Early October is the best time to see the fall colors along the eastern slope of the Sierra so we’ve been wanting to do this trip ever since our last trip in May of 2019 to Lone Pine. Since there is only a small window of time to take the trip, because many campgrounds close in October, we found our calendars clear for a couple weeks and jumped on the opportunity. Weather, Covid and California fires were a consideration but we didn’t want to miss the opportunity this year so we just went for it.
Our first stop was Lower Twin Lakes campground just outside Bridgeport, CA. We pulled in around 5pm and were so lucky to find the exact site we stayed in last time. Site #10 had just become available within an hour of our arrival. Driving into the mountains it looked quite smokey but the valley the campground and Robinson Creek were in was clear of smoke and delightful.
The next morning we left and headed toward Mono Lake where we picked up on route 120, Tioga Pass. Since the road is rather steep we unhooked the Jeep and drove up to the entrance of Yosemite. Only people with reservations were allowed in so we turned back there but the drive up was quite spectacular.
We had planned on spending the next night near Tom’s Place since we heard that the road from there up into the mountains was something to behold. However, we looked at the French campground (only one open) and found it unacceptable (small uneven sites). Then looked to try Tuff campground across 395, but found it closed, making us have to unhook and hook up the Jeep so we could turn around at the closed gate. Too bad since Tuff would have been a nice overnight stay.
We found a decent high desert BLM campground just north of Bishop called Horton Creek CG. Since we had already done the Jeep hookup routine five times we were lucky to find one pull through site so we didn’t have to unhook again. Smoke was just starting to come in over the mountains while the sun was setting.
We left the next morning for Bishop where we gassed up and did some food shopping. From there it was only about an hour to Lone Pine where we booked a couple of nights at Tuttle Creek CG, and amazingly got the same site we had last time, the best one in the camp with a couple trees and right on the creek. Tuttle Creek only cost us $4/nite with our senior pass. Plus it has water, clean bathrooms, roomy flat sites, awesome views and a $5 dump.
Because of high smoke we could barely see Mt. Whitney and definitely could not see the Inyo Mountain range to the east. But we drove the Jeep up to Whitney Portal which was beautiful. All trails into the Sierra were closed however due to fires, so our hiking plans had to be aborted. Waterfalls were running nicely and there were aggressive bear warnings in the parking lot.
Then we toured Manzanar Japanese internment camp (1942-45). Only a couple barracks were left standing but it was interesting to learn about what the Japanese people had to go through during that terrible time in history. We couldn’t help but see the similarities to today’s treatment of Mexican and south American immigrants to our country by the Trump administration. Both disgraceful times in American history.
The next day Jamie arrived and met us at the Movie Museum in Lone Pine. We took him around the Alabama Hills, Whitney Portal and up to the pack horse trail head into the Golden Trout Wilderness area. Unfortunately, all hiking trails were closed there too. We also did some off road driving whereby I tore a muscle in my forearm attempting to pick up a boulder that felt like it was bolted to the ground. Jamie spent the night and left late the next afternoon.
Smoke started coming in heavy from the north after our 4th night at Tuttle Creek so we decided to leave. We had some bad smells coming from our black water tank and decided to do a major flushing of the tank on our way out, which solved the problem. I guess I have to do that more often.
It was pretty smokey all the way to Mammoth lakes but when we got to Convict Lake it was clear so we stayed there the next night. It was gorgeous with the Aspen trees in their prime fall colors. However, the next morning the smoke was so bad it smelled like the fire was right next to us and we couldn’t even see the beautiful mountain at the end of the lake. We had planned to spend two nights there but it was so bad we left early.
Our last stop was back to where we started, lower Twin Lakes CG. Again we got a great site right next to the creek. We decided to stay there two nights. We hiked the lake and drove the Jeep out the Doc & Al’s road to Buckeye campground again with some amazing Aspen views.
It was another great trip along 395 and so nice to share it with my step son, Jamie. I have a ton of pictures that I culled down to what I think are the best, and they still amount to a bunch.