Wednesday, October 21, 2015

10 Days in The Eastern Sierras

It has been a long, beautiful summer in Santa Cruz and Panoche, but it was time for a driving trip with a little hiking, a little camping, a little slipping into some hot springs before the cool weather really arrives.  Our first stop was a quick side trip further into Yosemite Valley to see if there were any climbers on El Capitan.  There were at least two groups working their way up.

As we passed through the eastern side of Tuolumne (too-AH-lum-ee) Meadows in Yosemite, it started to snow!  Not the best time to take a short day hike here.

We slipped into Travertine Hot Springs near Bridgeport the next morning.  It is a beautiful spot with three different pools.

In the afternoon we hiked from the Rush Creek Trail Head at Silver Lake up to Agnew Lake, a little over four miles round trip.  It is in the mountains off 158, the alternative route to June Lake.  Lots of quaking aspen were beginning to turn bright yellow.

Thinking that the weather was warming back up, we decided to camp out.  Hmm...big mistake.  When we woke the next morning, everything was covered in frost.  It was cold, and as the sun neared us, the frost began to melt and create a very chilly, damp camp.  We drove out without breakfast to Shepherd's Hot Springs east of Mammoth to warm up and dry out.

That afternoon we found our way to Devil's Postpile National Monument.  Jim had never driven in, but he had seen it when he had hiked the John Muir Trail some years ago.

I went on to Rainbow Falls while Jim hiked a bit of the JMT.

Our next big day hike was up to Crystal Lake/Crystal Crag then to the Mammoth Crest.  We saw amazing views of the Mammoth Lakes.

The following morning we went back to Shepherd's Hot Springs and then to the Hot Pot.  I liked the Hot Pot as it was a bit cooler.

In the afternoon we found Rock Creek Trail Head.  There is limited parking, but we were lucky to find a man who had finished his hike and was on his way out.  What a gorgeous trail...flat, a bit up, a bit down...flat, up, down...nice...varied...easy...moderate.  We hiked along the creek and past several lakes up to the last one, Lake Morgan, where there was access to the Pacific Crest Trail.  We met lots of people, families, and dogs out for the day.  Some fished, some were going to camp out.

For years we have talked about going to Saline Valley Hot Springs.  Many friends have managed to find their way in and out.  Finally we did it.  We drove in 55 miles from the north entrance down, down, down to the valley floor through steep sided rock canyons, pleasant forested canyons, treeless grassy expanses, over washed out creek bottoms.  Basically, it is a twisty, rocky, mostly dirt track that took us two long hours.  It was another hour before we came to the hot springs...the oasis.

It was cool on the lawn in the shade of the palm trees.

There are two main sections approximately 3/4 of a mile apart.  It is a nice walk in the morning before the sun comes over the mountain.  The source pools are located in the upper area.

The lower area has three pools, a shower, a library, and a dish-washing station.  There are three well-maintained toilet areas.  Nothing is for sale, but you might make a donation to Lizard Lee in the form of actively doing maintenance chores, bringing supplies as requested on the Saline Preservation web page, or giving money.  Lizard Lee is the fix it, jack of all trades, go to man of the last twenty years.  He is not paid for his services, even though Saline Valley is now a part of Death Valley National Park.  He found his place in the world and just loves it.

Everything is meticulously clean and maintained.  The many fences keep out the burros that will eat anything and everything.  All you have to do is keep any food tightly contained, bring in what you need, and pack out all your trash.  Bring a good book, a scrabble game, and a deck of cards.  It is a most relaxing spot to find yourself if you have 10 days in the Eastern Sierras.


  1. A great trip. I am working on plans to explore some of those trails on the eastern side of the Sierra...but not when the snow flies or ice crystals form on your tent in the morning. I always wanted to visit Saline Valley but one thing or another got in the way. I've seen photos of it and now seeing your photos MUCH has changed. Looks nice and well cared for. Lots of flooding recently in Death Valley. May produce a good wildflower season. Nice post Becky.

    1. Let us know when you go so we can chat about the way in. The Southern Route is shorter but less scenic. The large painted rock is no longer there to point you to the springs.