided we would grab lunch in Bishop and then make our way to Rock Creek Canyon, a turn off from highway 395 (about half way between Bishop and Mammoth.) Scott wanted to check this scenic drive out because of the many photo opportunities and scenic spots he had read about online. The road into the canyon begins as a small turnoff from the main highway, and slowly weaves its way up into the mountains. Along the road, we stopped at various campsites and lakes and were amazed at the beauty of the canyon. The waters of the glacier fed lakes were so clear and perfect that it was almost possible to miss the massive granite mountains that towered over the canyon on all sides. We drove for about 2 hours until we reached the end of the road which was at a trail head called Mosquito Flat. This trail was pretty popular and we arrived at what seemed like the most common time to go on a bike ride/hike, but luckily we found a parking spot and decided to check the area out. We were a little surprised to see some snow still hanging around on the ground in this area and being the LA kids that we are, we had fun goofing off and stepping in the crunchy snow. There was a beautiful bridge that had a flowing river underneath it that was at the beginning of the trail head that made it so alluring to follow to see what other beauty was beyond that point. Scott and I were tempted to go on this hike to see for ourselves what was up over the mountain, so we decided to venture up and go on the Mosquito Flat trail. The trail had lots of hikers on it so we definitely didn’t have that alone feeling with nature quite yet, and the higher up we got the more tired I got. The way up was basically a rock staircase that seemed to go on forever, at times I got frustrated and wanted to take a break or doubted if I could keep going, but Scott kept motivating me to keep pushing forward so we could enjoy what was on top together. As we approached our last step onto the giant mountain the most magnificent view was in front of us. We were both tired from the hike up so we found a secluded spot to put our bags down and to just sit and take in the view. We laid on giant rocks and soaked up the sun while listening to the soft wind that swayed the trees in the distance. We enjoyed the spot we found so much that we stayed for about an hour before heading back down to the car. Once we made it back into the car we headed back to highway 395 to continue our journey up to Mammoth Lakes.

By the time we got to our motel in Mammoth it was 2pm, we had made good time and were fortunate enough to plan for a little cat nap once we were situated in our room. It was my first time exploring Mammoth and kind of Scott’s first time too, he had been there for a overnight stay but didn’t get to go out during the day time to explore. When we checked into the room the guy at the front counter talked to us about local attractions and something that stuck out to me was “Rainbow Falls” because it was the same name as the falls we went to in Hawaii. He told us about the Devil’s Postpile National Park that was about 20 minutes away from our motel. We figured after our nap, we would head up there until the sunset. After resting for about an hour or so, we made our way up the mountain to Devils Postpile. We were lucky and didn’t have to pay to get in because their machines weren’t working 🙂  We got a map and decided to check out Rainbow Falls first. The road into Devils Postpile National Park is basically just a long, steep descent into a valley where most of the parks attractions are located. We parked our car and noticed once we got out, that we were in the center of a giant, beautiful forest. We followed the trail, which was about a mile hike to the falls, and along the way we were totally submerged in the tranquil atmosphere that Mammoth brings to it’s visitors. Once we got to the Falls we noticed a few other people at the lookout, so we ventured a little farther to find another lookout that was perfect for us to take pictures at. The waterfall was wide and fat and full of life, we stayed and took pictures and videos for awhile just goofing around because it was such a fun hangout spot being secluded from other hikers. We decided to head back to the car and see what else to check out. Once in the car we decided to go back up the mountain to get some arial drone shots instead of going to Devils Postpone which is the park’s main attraction. Scott found a perfect area to fly the drone so he got out of the car but I decide to stay and wait for him because I was cold and hungry haha. Scott was flying for about 20 minutes, until he came back with a hard face on, he had crashed his drone! THANK GOD it was okay! He had said he didn’t noticed a tree below the drone as he was coming down and it just crashed immediately. We were ready to head back and grab a pizza and double check to make sure the drone footage saved and that the drone was totally okay. We ended the night eating lots of pizza and very pleased with our days adventure, and even more excited for the next days adventure in Yosemite National Park!

