Plumas County to Mono and Home!

Dinette at the campsite

This entry is very late in arriving on the blog. We are actually home now. I didn’t realize this one didn’t get posted until today, so all of the following occurred between October 25 and 31, the day we arrived home.

Heading south from Bend, we made it as far as Mt. Lassen National Park – very nearly where we started out 10 weeks ago. We were tired and not finding many open campgrounds and were extremely happy to discover we could dry camp in the Lassen Visitor Center parking lot. At this time of year, there are very few people coming through and I guess the park relaxes regulations a little. Anyway, it turned out to be one of the nicest evenings we’ve spent. It was very quiet and very dark with no moon. The stars were just amazing with the milky way in all it’s glory. After dinner, we star gazed for awhile before turning in.

Plumas area

From reading all the fall color blogs one can find on the web, Plumas County was sounding like a great place to see good fall displays. Welllll – not so much. At least not where we were looking. Oh there was color here and there. In towns tended to be better than in the hills around the towns. In towns, people plant trees that turn, but in the open country around here, it just doesn’t seem to occur. It is largely evergreen. We did find some decent displays along a river that wound along the highway, but it was a very busy highway and the road was up pretty high from the river. Not a good combination. We took a couple of drives over two days, but not much was compelling. We met up with a former work friend of Marys who treated us to a fine meal at the Grizzly Grill.

The next day we drove till we reached Bridgeport, CA. If there was going to be fall color anywhere, the eastern Sierra’s was going to be it. We already knew the trees would be past prime, but we hoped for some remaining pockets here and there. We took an afternoon drive to nearby Twin Lakes where we did find a few isolated nice spots to photograph.

View of Twin Lakes near Bridgeport, CA.

Aspen Trunks at Twin Lakes.

Next morning, we headed up highway 395 on the way to Conway summit. I found a little used gravel road just off the highway that seemed to lead to a really nice stand of Aspens. This turned out to be one of the best spots for fall color we found. A little stream meandered through a protected stand of aspens and made for a winning combination. We spent a couple of hours tromping around the area before moving on. There is an amazing view of Mono Lake from the summit overlook so we stopped here for lunch and a brief warmup. On the way back to Bridgeport, we chose to take another longer dirt road route, but didn’t find any stands of trees with leaves.

Aspen Leaves in Frozen Stream.

A Beaver bit off a bit more than he could chew.

Frost fringed aspen leaves.

Ice ornaments dangling on the bank.

The morning of October 27th, we headed over the pass to Lee Vining. We’ve been here so many times before and it is a perfect place to home base for day trips for the June Lake loop and Lundy Lake – both places we have always found good color displays. We dry camped at our old standby place – the Panim Crater parking lot. Used to be no problem camping there, but this time a “No Camping” sign greeted us as we approached. We camped anyway. This time of year, few people are around and we decided to chance it. It is a spectacular spot to be. Parked at the base of an old cinder cone that is packed with obsidian, it has a commanding view of the eastern Sierra range and is a great place to view sunrise on the peaks.

Indian Head at Lundy Lake.

After a little nap, we headed out to Lundy Lake and Canyon. There is a wonderful little stream that runs down from the lake and we always find nice places to photograph. Lundy Lake is also one of my locations for my Marking Our Place in the World project. It was a little too early in the afternoon, and too much direct sunlight was still on the stream making for some contrasty conditions, but we managed a few nice shots.

Lundy Lake, CA.

Mossy Stump in the Stream.

Friday morning was time for the June Lake loop. This road does what it says; loops around the two June Lakes. It is another wonderful drive with lots of places to get off the road to photograph. We came upon a nice closed campground with prayer flags and birdhouses and some nice color in the trees.

Prayer Flags in the Campground. June Lake Loop.

A bit more into the canyon, we picked up the river and followed it a while. The fishermen were still doing well and were in abundance along the riversides all along the stream.

Fishing from the banks.

Later in the afternoon, we went back to Lundy Canyon to photograph the stream again. It was a little later this time and made for better conditions to photograph. Yep, more moving water shots.

Back into Lundy Canyon.

But this time, I found a few places where the sun was creating some weak shadows on the moving water. It really wasn’t visible when just looking at the rushing water, but once time lapsed, the shadows became more evident.

Shadows on the stream.

Molten surface.

Well the fun had to end sometime, and for us it was pretty much this day. But before heading home, we were fortunate enough to get a final meal at the Whoa Nellie Deli before it closed for the winter. This is the most unlikely place imageable for a fine dining experience. It is essentially the connivence store at the Mobil gas station at the junction of 395 and 120. But the food here is well known to travelers in this area. Mary had the Lobster Taquitos and I got the last of the evening specials, Rack of Lamb with mint sauce. We split a very decent $12 bottle of zin, got a seat with a view of the Mono Basin and watched the sun go down over the Lake. Yes, we do know how to live.

In the morning, we said goodbye to Mono and headed over Tioga Pass through Tuolumne and down to the Mariposa Fairgrounds where we found camping for the night. We did manage a couple of stops up in Tuolumne and found some nice ice to photograph.

Sunday morning we drove the short distance to our friends place in Merced for an overnight visit. Jeff and Betty did it up nice for us and we had a terrific brunch and a nice visit. In the late afternoon, we all drove out to the Merced wildlife refuge for some early season bird watching. There was an amazing array of birds out there. We saw hundreds of Sandhill Cranes, Snow Geese, two kinds of Egrets, Ibis and tons of Redwing Blackbirds. We found a nice spot, pulled out the chairs and the wine and cheese, and had a lovely evening till the sun went down.

Sandhill Cranes just hangin' around.

Sandhills inflight.

Flocks of early Snow Geese.

Redwing Blackbirds in abundance.

Redwings peppering the sky at the Merced Refuge.

A flyover of Ibis.

As I said at the start, we are home again and running around trying to get caught up on too many things. I will be writing about upcoming events and happenings as they arise. It was a wonderful trip – one of the best of the past 6 years. Thanks all who followed along, and keep coming back for news of our next excursion! And a special thanks to Jeff and Betty for making our homecoming a warm one.

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