The Best of the Buttermilks

We have been living in and around the Bishop CA area for the last 10 days or so and I believe we have finally found what every Alaskan snow bird is looking for. The Buttermilk Hills are just a few miles west of Bishop in Inyo National Forest  and provide the perfect blend of weather and affordability for winter traveler.

The  Buttermilks in the Foreground The High Sierra in the  Background
The Buttermilks in the Foreground The High Sierra in the Background

Currently we are boondocking at 6000 ft. along McGee Creek and have found a tree shaded site near a beautiful spring fed bubbling creek. It has been a delight to finally find the right weather, the right location and a the perfect environment for the dogs……a leash-less one.

Our Camp Along McGee Creek
Our Camp Along McGee Creek

The Buttermilk hills have long been a mecca for rock climbers and even attracted my brother and I in the early 70’s as we passed through the area on our way to other eastern side destinations. Today it’s the site of high intensity climbing with climbers coming from all over the world. I wandered around the rocks during the recent Craggin Classic as was amazed at what the young climbers are now sending.

The Buttermilks Today
The Buttermilks Today
Staying Cool
Staying Cool

Our daily routine has been to rise about an hour before sunrise, drink coffee, check the interweb for the latest weather (not that it ever changes) feed the pups and then head out for a walk to the top of the nearest rock outcrop to catch the sunrise on the Crest.

image       Every morning has been a spectacular light show of orange sunlight slowly moving down the faces of Mt. Tom, Basin Mountain and Mt. Humpreys all at 13,000 ft. Then it’s back down the mountain so the pups can cool off in the creek.  By the time the suns hits us we only have about 45 minutes before it’s way too warm for us to hike. Then it’s hide in the shade for the rest of the day. By sundown we are usually BBQing something and pulling cold ones out of the creek. This is exactly what we have been dreaming of for years now. These conditions are hard to find for the long haired black colored Bernese Mt. Dog. Any place you can let your dogs run free and not worry about them is a wonderful place. We have a creek for them to cool off in, a desert environment with no cactus or snakes (at least not this time of year) shade and miles of open desert to roam in.

The Pups Cooling Off in Their Own Private Creek Crossing
The Pups Cooling Off in Their Own Private Creek Crossing
Early Morning Perimeter Check
Tuks During His Early Morning Perimeter Check

Our good friend Tammy from Denali is now living and working in Bishop and we have had a great time hiking and dining with her. Denise and Tammy drove up hwy 168 to the south lake trail head and then hiked almost 5 miles to Long Lake at 12000 ft. Both thoroughly enjoyed the fantastic alpine scenery and the great warm fall weather.

Denise Enjoys Long Lake
Denise Enjoys Long Lake
Tammy  Breaks for Lunch at Long Lake
Tammy Breaks for Lunch at Long Lake

On one of the warmest days I climbed up a fantastically steep old mining road built in the 1930’s to an old tungsten mine on Basin Mt. The Cabose got me to the 7500 ft trail head and then I climbed over 3000 vertical to 10,600 ft to the cirque at the base of the head wall. I must say I was amazed and proud of myself for pulling off this climb. I am now planning more hikes into these hills.

Cabose near 7000 ft Trailhead
Cabose near 7000 ft Trailhead

It is truly amazing the amount of time and effort the miners put into getting to these mine sites. The massive boulders and steep side hill cuts are just tremendous and must have taken a skilled surveyor and dozer operator weeks to accomplish. This mining road/trail makes Polychrome Pass in Denali look like a major hwy. I can only imagine what the ride down in a 1930’s truck was like, not for the faint of heart. All over the eastern side of the range are mine sites with incredibly steep access roads.

A Young Brad Ebel 's First Time On the Dozer 1930
A Young Brad Ebel ‘s First Time On the Dozer 1930
Basin Mt. Tungsten Mine Site at 10,700 ft
Basin Mt. Tungsten Mine Site at 10,700 ft

http://windyscotty.wordpress.com/tag/ohv/ My brother Sam and his wife Chris arrived this week and have been camped next to us along the creek. They have a custom built Sprinter van that is the cats meow for accessing the Sierra back country and living in comfort.

Sam and Chris and Their Express
Sam and Chris and Their Express
Early Morning Coffee in the Buttermilks
Early Morning Coffee in the Buttermilks

We have been sitting around the fire each night reminiscing about all our early climbs and trips into the Eastern Sierra and Yosemite and all the worldwide travel adventures we had together. There was also much discussion about their daughter Robben’s current trip to Spain…..a very lucky young woman indeed.

Talking About the Old  Days Late Into the Night.....About 8:30
Talking About the Old Days Late Into the Night…..About 8:30

image image Our current plan is to head south a few miles into the Alabama Hills to find more of this same kind of lifestyle and then into the heart of LA for thanksgiving yikes ! …….keep you posted.

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6 thoughts on “The Best of the Buttermilks

  1. I used to work at Mammoth. Wonderful nostalgia stories, Tim. I may have missed it but have you been to Convict Lake this trip? Maybe a photo please? My horse was in the movie How the West Was Won filmed partly at Convict and Owens River near the Hot Springs.

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    1. Tom didn’t know you were an old cowboy…did you pack into the high country?
      Yes we visited convict lake, I climbed most of the peaks surrounding the lake in the very early 70’s. The drought seems to be effecting all water sources on the eastern side but good weather for us.

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