Another beautiful, cloudless morning greeted when we awoke. A breeze came up quickly though and after about an hour, it really began to blow. By the time we had coffee and breakfast, dust had been thrown high into the air, nearly obscuring a large portion of the eastern half of the lake and the Mono Craters. While it was windy at our campsite, it was not dusty. We decided a day in the canyons of the Sierra’s was in order.
Our first order of fun, was to see if we could locate a small grove of aspens we had seen and visited a couple of years ago. What we remembered was that it was just off 395 on the western side of Conway Summit. I found an obscure dirt track that led to the grove back then and we enjoyed probably the last of the aspen in the entire area. It was late October and virtually all of the leaves had fallen elsewhere. But here that were hanging on. There was a little stream running through it and on our second visit the next morning, ice had formed on some of the branches and frost on many of the fallen leaves. It was a pretty magical experience photographing in this spot.
But try as we might, we had difficulty identifying the takeoff point from 395. There were three dirt tracks that we could find, none of which looked exactly as we remembered it. So we tried all three until we again found the spot. It’s really odd how memory changes what you remember. The road was quite a bit shorter and smoother and ran at a different angle than what I remembered. But the place was the same, except that the aspens here had not yet changed much. That makes sense since they were the only ones still with color last time. We’ll come back here before we head home at the end of the month.So then we embarked on our planned drive for the day. Virginia Lakes road leaves from the top of Conway summit and heads to out to Virginia Lake. There are a number of really nice aspen stands near the start and for a few miles in. But they stop after that and there are no aspens the rest of the way to the lake. We photographed early on, got to the lake for lunch, then decided to take Dunderberg Meadow Road, which branches off Virginia Lakes Rd. This one is all dirt but wide and easily drivable. It eventually meets up with Green Creek Rd which we had done the day before. There are lots of other park service roads that take off from Dunderberg into various other parts of the mountains around here.
Dunderberg has lots of nice little stands of aspen. Most all were at peak in various shades of yellow, orange, and reds. Still plenty of green too. Lots of really spectacular views all along the way. We spent several hours exploring the various branch roads and finding plenty to photograph. After several miles of this, the road desends and the aspen sort of peter out. We decided to just turn around and experience Duderberg again. This time, the trees were largely backlit and gave a different vibe to the pictures. Eventually we made our way out and back to camp. The winds had largely dropped off by then and we were able to enjoy a nice calm late afternoon. It was decidedly cooler though. I expected a much cooler night.