For years now we've been heading to Coyote Plateau, or Coyote Flats as many call it. High atop the Eastern Sierras just south west of Bishop CA lies an area that is spectacular all on it's own. Located at 10,000+ feet, with stunning views, frozen snow drifts, alpine vistas and rolling meadows, Coyote Plateau ranks high in our book of beautiful places to visit and never disappoints.
Each time we travel to this area, i like to see if we can camp and explore new locations within the range. This year i wanted to visit Funnel and Rocky Bottom lake for some fishing as well as do some back country exploration in the vehicles up on top of Coyote Ridge.
Getting up on the plateau isn't too difficult but the trail doesn't cater to larger vehicles with its over hanging tree limbs and tight switch backs. Getting into Funnel Lake is slow-going and rocky, but it's still do-able in a full size pickup if you watch your lines through the tight areas. Those with trailers need to pre-meditate certain aspects of the trail up to Funnel as to not side cut the trailer when the trail gets tight as well. On this particular trip we had both a full size truck and two off road camping trailers.
Here's a short clip showing us exiting the lake.
Upon arrival to Funnel Lake we found that there was another small group of campers up at the location we had envisioned setting up basecamp at, but as it turned out there was more than enough room for our group of 5 vehicles.
After setting up camp and disconnecting the trailer i just couldn't wait to break out my rod and reel. While standing on the rocky shore I listened to the chatter of the competition scaring the fish away on the other end of the lake. I knew it would only be a matter of minutes i'd pull one in. I was correct and I yanked the first rainbow trout out of the fresh water, first of the trip to be exact.
Not long after I was gloating about my catch, we started getting some interesting weather. Hail to be exact. It came on just as fast as it went. Quickly and abruptly.
The dogs seemed confused and headed for some type of shelter.
Before too long camp was starting to get covered and awnings were beginning to sag.
Piling up next to the PETT enclosure.
After it all died down and the quick storm passed, Yosh figured why not turn ice into ice cream? Heck, if life gives you lemons you make lemonade right?
That's exactly what she ended up doing. Vanilla ice cream in the middle of no where. She never ceases to amaze me with her spontaneous sense of adventure.
Dixie waited patiently for a taste-test.
After a bit it was time to prep the fish, light the charcoal grill and start settling in for the night. So far, day one at Funnel had been wonderful.
The days catch cleaned and ready for grilling. This was a decent size rainbow at just a hair over a pound.
The rest of the days catch. We were eating well tonight, that was for sure.
As we nestled into our camp chairs and talked about the days events the sky became life like with thunder and lightning strikes miles away. It made for a spectacular evening.
The next morning i woke up and took a hike over to Rocky Bottom Lake long before Yosh and Dixie were up. Slightly larger and much deeper, this lake had been well known for having a ton of fish if you made the extra effort to get there.
This photo is courtesy of Thomas from OverlandXT. I had left my DSLR back at camp and didn't take a point and shoot on this trip.
Once at the lake, it didn't take long to get a bite and then a fish on the line. Within 30 minutes i had 2-3 bites, i could see fish swimming through the clear blue water and i had landed a keeper. Eric and his buddy from Yotamasters absolutely killed within a few hours and Thomas limited out as well. Rocky bottom doesn't see as many visitors as Funnel so the fish were definitely biting in a big way.
After 3 hours of fishing I headed back to camp for lunch and a snack. Along the way i ran into Yosh and Dixie, making the trek to bring me lunch. We ended up eating lunch on a boulder about the halfway point and then walking back to camp together. It was a nice surprise that i would of never expected and im a lucky guy to say the least.
I wanted to explore Coyote Ridge high atop the eastern edge of the range, so I disconnected the truck and with communications set with basecamp, we headed out. Most of the group stayed back at camp and fished, while Yosh stayed back and ran the 2 meter to keep in contact.
Crossing Coyote Creek numerous times along the route.
View looking back at camp from above. Look closely you can see the trucks in the center of the photo.
Heading up to explore other campsites and mines in the area. Here's a switchback we decided to turn around at. It led up to the Tungsten Mine operation. Being a lone vehicle didn't jive to well with getting out of line on a tight switchback.
Looking down on Coyote Lake.
One of my goals for this trip was to see if we could get to 12,000 feet above sea level in the trucks. I kept heading West and fighting my way higher towards year round glaciers, melting road ways and very remote back country plateaus. The views were nothing short of spectacular.
Our first view of South Lake far in the distance.
The Landcruiser breaking 11,000 feet. Not many trees at this elevation.
We worked our way South bound as we used old roads that seemed not in use for 30-40 years although marked on BLM route maps as in service. Another shot of South Lake in the distance.
Looking down at Coyote Plateau and Sugarloaf. Absolutely stunning.
At this point we were running out of time and falling a bit short on our 12k goal. We hit exactly 11,600 and we were satisfied with that for now.
On the way back to camp we took an alternate rocky trail and snuck up on these guys. We approached slowly and respectfully. They were extremely calm and didn't care much for us driving past them.
We arrived back at camp safely and prepped for the nights Potluck. There was definitely a feast as always. I grilled a tri-tip, while others prepared ceasar salad, chicken legs, home made broccoli salad and epic deserts. Not to mention the fish that was grilled again with fresh corn on the cob. The night was ending once again and it was another great day.
The last day of the trip came way too fast as always. It was time to head down the mountain and back into the triple digit heat. After heading out the slow-going trail to the main cut off, we stopped off at the old air strip.
You can see whats left of the airstrip just to the left of the truck in the distance. It was said this strip was built in 1968 by the DOD as a place to test out the high altitude performance of light helicopters and airplanes. Not much left of it today, FAA has ruled that the airstrip is no longer usable, but i've heard rumors of pilots landing here with bush tires occasionally.
After the short break, it appeared we picked up a new trail boss. Dually wanted to lead us down to civilization. After all, that's what he's good at right?
After making our way down to the bottom of the valley near Bishop, we aired up said our goodbyes and headed south towards home. It had been another great Coyote Plateau trip and we were already missing the solitude and elevation.
To read past reports on this area, please visit these links.