This night was hands down one of the coldest nights I have ever spent camping. Despite sleeping inside a (very good quality) tent, we woke up in the morning and actually beat ice off of our sleeping bags with icy cold & mitten-ed hands. I’ve been cold before, but I’ve never had quite this much trouble getting myself out of my sleeping bag and into the crisp, cold air.
This spot is near one of the smaller (& emptier) hot springs right outside of Mammoth, California. There’s a ton of these around: locals have built little man-made tubs nestled in to the rocks & long metal piping that looks kind of like it will brake at any moment pours steaming hot water right into the tub. After being so cold, it’s amazing to relax in one of these al fresco hot tubs: we were finally warm enough, able to soak off all of that camping dirt, & all alone with one of the most beautiful (& almost 100% human free) views around.
When we arrived, we saw some of the most unusual clouds I’ve ever laid eyes on. They’re eye-catching to say the least, but they’re also apparently pretty interesting scientifically, too.
Sean, one of my best camping friends (seriously, he’s amazing at planning every last detail of a good trip & since we like to do a lot of the same things, he’s tons of fun to travel with, too), says they are lenticular clouds, which are interesting partly because they look so weird in the sky and partly because they don’t move (okay, don’t move much) with the wind. They form at high altitudes, have a lot to do with moist air and the mountain ranges being in the right spots, and are pretty uncommon.
Reading up about them later, the most interesting thing I found out was that they are often offered up as an explanation for UFO sightings – they’re so unlike clouds that people have ever seen before and, especially from far away, they look a bit like I’d imagine a flying saucer would look. Some people speculate that many UFO sightings have actually been far away glimpses of lenticular clouds.
Especially with the chance of a good UFO sighting, there is nothing quite like getting out of town and away from all of my devices for a dose of clean & crisp air, good times with friends, a hot pot of camp rice, and a good soak in a natural hot springs to make you smile. Sounds cliched, but whatever. It’s honest-to-goodness truth.
In the afternoon, as we set up for a yummy one pot camp dinner, the sun set below the mountain range, the fields in front of us lit up with golden light & the peaks turned purple. I’ve always thought purple mountains were a bit of a myth but now I know quite definitively that they are not: when you get the sun angling in just right and before the sun really disappears below the peaks, the white snow & blue mountain caps have a few minutes of glowing a very real purple.
And then it’s gone, the sun officially dipping below the mountain line and the snow covered caps turning a deep, dark blue. It’s pretty outstanding.
As the last of the light disappears, the stars start coming out in droves and we set-up our cameras on tripods to capture the little sky lights do their thing. If you’ve ever shot in the dark you know it consists of a lot of waiting. Exposures sometimes last over a minute and after you click the shutter you can just stand for a while, taking it all in.
You’re doing something, sure, but you’re also doing nothing. Night photography is really just a good excuse to stand there looking at the sky, the moon, & the regal looking mountains. Waiting for the shutter to click closed again, you can really just take it all in and concentrate on that full-of-everything kind of silence.
Photography: Simone Anne