Eastern Sierra Getaway


Oct 1, 2012
Stan and I recently celebrated 9 years together by hiking in the Eastern Sierra. Nothing adventurous in this trip, just a lot of relaxation and enjoying the outdoors. The Sierra Nevada has two distinct regions-the Western Sierra, which is very forested and lush because it creates a rain shadow. The elevation is around 5,000 feet. The Eastern Sierra rises abruptly from the Owens Valley and climbs very steeply, up to 14,000 feet, and because the western side gets all the rain the Eastern Sierra is dry and rugged. It was formed by glaciers and uplift from tectonic plates and volcanic activity (which is still active-Mammoth Mountain periodically has to close areas when excess carbon dioxide escapes from cracks in the earth, and I've heard lava is only several hundred feet below the surface). As a result of its steepness, to get to any of the trailheads on the eastern side you switchback up roads that ascend 5,000 feet in just a few miles, and most trailheads are over 9,000 feet. Ours was 9,200. Since we didn't have an extra day to acclimate I started taking Diamox 48 hours before we were supposed to hike in, which I hate. It makes you dizzy, your extremities tingle, everything tastes weird, and it's a diuretic, so you're peeing all the time. What fun! But it beats altitude sickness, which I've had so many times Stan and I joke about me throwing up by the side of the trail.

Anyway, we drive from sea level to 9,200 feet in about 5 hours, and I can barely take one step at a time. But the Diamox started working, and soon I was hiking a slow but steady pace, and no signs of altitude sickness aside from normal being out of breath.


We were hiking the Kearsarge Trail, which is the eastern entrance to King's Canyon. It's a very popular trail, but there's a basin with beautiful lakes right off the trail which isn't on the map, and that was our destination. When we got there, we had the entire basin to ourselves.

The next morning I was feeling fine so we decided to join the herd and hike to Kearsarge Pass (11,760 ft). It was only a few miles, but in the open sun on a talus slope with no shade. I've gotten sick there before so I made sure I was drinking water like a camel in the Sahara. The views from Kearsarge Pass are incredible. This is looking into King's Canyon:

Kearsarge Pass.jpg

Due to the drought areas of the high sierra backcountry are accessible that usually have year round snow. The snowpack this year is only 25% of normal. This place can be snowed in on July 4.

There were a lot of people on the trail and we weren't optimistic about our chances of having our basin to ourselves when we got back, but again, we were the only ones there. We went au naturel and swam in our lake, then laid out on the rocks. There's something about being outdoors by yourself that makes even a swimsuit too much clothing. Stan and I are getting good at finding secluded lakes just off popular trails!

Green Lake.jpg

I brought a lens for night shots since the moon was at just the right phase, but being the Eastern Sierra there also are gusty winds (great for keeping mosquitos at bay, though!) Each night winds were gusting around 15 mph and I almost bailed on night shots, but I'm glad I didn't.
Tent under the stars.jpg

The next morning I got up and decided to check out the light on a nearby lake. July in the Eastern Sierra is terrible for photography, the light is harsh and there aren't any clouds, but I got to this lake early enough, and the light was coming in from the side, making everything an incredible green. No color enhancement, this is what it looked like!
Sunrise at the Lake.jpg

We headed back to Lone Pine after this and had a steak dinner for our "anniversary". I was out by 8:30! All in all I think it's the best anniversary we've ever had.

Us on Kearsarge Pass:

Oh yes, those shoes I'm wearing are supposed to be purple. The Eastern Sierra has a lot of dust!

Featured image for home page:


Mar 3, 2013
Nice, good pics.


one step at a time
Jul 29, 2013
awesome photos & trip report!


Dec 11, 2013
awesome TR. Tess and I spent our anniversary backpacking too.


I walk
Jun 25, 2012
Nice TR Laura, the Eastern Sierra are one of my favorites including Kearsage Pass and you captured it well!


Ready For More
Jul 23, 2013
Can't believe how clear that lake looks. Awesome pics. Love night shot with the tent. Can't wait for a time when I can break away from Utah and experience the Sierras.

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Oct 1, 2012
Can't believe how clear that lake looks. Awesome pics. Love night shot with the tent. Can't wait for a time when I can break away from Utah and experience the Sierras.

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You've GOT to experience the Sierras! Especially the Eastern side. Just about any entry point you pick will guarantee views like these.


May 19, 2012
I spent a lot of time around those parts when we lived in Mammoth. You captured it well. The night shot is spectacular.


Mar 6, 2012
Very nice report and photos. Love the night shot and the clarity of the water. Happy Anniversary.


Oct 1, 2012
Since I represent school employees work gets a little, uh, slooooow in July so here are a few more photos from the trip. Hopefully this will tide me over until my vacation at the end of July:

Crazy Eastern Sierra Road

Crazy Road.jpg

Most roads into the Eastern Sierra are like this, but this particular mountain faces the highway so the road zigzags right in front of you. This is the road to Horseshoe Meadow, it starts at about 3800 feet or so and finishes at just above 10,000 feet. Going up it feels like you're taking off in a plane as you watch the valley floor recede. You'd never guess by the desolate landscape in the valley what an amazing scene waits at the end.

Eastern Sierra Flowers
Sierra Flowers.jpg

I'm sentimental about this one because Stan asked me to take it. This is just about that amazingly green lake I posted pictures of earlier. The Eastern Sierra has lots of different types of flowers and they peak in late July. They don't seem affected by the drought-anything that lives in this type of harsh climate is going to be drought resistant.

Okay vacation, get here soon so I can take more pictures!
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