One Lucky Guy Takes two Beautiful Females to the Eastern Sierra

T O Double D

New member
Howdy all. This is my first real post on this forum, but I've been into back country 4x4 camping and adventure motorcycling for many years, as well as just using my own two feet to explore. I thought I'd post up a trip my girl friend, our dog, and I took last June in and around the Owens Valley of California. (Sorry, despite the title there will be no pillow fighting coeds during this report. There will be lots of back country Tacoma porn however.) While I'd been through the area along HWY 395 many times I'd never explored the area immediately surrounding Bishop. Armed with my trusty guide book "Guide to Northern CA Back Roads and 4-Wheel Drive Trails" by Charles A. Wells we set off from Santa Cruz, CA, to the east side of The Sierra.

But first introductions....

I'm Todd. The guy that drives, takes pics, fixes stuff, chops wood, etc...

This is Juniper. She navigates, tells me not to go down that trail, when I do go down said trail and it's blocked forcing me to turn around in a very awkward spot she says, "I told you so."

This is Kona. She sleeps, eats, chases assorted critters through the brush, sleeps, and keeps us warm when we're sleeping. She's part Beagle, part Lab, and all love.

And this is my Taco Stand. I've had two of the first generation Tacomas that were four banger regular cabs and they did just fine. This is my first new truck and I plan on keeping it mostly stock. The first thing I did was put 265/75/R16 BFG ATs on it, which I love. I took a salesmens advice and got a Snug Top camper shell, which I haven't been pleased with. While the shell itself is fine and very quiet/warm the hard ware for the door and windows (if you don't have side windows you really need to get them!) is complete junk. I had an ARE on my last truck that I really liked. I got a smoking deal on a Yakima Rack, so that's what's there. I'm not exactly happy with it, but the price was too good to pass up. I also added some recovery gear. I would like to get an OME lift, as the stock suspension is lacking. (Not that I expected anything different.) I really need to get more power outta this truck, as the bigger tires really slow it down. I'm researching whether or not I should regear it or trade it in for a V6. I'm starting to lean heavily towards the 6...

Our goal for the day was to drive from Santa Cruz, through Yosemite via 120, and camp along the short, but unbelievably scenic Laurel Lakes Trail near Mammoth, CA.

We found an awesome spot about half way up right along the creek.

There were several other camp sites, but we were the only people there.

The creek was flowing pretty good from all the snow melt.

As evening turned to night the wind picked up something fierce! We barely finished dinner when we had to take refuge in the camper drinking red wine and talking, with Kona snuggled up tight between us. Times like this make me happy to be alive and thankfull for what I have.

The next morning we made our way up to the lake. Luckily we were the only people on the road at this time. I've heard this road can get very congested, what with it's beauty and close proximity to Mammoth and 395, coupled with it being rather narrow for the last half.

This was a very high snow year and I knew the chances of actually making it to the lake this early were slim.

Can you say twenty point turn...

Oh well. I'm sure we'll be back another time to see the lake. If not there's plenty more on the east side to explore and I gotta say these views, well they're worth the trip by themselves!

I don't plan my trips ahead of time so after returning to 395 we had to decide were to go next. I was torn between going to a very remote hot springs north of the Bodie Hills in an area I've explored extensivley or going south and exploring some new areas around Bishop. Spending some quality time alone in the desert with Juniper and a hot tub sounded like a lot of fun, but then again I had just been out there two weeks before on my bike, albeit solo.

I figured we could always stop by the spring on the way back home so we headed south towards Bishop with the goal of seeing how far we could get up the road to White mountain, but first a stop at Convict Lake. I normally avoid these developed types of places, but from the pictures we'd seen we had to take a look. We were not disappointed! I could definatly see coming back here and staying a coupla days. Do some fishing and hiking, maybe even bring my kayak.

We did however have some trouble trying to convince Kona that going out on the deck to take a picture was a perfectly safe thing to do...