Scott is a very big fan of Yosemite. As you may know this wasn’t our first time checking out Yosemite, although it WAS both our first times entering Yosemite through the Tioga pass entrance. Both Scott and I (on separate occasions) were not allowed to take Tioga pass because of road closures due to weather conditions, so it was very exciting for us to finally see the upper portion of Yosemite. As we got closer to Tioga pass, we stopped at a gas station to fill up before our days adventure inside the park (I got 2 cute wine glasses that had Yosemite printed on them as souvenirs 🙂 After getting gas and cold drinks, we drove for about 30 minutes before getting to the front gate of the park. Before we entered the park Scott wanted to get some drone footage of the area because drone filming is illegal inside any national park in America unless you have a permit. We pulled off the road so Scott could get some nice shots before putting his drone away for the rest of the day. Something else that was really awesome about this trip to Yosemite was finding out that entering the park was FREE! It was National Public Lands Day so everyone got free admission into the park, it was so lucky for us and we had no idea about it! As we started to drive into the park we were taken away with how dense the forest was just off from the main road, we wanted to drive a little bit to get a sense of the atmosphere before getting out of the car to explore. We found a area with a beautiful backdrop of a giant rock called Tuolumne Meadows, we parked the car and explored the area in the meadow taking pictures and videos of all the beauty around us. We then hopped back into the car and drove a little bit further until we found a creek to take more pictures at, it brought back memories from the last time we were in Yosemite together just driving and jumping out whenever we felt we found a really beautiful spot to take photos of. Our day consisted of us doing exactly that. We stopped at many meadows, admiring wildlife, and the nature we were engulfed in. In one meadow in particular, we got to watch a coyote prowl up to nearby photographers, thankfully they were fully aware and let the coyote get closer to them before they decided it was wasn’t safe and headed back to their car. Another fun spot we went to, was very remote and wasn’t the typical area where people stop at to explore. We had stopped on a narrow part of the road where a giant rock slanted up onto the mountain side, Scott had the idea to go up the rock and see what the view was like up top, I was hesitant at first, because it was kinda “off the grid” and didn’t look like a spot where people would go up to explore, but I was curious like him and agreed to go up the rock mountain. It wasn’t scary going up the slope, it was at a decently steep angle, but we were lucky we had good gripping on our shoes. At the top of the short climb was a flat surface were we stopped at to look out into the distance, it was a nice viewpoint from where we were and totally something that could be surpassed by other explorers. We took the opportunity to take some interesting photos on the slanted rock viewpoint and admired the scenic view for awhile before heading back down to the car. Since we had never been to the upper part of Yosemite, we tried our best to see as much as we could before the sun went down because we planned on watching the sunset at Olmstead Point. We continued our venture, stopping at various spots until we had completed viewing Tioga Pass. We had finally made it to the end of Tioga and it was perfect timing because we had just enough time drive back to Olmstead Point to set up for the sunset. The drive heading back the way we came was very peacefully and beautiful to drive through, without stopping to get out of the car, its drives like this, just looking at everything while passing by that make Yosemite just the perfect place to admire the beauty of nature. It took us about an hour to get back to Olmstead Point, luckily there weren’t a lot of tourists there so we got a good parking spot and got out of the car with ease. We grabbed some blankets and all our gear and made our way down a steep “driveway” like rock so we could hike to a few minutes from the parking area to get a good spot to view the sunset. Once we had arrived at the large rock mountain, we found a perfect spot to set up the tripod and sit to watch the colors change in the distance. As the sun started to set, the temperature started to drop and it got a little chilly on the mountain, but it was worth being cold to watch the sunlight light up the face of Half Dome and gradually change from yellow to orange to purple, and it was one of the most beautiful sunset we had seen in quite some time. Once the colors started to fade and the night sky started to creep in, we packed up our gear  and hiked back to the car. As we drove towards the Yosemite front gate to exit, we talked about our day and compared our experiences in lower Yosemite versus upper Yosemite. After seeing a little bit of both, it seemed like the upper area was much less crowded and overrun by tourists and was a little easier to feel the escape that Yosemite has to offer. However, I would say that much of what the upper area has to offer requires hiking or backpacking to get to, which leaves us with plenty of Yosemite to see in the future. But if a person was looking for a trip to Yosemite where everything can be seen from the backseat of their car then I would say Yosemite Valley and the lower half of the park are probably a better fit. Either way, I would find it hard to believe that a person could ever have a bad time in Yosemite as it is one of the most amazing places on Earth 🙂 On our way back to the motel we stopped at a Mexican restaurant and had some really big burritos for dinner, it was exactly what we needed. After our food coma we found ourselves desperately needing sleep, we had a fun filled day and were saddened with the thought of leaving the next morning 🙁

