East Of The Crest

My neck was sore from staring out the driver’s side window.  Struggling to keep my eyes focused on the road ahead I gazed longingly to the left at what I consider to be my home range of mountains, the High Sierra. 

Even though we live in Alaska, the land of big mountains, the Sierra Nevada is what John Muir called a “gentle wilderness”. To us this means direct access into a wilderness of solid granite, bubbling creeks, the smell of pine and no large carnivore

 It often feels like coming home when we drive Hwy 395 south of Tahoe.

The Owens Valley is situated about 9000 ft. below the crest of the Sierra Nevada.

The valley is bisected by this single north south road that closely parallels the edge of the great range.

Denise Crosses a High Plateau On The John Muir Trail 1977

Hwy 395 is a 1,305 mile ribbon of asphalt running through some of the most scenic and far-flung reaches in the western United States.  Starting in Laurier, Washington at the Canadian border and ending near Lancaster, California.

I consider it to be the mother road of the high desert… 

It is one of the most spectacular and scenic drives one can take in the west.  

Tim At 13,000 ft Along The John Muir Trail 1977

In the late 60’s and into the mid 70’s this road was my primary access to a world of superb rock and mountain climbing that exists along the eastern flanks of this great range.

Morning Light At 12,500 John Muir Trail 1977

You might say entering the Owens Valley and accessing the high country from the eastern side is a form of instant gratification. Within a few hours of any trail head one can easily be at a high elevation and deep into the backcountry.

Often the eastern side provides a surreal and awe-inspiring luminescent light called alpenglow that baths the range in a radiant orange glow.

Trail Head to Mt. Temple Above Big Pine

Highway 395 is our preferred route when traveling from Alaska to Southern California. This spring we again enter the Owens Valley on our northbound journey.

The record setting winter finally looks to be over but most of the upper elevation roads and  campgrounds remained closed due to unplowed deep snow.

Last season we were able to camp anywhere.

At some of the higher elevations the snow pack is over 90 ft. deep.

Thousands of feet below, residents of the Owens Valley are preparing for the impending inundation of water. In early April we already see water everywhere with heavy equipment cleaning ditches and re-building berms.

The good news may be that after decades of drought Mono Lake and Owens Lake may actually be re-filled. 

Los Angeles should have plenty of water for its lawns, golf courses and swimming pools, the drought is over.

View Of The Range From Our Campsite In The Tablelands

We enjoy exploring new locations and this quest leads us into the Volcanic Tablelands just north of Bishop.

We had visited here in 2015 (see here) but had never camped within the tablelands. The area is administered by the BLM and camping is free with maximum stays up to 14 days. 

On a whim our good friends the Blanic’s decided to drive over from the coast to join us. With detailed instructions they arrive at our new found camp within just a few hours.

Reconnoitering the area roads in the bug we were able to find a fantastic campsite perched on the edge of the plateau overlooking the Owens Valley and the snow covered crest beyond….wow!

Morning Coffee With A View of the Owens Valley

Sometimes life becomes harmonized in a way that makes one consider how lucky we really are! 

There’s nothing quite like spending 5 days camped in a spectacular location with extraordinary friends. 

We explore the upper tablelands finding ancient petroglyphs, photographing spring wildflowers and gaze upon the spectacular views of the range.

Desert Paintbrush
Mojave Aster

The Blanic’s brought along a new family member, a cute little dog named Kiah. She and Sydney, Tuks and LuLu enjoyed many fun adventures while running across this highland desert.

Imkelina, Sydney and Kiah
The Big Dogs Enjoy The View

Our evenings consisted of relaxing around the fire, toasting the moon rise over the White Mountains as Michael grilled exceptionally flavored meats with the orange glow of the sun setting in the west.

It just couldn’t get any better.

Capturing The moon                         Photo Courtesy: Imkelina Blanic

All too soon it was time to head north and we had to go our separate ways. The time we spent at this unforgettable location with our remarkable friends will never be forgotten. Thanks for the good times!

Don’t miss our newest video “East of the Crest”.  Slip on the headphones, turn up the stereo and enjoy!


Next we head home to Alaska…stay tuned!




12 thoughts on “East Of The Crest

  1. By now you are settled into your Alaska summer..I just revisited this post and it brought me such joy!
    I love the moments that you captured both with photos and the beautiful video. You caught the essence of the term “range of light” not just in the magnificent nature out there, but also in each of us, whether two or four-legged beings. Already thinking about the next dance around the campfire!
    Hugs to the four of you – Imkelina


    1. Imkelina,
      Sorry it took so long to reply…very glad you watched it again I recently did also and remembering that fantastic campsite and our quality friends!
      Hi to Michael and the pups


  2. Thanks for the great pictures and video. Have a nice trip home and we sure hope to see you again next year. The restoration of the 1914 Model T Ford Speedster is progressing and I will send more pictures in a few days.


  3. Love this post. It brings back memories of my adventures there. My hike to Whitney started from here. So glad you were able to spend time with the Blanics. They are special people.


  4. This post is my favorite so far and a wonderful Mother’s Day treat to share with Imke’s folks! Beautiful and well done. Photos are stunning bringing back some special memories. These mountains have been part of my life for almost 50 straight years, so watching your video brought a tear or two, as you so successfully captured the power, strength and magnificence of the Eastern Sierra and White Mountain ranges. How can you not love our Shangri-la?


    1. Thanks for the nice complements Michael. This camp is right up there with our all time greats and we were very lucky to have shared it with you guys. Thanks for making the effort to join us and thanks for all the great food!


  5. Love this
    Makes me miss you so
    Back at the Creek and having a great time
    Some kids found a gopher snake dead under a rock
    They want to have a furneral
    I said ok in the morning
    Next morning fruneral cancelled
    Some thing ate the snake
    Camp ground drama
    Love you guys save trip home


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