Monday, October 22, 2012

The Quest for Fall Colors, East Side Sierra Nevada – October 2012





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It was so funny. It was good to laugh as hard as we were laughing. It was Ted. Yup, Ted again.



Our weekends this fall had gotten eaten up with other events, chores, issues, but not this one. This one we had saved for a trip over to the east side, hoping for brilliant colors from the aspen and crisp fall weather. That wasn’t a sure thing, maybe we’d hit it right. A sure thing was that we’d have a great time with the folks we were meeting – the Teds, Lighthawks, and MarkBC, all members of the Wander the West forum.

We were the ones that would be arriving last, after dark on Friday evening. The truck was ready when the Lady got home from teaching. The whirlwind through the house, “Are we forgetting anything? Let’s go!” And we were on the road.

Ted and the Mrs. were taking off Friday morning. There was a quick email question from Ted about getting propane tanks filled at Topaz. I answered that I thought so, they operate a RV park. Ted replied, “Thanks. See you tonight. We’ll turn on the landing lights.”

Heading south on 395, we stopped in Walker for dinner at the Mountain View Barbeque, an old favorite when we’re in the mood for meat, meat that’s seen just the right amount of slow barbeque and smoke. And fries, old fashion fries. And beans, old fashion barbeque beans that will stay with you more ways than one.

As we were climbing Conway Summit grade I asked the Lady if she could text Ted. Ask, “Got the landing lights on?” I thought that would be funny. Shortly after the phone rattled and buzzed with a reply. “They’re on.”
 

Our meeting place for all of us was what we’ve taken to calling Ted’s Dunderburg Camp, although Ted got the info from another WTW member. A two track road leads to the campsite. It was dark and we worked our way toward camp. Then we saw them and we burst out laughing. Landing lights. Green lined the port side with red on the starboard. The taxi way had light blue lights down the center and there at the end was Ted, a flashlight high in each hand. They were far apart as we started the taxi and came closer and closer together as we approached. Soon the flashlights came together and crossed and we were camping.

Yup, it was Ted.


We greeted Lighthawk & SR and met their new addition, Little Miss Callie. MarkBC had been rambling about the East Side and the White Mountains for a couple of weeks and was on his way north to home. It was good to see Mr. BC again. Ted & the Mrs., what can I say? We had never been brought into camp before with landing lights.

Saturday morning was cold and mostly clear. A couple of the photographers had gotten outside before me. I’m slipping or getting old or the sleeping bag was extra warm and cozy this morning. Lighthawk, I don’t know if he had even made it to bed as he was busy enjoying night photography. MarkBC was out on the point.






Actually everybody was getting up this morning. The day’s beginnings were prefect.









The group gathered on the point above Mono Lake in the sun's first rays.





And a trend for the weekend started, the Lady rolling on the ground playing with Little Miss Callie.







Everyone was in a relaxed mood. MarkBC was happy to hang around the camp area. Ted suggested visiting a place he had become interested in, the Log Cabin Mine. The Lighthawks and the Ski3pinners were happy to join in the adventure. Perhaps we would find some fall color along the way. The Lighthawks led the way.





Fall was definitely in full swing, aspen leaves and Jeffery pine cones.





We passed through an incredible grove of mature aspens……





…….that were gorgeous in the morning light.





Our stops were often and enjoyable as we traveled.





We reached the top.





There is a gate and a sign in place in an effort to protect this site. What a shame this is needed but experience has taught us it is not enough to stop damage.













The ruins were certainly interesting and painted a picture of hard work and hard lives in a vivid high elevation setting.

There is a mine cage still attached to the cable over the head frame. We moved in to explore the lift operation building. Ted wanted to get everything working again or perhaps move into a new line of work.














Among the older equipment were some obvious upgrades that time and technology brought such as an intercom for the lift operator.





Interesting stuff littered the area.





The Lady had a different take on all of this. She wanted to know why the owners were not required to clean everything up after the operation shut down. Why was all this junk just allowed to rot? She is aware of all the superfund sites we the tax payers are footing the bill for and all the possible new ones we will inherit. The only constant in western boom and bust cycles is us left with the bill and piles of junk littering our public lands. This is a valid point of view and just as much a part of our history as these western relics.