I guess it'll have to be a solo shot of Juniper and the lake.

We didn't stay long though, as we knew it was gonna be a long day exploring The White Mountains. Next stop Bishop for some gas and ice, then head on up Silver Canyon. Silver canyon was no joke steep. My little four banger Taco Stand was in four low the whole way. (I'm really kicking myself for buying the smaller engine, but at the time of purchase I wanted the extra fuel range afforded by the smaller engine...) It was also quite narrow. I was glad to have Juniper to keep a look out for oncoming traffic on the switch backs above us. It gave me time to find a good wide spot to pull over for a Land Rover descending the hill.

When we got to the top we hit our first road closed sign. There was also a guy in a Chevy that told me it was a major snow drift blocking the road and there was no way I was gonna make it. Well I always like to see things for myself. I figured he was probably right, but continued on against his dire warnings. After another mile or so we met a ranger coming the opposite way. When he started to tell me about the snow drift I thought he was gonna do the usual park ranger warning of the coming appocolypse if I continued, but he was actually very cool and said he had just broken through and I was welcome to try myself. Awesome! I have to admit it was a bit anti climactic seeing what was supposed to be a major drift. I easily powered through it.

Ok. Time for bed... I'll finish up tomorrow with the Bristle Cone Pine Forest, Coyote Flats, and Buttermilk Country. Thanks for reading... Hope to meet some of you out on the trail!
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Fantastic. Thanks for the great pictures. The Eastern Sierra is one of the most beautiful places in the US.

T O Double D

New member
Hey thanks for the compliments guys!

After getting through the snow drift we continued on a well maintained dirt road to the Ancient Bristle Cone Pine Forest about three miles ahead. I know a picture is worth a thousand words and I'm sorry I didn't get any, but the views up here were stunning. You're up at 9-10,000 feet elevation looking at the Owens Valley below and the east side of the Sierra further to the west. This was a particularly high snow year and the Sierra was still largly covered in the white stuff.

After getting to the parking lot for the Bristle Cone Pines the road contiues on to White Mountain peak, which at 14,256' is California's thrid highest peak. It was blocked by massive amounts of snow this time though. In fact we had to walk the last mile or so to the forest as the snow blocked a large part of the road there as well. This was Kona's first time seeing snow and she loved it!

Coming from the beaches of Santa Cruz up here to 10,000' in two days made this last mile walk a bit hard, even though it was for the most part flat.

Once at the Forest there's a trail to follow with little signs explaining the different things you're witnessing.

These trees are the oldest living things on earth. The oldest, a tree named Methuselah, is 4,700 years old. It's amazing to think about that. This tree was ancient when the Roman Empire was founded! Very little lives up at these elevations and the trees show the signs of a constant battle against the elements. The bark gets stripped away on the windward sides leaving the bare wood exposed. That part of the tree dies off and new areas grow behind it.

This is looking back down on the grove from a side trail you can take. You can see the road to White Mountain blocked by snow on the opposite peak.

*warning... rant ahead* I'm not a big fan of finger pointing and telling people what to do, but I just gotta mention this. As I said earlier the road to the Bristle Cone Pines was blocked by snow. Well some asshat went around it and through some very wet ground. You can't see from the pic, but they drove all the way up that hill making a very visible trail. This is the **** we don't need out here. I'm all for tearing up the planet in offroad parks, but not in places like this. Please stick to designated roads. *rant over*

After the grove we descended Wyman Canyon on the eatern side of the Whites Mountains. This road was really fun, especially with all the water from the heavy snow melt. There were a few cabins to explore...

Numerous water crossings...

Even a rocky water fall to descend. Sorry, but by this point in the day we needed to make time, so no pics of it. It was fun and easy and I can't wait to go back up it sometime. By the time we reached pavement we realized we weren't gonna make it to camp before dark, so we just ended up getting a room in Bishop.

