Mt Whitney and the High Sierras

We traveled down to Mammoth Lakes on the Friday before the 4th. It was packed and all the campgrounds full (thankfully). We ended up doing laundry and having some pizza and beer before heading over to the ranger station. They gave us a map of the forest roads on the east side of HWY 395. We found a beautiful spot and had the valley to ourselves for the evening.

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We made our way south and stopped at Manzanar National Monument. It was one of the camps used during WWII to relocate Japanese immigrants and first and second generation Japanese-Americans away from the west coast. It was a very sobering experience to think what these 120,000 people were put through, many of them US citizens.

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They built beautiful parks within the barbed-wire camps that have now become barren.

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We arrived at Lone Pine CG and our two sons, Tom and Taylor arrived a little later with Tom’s friend Nick. The three were going to climb the 22-mile route to the top of Mt Whitney (14,500 ft) in a single day. From left to right in the picture are Nick, Tom and Taylor.

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We visited the town of Lone Pine and learned of its Hollywood significance. Hundreds of western movies were shot outside of Lone Pine, and some of classics as in Tremors.

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We fed them well and they left the night before for the trailhead to get used to the altitude. This was Tom’s version of an EarthRoamer as they headed up to the trailhead with the tent.

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From our camp the mountain looks very majestic.

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This is a picture from the top by Taylor looking towards the west and into the Sequoia National Park region below. They were all beat from the hike, but were fine the next day. Oh to be in your 20s again. It looked like a breath-taking hike, but I think a two or three day trip would be more enjoyable than 22 miles in a single day.

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The three headed off for their respective homes while Pam and I headed north. We stopped at the ancient bristlecone forest in the hills above Big Pine. The forest was used to understand weather patterns from the growth rings over the last few thousand years. The oldest known tree is located in this forest.

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The view to the west of the Sierra range from the forest was amazing.

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We made our way to Lassen Volcanic National Park and the Summit Lake North CG. We had a spot next to the lake and enjoyed a beautiful sunset.

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Looking across the lake was Lassen Peak, a volcano that blew several times between 1914 and 1915. The largest eruption in 1915 destroyed an area that was 100 times smaller than the Mount Saint Helen’s eruption. Lassen, Shasta and Hood all look very similar as plug-dome volcanoes go, where Lassen is the largest in the world.

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Near the top of Lassen Peak, the lakes were still frozen and there was several feet of snow still to melt.

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The hike we wanted to do to Bumpass Hell was closed due to snow. The trail is one you need to stay on or you’ll break through the crust and into the boiling mud below. This boiling pot was from an area called Sulfur Works, a similar geothermal area as Bumpass only smaller.

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Needing a hike, we took off to the other side of the park to climb the cinder cone volcano. This was the site of the original national monument, but after Lassen’s 1915 eruption the area was expanded and made into a national park since it contains all four of the different types of volcanoes.

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The cone hike looked simple until you got there and realized it was nearly straight up on a bed of cinders that makes hiking in sand seem easy.

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The view from the top was worth it and the trip down was very easy.

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We continued north looking for Glass Mountain, a lava flow obsidian mountain just south of Lava Beds National Monument near the Oregon border. We never found the mountain, but drove through a beautiful section of forest just south of the mountain and camped there for the night.

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We headed into Lava Beds NM the next day and after a discussion with the rangers we realized our error the day before with respect to Glass Mountain (turned one forest road too early). Lava Beds NM is a huge lava field with many lava tubes to explore. Some are as big as a subway tube and others you need to crawl into. We skipped the latter. We did explore enough to earn a cool “Lava Bed Explorer” sticker for the truck.

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The native Modoc indians used the caves for many purposes. Some had pictographs as shown below and some of the caves had year-around ice for food storage.

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We left the NM and crossed into Oregon. The south-central area was covered in beautiful farmland. We jumped into the forest south the Bend, OR and camped for the night.

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