Laura and Lee's September Sayonara

September 2-8, 2002

Another of our annual trips - our early September trip to the Eastern Sierra to celebrate Walt's and my birthdays!

I started the trip by myself a couple of days early...I got a new car in July (a yellow Turbo VW Beetle). VWs have always had a special place in our family, and my parents wanted to see it. I was in a position to take some extra time off of work, but the rest of the gang wasn't, so I left on Monday morning and drove up by myself. It was a fun drive - the first time the car had been out on a long road trip. Since yellow is NOT an inconspicuous color, and it WAS Labor Day, with lots of Highway Patrol out, I didn't push it TOO much. :-)

We had a really nice sunset that night - actually there was a beautiful sunset every night but one, when there were no clouds! :-)

Tuesday, September 3

After breakfast, I took a walk back to Owens Gorge - there's a trail that starts at the top and goes down to the bottom of the gorge, and back to the Crowley Lake dam, and from there I walked along the road back to my parent's house. It's about 6 miles round trip.

Since the Owens River was dammed to form Crowley Lake there isn't much water flowing through the gorge any more, but there's still some nice pools, and I understand the fishing is pretty good.

And I found a few late season wildflowers, too. :-) (From left to right: coyote tobacco, groundsel, and thistle)

Though there were quite a few clouds earlier in the day, they'd all disappeared by evening, and there was no colorful sunset that night. :-(

Wednesday, September 4

The rest of the gang had planned to leave San Diego about 1:00, so they wouldn't be arriving until late evening, and I had the day free. Mom and I went to Mammoth to go grocery shopping - it's not a birthday trip to the Sierras without one of Barb's chocolate cheesecakes, and the guys require root beer floats! :-)

We heard from the rest of them in the afternoon - they had gotten away later than planned (gee, there's a surprise...NOT! ;-) ), and had gotten stuck in traffic on I15 - the road was actually closed for several miles because of a brush fire. They eventually detoured around it (and got a lovely side trip through Historic Downtown Ontario in the process!), but by then they were also in rush hour traffic, and the whole thing cost them about two hours. (They eventually arrived around 11:00.)

Late in the afternoon Dad and I drove up to Rock Creek in my new car - to see how it would perform at 10,000' :-) We also took a short hike. There was some weather moving in and the skies were completely gray with clouds obscuring some of the mountains. But we went up the trail about 1/2 mile and took some pictures. As you can probably tell from looking at my hair, it was rather windy. :-)

I let *him* drive on the way home - we had to make a detour onto the highway so he could try it at a little bit higher speed. :-) I think he liked it.

Like the night before, the clouds to the west had all done a disappearing act by sunset, but those to the east were more cooperative. :-)

Thursday, September 5

Hail, hail the gang's all here! :-) We had a lazy day - I think we all get the "7,000' sleepies" the first day, and they hadn't had two days to acclimate (somewhat) like I had. Besides, we were on vacation!!!! And we all love to have the opportunity to just relax and read.

By late morning we all had enough initiative to repeat the Owens Gorge hike I'd done on Tuesday - well, half of it, anyways. :-) We walked from the house back to the gorge and up to the dam, and Mom came and picked us up there. Walt and Barb had brought Kona, their Portugese Water Dog, with them, and she came with us. She's a good hiker as long as it's not too warm - it was getting a bit warm in the gorge, and she took every opportunity to find shade that she could. Barb and Lee took a lot of pictures, and Kona always found a spot of shade while she waited. :-)

After we got back and had a late lunch everyone disappeared into their favorite reading or napping location for the remainder of the afternoon.

As you can see, we did have a VERY colorful sunset to the west that night.

Friday, September 6

Nick and Francis, two Australian guys who work with Walt, were on a tour of the Sierra Nevada (up the east side, over Tioga Pass to Yosemite on the west side, then back down to San Diego), and had stayed in Bishop the night before. Walt had told them to give him a call if they wanted some hiking "guides", and they did. They joined us for a late breakfast, and then we got ready to hike.