The next morning we decided we liked our accomodations so much that we just paid for a second night and decided to run the truck unloaded. As I said we had a guide book and I wanted to see as much as I could from it in the short time we had. The book recomended Buttermilk Country, so off we went to explore this 17 mile stretch of dirt road. It started off with a wash board road (boo!) that I'm prety sure Dodge is using in one of their new Ram commercials. It did have great views of the mountains though...

We took a side road, just to see where it went.

It dead ended on one of the hills in the back ground maybe a mile past this shot.

A few small water crossings...

Overall I was completly bored with this trail and by the time I reached the end I was getting pissed I'd taken it. It's got a lot of wash board and then little baby head rocks by the mid to end sections. I don't recommend this road, unless you have a lot more patients for slow, but un-technical driving than I do.

Next up was Coyote Flats and let me tell you, this was absolutly the most amazing road I've ever had the pleasrure of driving.

You start off just outside of Bishop and make your way through several miles of open desert sand before begining a steep narrow ascent. After awhile you entir a forested section that continues the ascent and begines to switch back with great burmed turns. This would be heaven on an adventure bike, although it might be difficult to not end up a hood ornament. Once you reach tree line the road mellows out, but still continues to climb.

Eventually you encounter Coyote Flats, at approx. 9,000', where the road flattens out for a few miles.

Wild flowers were all over the place.


T O Double D

New member
The last section to Baker Lake had a little challenge to it. Mainly I didn't want to scratch my unprotected, brand new truck though...

We were the only ones to make it to the end of the road. There is primitive camping and Baker and Hidden lakes are a short walk away, but we never found the trail. We didn't spend much time looking though, as we both decided we needed to come back, camp , and explore this area for serveral days another time.

Like I said, primitive camping.

This is looking down on Baker Meadow bleow the camp sites.

The book also mentioned Funnel Lake, which was supposed to be cool and on the way back. The road to it was pretty rocky and was about the limit of what I am willing to do by myself, in a mostly stock truck, with nothing but a Hi-Lift and some chain/tow straps to get me unstuck. I'm a pretty carefull person when it comes to these situations, as I said earlier when things go wrong I get the old, "I told you so!" from Juniper. I was doing a lot of getting out and checking the road ahead, making a mental note of what path to take.

Then we come up on this little pond.

I'm really glad I checked it before blindly charging through, as it it was about 5-6' deep!

Eventually we got to a section that had been recently driven on by several vehicles, but was very wet and muddy with deep pits of water. I decided we had pushed our luck enough for this day and just decided to walk the reamining mile or so.

This snow bank would've stopped us anyway.

Flip flops and snow? Yeah, we're California beach wackos!

We got to just below Funnel lake, this is not quite it, when we started hearing coyotes howling all around us. It was kinda spoky I gotta admit. I wasn't so much concerned for myself or Juniper, but Kona has a habbit of slipping her leash, big neck-small head, and I knew she would chase after the sound. Something tells me those coyotes wouldn't want to play the way she would, so we turned around and headed back to Bishop for a nice dinner at Whiskey Creek. It was expensive, but pretty darn good!

This is looking down on the Owens Valley from about 8,000' just before heading down the switch backs.

When we woke up on day four we realized we needed to start heading back. The Hot Spring was a bit too far outta the way, so we just decided to go to Kennedy Meadows, the northern one off HWY 108. There was a storm coming in, but we got in a little shooting before it hit.

PG&E (a CA power company) owns the land and they were making imprvments to a damn upstream from the meadow. This helicopter pilot was farrying big loads up and down the mountain. It was amazing to watch him manage the load with the high winds.

And then the rain hit. It dumped on us all night and washed my dirty truck clean. All in all a fine way to finish a great trip with my two girls. We can't wait to get back out there and take it a bit slower, as we kinda rushed through the area. (But that's normal for me when I first start exploring an area. I like to see the big picture and then focus specific locations.)

Thanks for looking and reading. I hope you have a great time out there!