Mono Lake

Mammoth Weekend

Oh man, I went on the best camping trip last weekend. I can't believe all the amazing things we saw and did in under 48 hours. We left Friday night and headed back Sunday morning, but even in that short a time we covered a lot of ground: sunsets, sunrises, guns, hot spring and on and on. Every time I get away camping, I come back reinvigorated and new. I sometimes feel so overwhelmed by what I saw and experienced, when I return home I feel like my art seems so insignificant in comparison. As if there is something that draws me to be back out there and not at a desk painting. Then, that feeling goes away and I get back to work. 

Lately, I think I should have been a park ranger or professional road tripper. I think I could camp and be on the road most of the time. The textures, colors and smells are so much better than what I experience in San Jose. It isn't until you get out of town that you realize how the murky air quality is in the valley. Everything feels so big and magnificent on the open road.

The road to Mammoth Lakes

The road to Mammoth Lakes

The drive out to the Yosemite and Mammoth is actually really unpleasant. The central valley is hot, flat, dry and boring in my opinion. Once you get to about Oakdale, the landscape includes some hills and trees finally, but really doesn't get nice until you get to Yosemite, which we had to drive through to get to Mammoth. It's always beautiful there. The picture above is from the 395, past Yosemite.

School bus and cows

School bus and cows

The dirt road to our primitive backroad campsite was rocky and even had some potholes and bumps. Probably best navigated by a 4x4 and not the Honda Civic we were in, but we did ok. There was a school bus parked by the river and surrounded by cows. 

The view from the road on the way to our campsite was something else. The granite peaks are nearly as beautiful as Yosemite, but without all the crowds. I just missed shooting a pic of them lit pink by the setting sun. Still even the dusk colors and valley were really pretty. 

We stopped and caught this alien sunset. The elongated orb clouds looked like UFO's. 

On Saturday, our only full day, we drove to Convict Lake, where we had a whole beach to ourselves. The water was cold and the mountains were high. 

Later this day we drove to a makeshift shooting range and shot some of our friend's guns. It's a little scary for me since they are dangerous and I don't feel very experienced or that I have much control over them. Luckily, our friend knows a lot about them and it was super fun!

I almost skipped waking up at dawn to watch the sunrise from the hot spring, something we planned by the campfire the night before. A friend came by my tent to wake me up, but I declined at first. As I lay there looking at this I thought "What the hell am I doing?" and jumped out of the tent to head down to the hot spring. I walked alone and didn't know where it was, but had an idea. It was a little eerie. When I got to the spring, the others mentioned hearing a pack of coyotes when they woke up and on their walk down. So glad I didn't hear them! I may not have trekked down myself.

And yes, it was totally worth it. It was definitely the best natural hot spring I had been to. Only four of us made it down and we were rewarded with this. 

I'm a huge fan of watching the sunrise while camping and hiking. The colors of everything are completely different from the daytime. 

Friends weren't kidding when they said that Mono Lake is like the moon. It's a strange and still place. 

It reminded me a lot of the Salton Sea, another desolate and salty body of water. Mono Lake is a pretty fascinating place and you can read more about it here

And by the way, we never made it to Mammoth Lakes, just nearby. Next time I want to check those out and the Devil's Post Pile, an amazing rock formation in the area. I definitely want to go back next year.