Sunday morning we woke up super early to go see the sunrise at Mono Lake. We checked out around 4:30am and got all of our stuff back into the car and made the drive which was going North on the 395. I was eager to see what Mono Lake was like because when I was younger I did a report on it so I thought it was funny that I actually got to see it in person many years later. We arrived at the lake with only a few other cars already parked there, sunrise is a popular time to photograph this location so we were accompanied by plenty of fellow photographers that morning. We set up at a few spots once we were close to the water and were really take aback by the salt sculptures that rise up out of Mono Lake. As the sun started to rise, it created a really surreal atmosphere to be in, watching these tall pillars change colors and collect shadows. We saw some wildlife while there, which included really small birds or ducks that floated on the lake skillfully to sneaky jack rabbits with their great, big ears ready to hear a predator near by. We had such a fun morning exploring this lake and all its unique attributes that seemed a little peculiar in the middle of a desert. As we were leaving, Scott suggested we check out one more area before making it back to LA, June Lake has a loop that coincides with highway 395, so It would be the perfect last minute adventure before heading back home. It was still pretty early in the morning so there wasn’t too may cars on the road or anywhere in general-we entered into the June Lake Scenic Loop from the north and were pleased to find out there were other lakes to view while driving. One of the more spectacular ones that we stopped at was called Silver Lake, this was Scotts favorite. The lake itself wasn’t too big, but what made it so special was that it was surrounded on all sides by dense trees and bushes that had all turned yellow and orange from the changing seasons. After getting back in the car,, we drove for a little while until we reached June lake, and we didn’t feel like getting out of the car at this point so we admired the lake while passing by. For the the remainder of the ride, we didn’t get out of the car but instead had an awesome drive going through the June Lake Loop which eventually connected us back to Highway 395 putting us on route towards home. Once back on the highway, it took us about 4 hours to get back to Los Angeles. Overall, the trip had been an amazing weekend getaway and a perfect way to enjoy the changing of the seasons from summer to fall that us LA folk rarely get to see. We hope you enjoyed hearing about our trip and will also enjoy the photos below! Stay tuned in the coming weeks for the full travel video from our trip and thanks again for reading!



A dramatic look of the Sierras while visiting Alabama Hills
Courtney trying to look cool
Right before the sun went down, Scott got this gorgeous shot of the mountains as we were leaving Devil’s Postpile National Park
Here’s a fun picture of us, we each took a picture of each other sitting alone and then later composited them together.
Courtney at Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls, located inside Devils Postpile National Park
Courtney taking a film picture of the waterfall
An intimate shot of the beautiful green trees
This was taken at Silver Lake, a gorgeous pathway that lead to the water.
Another shot at Silver Lake, located in June Lake’s scenic loop drive
Epic shot of the road leading towards June Lake
Another shot leading to June Lake
The atmosphere at Mono Lake is nothing we have ever seen, from a stark desert to the grand mountains leading up the Sierras, Mono Lake is a place like no other
Heading back towards highway 395 from Mono Lake, Scott has a talent for road pictures like this one
A cautious jack rabbit waits for us to pass by while exploring Mono Lake’s brushy habitat
Courtney taking in the early morning sun at Mono Lake
A beautiful silhouette captured during sunrise at Mono Lake
A peaceful atmosphere to watch the sunrise, Mono lake is a great spot just for that occasion
Another beautiful shot from sunrise
An abstract view of the sunrise at Mono Lake
Courtney embracing Half Dome during sunset
We were so excited to get this shot, watching the colors change on Half Dome was the highlight of our trip
Patiently waiting for sunset at Olmstead Point
Courtney posing with Half Dome
While waiting for the sun to set Courtney enjoyed reading a book to pass the time
A beautiful abstract like photo of Half Dome in the distance
A close up shot of Half Dome
Right when we arrived at Olmstead Point we set up to capture the best sunset picture of Half Dome, this was the view from the parking lot before we walked about 10 minutes to the viewpoint
Courtney exploring a meadow while checking out the upper Yosemite roads
One of Courtney’s favorite shots while exploring Yosemite
Scott hanging out on top of a secluded rock slope
A fashionable shot of Courtney at Tuolumne Meadows
This coyote was stalking a group of photographers, it was such a sight to watch this animal behave in their natural environment
Courtney’s posing made for a great shot
Looking for a perfect area to take some film pics
Inside the Inyo National Forest we hiked up a trail called Mosquito Flat
An epic shot of Scott taking in the beautiful scenery
Another beautiful photo while hiking around Mosquito Flat
Courtney taking in the view at Mosquito Flat trail
At the beginning of our hike there was a beautiful river that ran across the valley of Mosquito Flat
While exploring Rock Creek Canyon we stopped at many lakes like this one to see the diversity in each one
Courtney snapping a film pic of this lake in Rock Creek Canyon
While wandering around “North Lake” we found this lonely horse eating a very early breakfast
The sunset at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest was breathtaking
Before sunset at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest
Here we have a mother and doe following a large group of deer right before entering the look out at the Ancient Bristolecone Pine Forest
Alabama Hills in black and white
A little bit up the road from where we were staying in Big Pine, mountains like these are located on each side of the road making the drive a pleasure to the eyes
One of our favorite pictures from Alabama Hills, this location was used for old western movies and its east to see why
A unique shot of the Sierras rising up over Alabama Hills
Gorgeous sunset shot of Half Dome from the Olmstead Point




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