We moved on to explore a newer building. A window was open to a modern bathroom, flush toilet, sink, and shower. Something was on the toilet tank. What did miners look at while spending quality time on the throne? We were surprised.





We found the namesake log cabin and took a group photo.





Returning to the vehicles we drove the short ways out to the edge. Perhaps we’d find a view off to the east.





The wind was howling here, a harbinger of the predicted coming change in the weather.





It was worth it although we did not linger.






During trip planning Ted had mentioned a possible special visitor to our campsite Saturday evening. As the afternoon shadows grew longer our thoughts started to wonder who this might be. Our anticipation began to grow along with an urge to return to camp.


I just found Ted’s message so I will be accurate with my account – “BTW, I have it on good authority that the proprietor from Chez Campeur will be hosting a happy hour Saturday around 5:00 PM.”

The Lighthawks went ahead as we descended. They wanted to travel up Lee Vining Canyon a bit before returning to camp. The rest of us stopped often on our way down. We couldn’t help ourselves.













Back at camp in the late afternoon, we relaxed. The wind was up, chilling us down, and we kept moving our chairs to stay in the sun as the sun dropped lower. MarkBC filled us in on his day. We popped into our camper for a little clean up and to dress for the evening. There was a knock on the door.

“It’s 5 pm and happy hour!”





Now this was style, shrimp, cocktail sauce, and a bit of the bubbly.





The Lighthawk’s were driving in. They spotted our special guest and were served right in the cab of their truck – roadside service. We were happy. Camping will never be the same.

Comfortable, that’s a good word to describe this evening. We wandered back out toward the point to watch the sky, the changing light, the world around us, and to share the evening.





SR took a different route with Little Miss Callie tagging along. Last light was on the distant Bodie Hills.





Mono Lake dropped into the shadows.





Storm clouds began to drop along the Sierra crest, back lit by the setting sun.





The wind had a bite to it. It was cold. We all retired to our campers and fixed our dinners and ate. The Lady & I decided a night walk was in order. MarkBC joined us. We headed up slope into the wind. We shared stories of travels in Nevada and ideas on new places to discover. Finally the chill had done its job. We put our backs to the wind and headed for camp. I stayed out just long enough to take a long exposure shot of camp with the lights of Bridgeport below.






It had been a great day.



The Lady first stirs a little after 4:30 each morning. We still are not use to the extra month tacked on to each end of daylight savings time. The sun rises so late now at the end of October. The Lady stirred and rolled into my arms.
“It’s still dark,” I said, “Too early to get up.”
Her breathing fell into a deep rhythm. I thought she was back asleep. I didn’t notice that she was looking out the window, watching.
“It’s getting light in the east, look. Coffee time? Time to make coffee?” Her voice had too much life to it. It was coffee time.

I bundled up against the morning chill, 34°, and exited with the camera. I’ve been enjoying taking long exposures in  predawn light.




MarkBC was up now too. He joined me, preparing to take some of his fine panorama shots. The eastern sky came alive over Mono Lake.





The Lady brought out our coffee and joined Mr. BC. They watched.





In silence the sun rose…………………





……………….and spread its light, once again over our camp.





Our camaraderie with our friends was coming to an end. The Teds were heading back over Tioga Pass and going home west through Yosemite. MarkBC was making tracks north toward home in Oregon.  The LIghthawks wanted to do the June Lake Loop prior to heading home. The Lady and me? We would head north on Dunderburg Meadows Road and drive up Upper Summer Meadows Road prior to seriously committing to the course home.

We said our goodbyes to our friends.

Many of the groves along Dunderburg Meadow had already lost their leaves. They looked like stands of ghosts, gathered steadfast against the coming winter.





The stands of aspen up above Upper Summer Meadows were more in their prime, bright in the morning sun.





There is an interesting small cabin on the edge of the upper meadow.














We drove back down, parked, and hiked out the length of the meadow to the west. We headed toward the ridge and a low saddle. We hoped this would give us a good vantage point to look down at Twin Lakes and up the Robinson Creek Canyon.





We returned to the truck and slowly drove back down toward Bridgeport. It was quiet up here. It was too early or maybe the coming storm was thinning out the fall travelers. We stopped one last time.





We headed home. We had hit it right. We had hit it right in many ways.




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