The weather was kind of iffy, though it seemed to be improving where we were, but if we looked up at the mountains it was still VERY gray up Rock Creek. We went anyway...and when we arrived at the Mosquito Flats trailhead, it was raining. We sat in the cars for about 10 minutes and it stopped, so we decided to head up the trail anyway. We kept thinking (hoping?) the weather would clear up, but it never really did...we got a *few* hints of sun, and every once in a while the clouds would lift off the mountain tops, but it really wasn't a very pretty day. As we got higher, we had a few hail storms (more like snow pellets than ice, though, fortunately). The pictures actually make it look a lot nicer than it was. :-) (This picture is of Heart Lake.) Little Lakes Valley is one of the prettiest valleys around, and we were sorry Nick and Francis didn't see it under better conditions, but they still seemed to have a good time.

We walked up to Chickenfoot Lake and found a nice sheltered place to have a quick lunch - not a day for one of our usual lazy two-hour-relax-and-nap-in-the-sun lunches!

From left to right: Nick, Francis, Dad, Walt, Barb, Lee, Laura

Below: Dad with Pyramid in the background, Lee demonstrating the strength of the wind.

It was VERY late in the season for wildflowers, but I found a few...the two on the left are both fireweed, but one is still blooming, and the other has already been touched by frost and is turning the color of fire. The others are pennyroyal, paintbrush, phlox, and lupine.

When we got back down to my parents' house around 4:00 it was sunny and warm...though at least the clouds over the mountains gave us a nice sunset that evening!

Saturday, September 7

Happy Birthday to Walt and me! :-) It was a *beautiful* day - not a cloud in the sky. But it wasn't very warm. After a leisurely breakfast (Dad made waffles!) Nick and Francis headed off to continue their travels, and the rest of us prepared for a dayhike up to Duck Pass. The trailhead is near Lake Mary in Mammoth - it takes off from the Coldwater campground. Which was appropriately named - it was quite chilly up there! I don't think the temperature got above 55 all day, despite the sun.

It was a nice hike - the trail started off in pine forest, and went by some very nice running streams and several lakes before going up a fairly steep rocky slope to the top of the pass. I'm sure that part wasn't very nice for Kona who didn't have the foot protection that we did, and she seemed to get a little footsore, but still did very well. It was 3.5 miles one way, and climbed about 1800'.

At the top of Duck Pass we took a group picture:

I mentioned the rocky slope going up to the pass...well, it was inhabited by LOTS of these critters, called "conies", or "pikas". (Yeah, I know it's not a great picture, but there really *is* something there in the center!) They live in rock piles, and they are hay farmers - during the summers they cut grass and lay it out on the rocks to dry, then store it away under the rocks to eat during the long winters. They are typically very shy and rarely seen, though you hear them chirping the alarm when you walk by their rock piles. But I saw *seven* different conies on this hike, which I think may be more than I've ever seen before, much less in one day! Of course none of them were very close (though Dad got within 10 feet or so of one), but most of the time you don't see them at all, so I felt very fortunate!

We had a little bit longer for lunch, and Dad took a nap, but we couldn't linger too long because the big birthday dinner was that evening, and we needed to get back to get cleaned up and help at least a little bit!

Banner and Ritter from *almost* the top of Duck Pass. Never did see any ducks up there, though.

Barney Lake with Mammoth Mountain in the background. No sign of any purple dinosaurs, though - fortunately!!!!

We had a wonderful dinner, with Mom's brownie pie and Barb's chocolate cheesecake for dessert, in the company of several friends and neighbors, and we got one last beautiful sunset.

It had been a long day for us, and I know I was asleep on my feet by 10:00, and I don't think anyone else was doing much better. Exciting group, aren't we? :-)

Sunday, September 8

Time to go home again...but at least I'd been there for almost a week, so I really felt like I'd had time to relax and unwind. Even though the last two days were pretty busy! And the first two days were very special because I was able to spend some quality one-on-one time with both of my parents, which is not something that happens very often. I love them both very much.

No sunset this time, so I'll conclude with a family photo instead.

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Text and photographs copyright © 2002, by Laura Gilbreath and Lee Zimmerman. Feel free to link to this document, but you may not redistribute it in any form without the express written consent of the copyright holder.

Laura Gilbreath,
Last updated 10/1/2002

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