Monday, September 12, 2016

Eastern California's Highway 120 - September 2016 - Part Two

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We returned to our sure thing campsite Saturday evening. Showers, dinner, some time outside under the stars, and we were ready to turn in. Sunday morning we enjoyed the luxury of watching sunrise at camp. We thought of the young German women high above at Mono Pass enjoying this sunrise also.

Sunday was spent exploring the area along the eastern end of highway 120 that runs between the Granite Mountains to the north and Glass Mountain to the south. After passing the Mono Craters we climbed up onto the Glass Mountain Ridge. This ridge is the northeast boundary of the Long Valley Caldera with a long history of violent volcanic activity.

The more we explore about here, the deeper our interest in the area becomes. We came upon surprising  views of the Sierra Nevada's eastern escarpment.


Long meandering valleys dot the broad ridge.

Our search for history was different today. We were searching for a little known prehistoric site.

I had only a brief description to draw on, but we thought this would be a fairly easy find. All we had to do was to get into the area. Once again we learned that searches rarely turn out as planned. We knew we were exactly right on with the location. Obsidian flakes littered the area, indicating long term use of the area.

After more than two hours of extensive searching we did not find what we were looking for. We now know a great deal about where it is not.  But it was wonderful to wander through this landscape. Fall was in the air. We watched American White Pelicans winging their way south.  

Late in the afternoon we looked for a secluded spot to camp Sunday night. We found a perfect location.

Tucked up against a wall of volcanic rock, the Lady insisted on exploring. She did not have to twist my arm hard to get me to come along.

We ate our supper as the last light of the sun worked its way across the landscape.

It was a delight to have this all to ourselves on Labor Day Weekend. We walked after dinner and into the night. We were at 8800 feet. The air temperature plummeted with the coming dark. I guessed it would drop to 32° overnight. We woke Monday morning to a low of 19°. That was a surprise!

Before heading home Monday, we had one more prehistoric site to look for. This one was a long shot. I had very little information and research turned up nothing more. I had one wild guess where this site might be but I gave this less than 10% chance of being correct. But we were close, it was worth a look, and the landscape is gorgeous.

We navigated a maze of dirt two track roads. The Lady did a great job of "Keeping Us Found."

We started our search.

We were searching for a hidden grotto, a very sacred place. Through a narrow opening we found a hollowed out chamber in the rock. A very faint petroglyph adorned its wall.

Were we on to something? That wild guess could not possibly be right, could it? This place was amazing. A narrow polished chute dropped into this chamber. Looking close, we saw an ancient foothold carved into the polished rock to aid in climbing up.

What was above? It should have been easy, but both of us were embarrassed with the awkward unbalanced move it took to get into the hidden chamber above.

We had found it. Here was the hidden grotto extensively decorated with deeply cut petroglyphs. And all the petroglyphs were filled with vivid red ochre!

We treated this site with the utmost respect. We were surrounded by ancient ways.

What an incredible way to end what was already a great weekend. After striking out with Sunday's search, the Lady was especially thrilled with the find.

We made our way back to Lee Vining and grabbed a soft serve ice cream at Mono Cone and walked in the nearby park.

Families were taking a break from their travels and burning off children's energy. We walked quietly, hand in hand, enjoyed our ice cream, and reflected on the fact that usually it is a lot of hard work that gets you to success but every so often a wild guess pays off. This had been another incredible long weekend of exploration for us.


  1. Thanks for taking us along. I know I will never get a chance to see these beautiful places and am so blessed to have people willing to share. Thanks for keeping it vague so the site is protected for other folks willing to guess and adventure.

  2. Monte, a wonderful TR! I loved the rock art! Thanks to you and Julie for sharing your trip!!!