Christian Kemp's USA travelogs

< Previous | List | Next > Early morning photos at Mono Lake's South Tufa, a stroll through Bodie Ghost Town, a drive up Lundy Lake and a hike into Hoover Wilderness; drive down into Death Valley

New snow on the Sierra peaks, close to Mono Lake I awoke at dusk to a considerable cold and car windows frozen over both inside and outside. There was more snow on the surrounding mountains than the day before. I got changed, started up the car, and headed out of the badlands surrounding Mono Lake, only to rejoin them a few miles later for an early morning hike to the South Tufas.

The early morning light proved to be excellent for photography, and I encountered the largest concentration of people carrying professional cameras and tripods on my entire trip.

After this, I sped towards Lee Vining, fueled up for the first time (at $1.99 per gallon for regular this wasn't all that cheap). My next destination would be Bodie, the famous ghost-town-turned-State-Park, just a few miles off Highway 395. Along the way, I stopped once to photograph some deer just off the road, and then continued towards Bodie, where I was one of the first tourists to arrive.

Both Mono Lake South Tufa and Bodie normally require entrance fees to be paid, but since I was early both times, the stations weren't manned and as such access was free.

Old house and car in Bodie State Historic Park Bodie was just as spectacular as I remembered from my last visit; but this time around I had more time, no headache, and was more comfortable with my camera. A lot of pictures ensued.

I grew tired of walking around - or perhaps the lack of calorie intake in form of a breakfast was showing - so I headed on towards Bridgeport. However, I chose the route less traveled, via a dirt road through the "Bodie Hills", rather than returning the same way that I had come. This also afforded me some more vistas of the snow-clad mountain tops of the Eastern Sierra.

Lundy Lake Hike

  • Elevation: 8105ft
  • Odometer: 1.55mi
  • Time: 1:25
  • Total Ascent: 565ft
  • Total Descent: 389ft
  • Min elevation: 8092ft
  • Max elevation: 8354

I stopped for a hamburger, fries and Coke in Bridgeport, and then headed back South on Highway 395. Following a recommendation in my Lonely Planet, I took a detour to Lundy Lake, which is situated a few miles off Highway 395 inbetween Bridgeport and Lee Vining. First a road, then a dirt road, then a trail afforded some nice fall views, and hiked a small part of the trail to Lundy Pass:

Next to the trailhead (which also marks the beginning of the "Hoover Wilderness") are some mining remains.

I pressed on, still hoping to make it into Death Valley before dawn. The sun disappeared just as I left Big Pine. A sign informed me that the North route into Death Valley was open, and I paid little attention to the "Next Services: 126mi" sign, thinking that I my 3/4 full tank was still ample gas to take me to Furnace Creek.

From Big Pine's 4000 feet elevation, the road goes up to about 6000 feet, before it descends to around 4000 feet, turns into a dirt road and enters Death Valley National Park. This seems to have changed from last year, when the entrance sign was somewhere further up the road. There's lots of Joshua Trees along the higher elevations of the higher parts of the road, but I had little time to watch, since darkness was approaching fast and I still had many miles to go.

I had been planning to sleep near Eureka Sand Dunes, and I didn't let complete darkness deter me. Still, the last ten miles seemed to take forever. The road is very rough washboard, which is bearable at speeds under 5 mph, or when going over thirty or forty miles. Unfortunately, stones on the road were a menace not just to my tires, but also to the underside of the car - I really wished for a high-clearance Jeep at this moment - so I was stuck at about 25 to 30 mph, getting lots of vibrations and having one hell of an unpleasant time until I finally arrived at the end of the road.

To my surprise, there was one Jeep already parked there, and there would be one more arrival sometime after me. I didn't care much, just got comfortable in the trunk of the car and slept until dawn the next morning.

Campground Accommodation: Near the Eureka Sand Dunes (Death Valley National Park): $0

Written at gate A-9 at San Francisco International around 2pm.