I spent a week in the middle of October driving out to the Eastern Sierra mountain range in the middle of California all by myself. It had been a busy summer and even busier end of wedding season and if we’re being honest, I was just feeling a little burnt out. Too much time in front of the computer, too much time sorting through photos and color correcting pictures. Too much too much. So I had four days and I popped in the car in the morning on a Tuesday and just drove.
Usually I stop a ton on solo roadtrips, but on this trip I didn’t spend so much time getting in and out of the car. I was covering road that I’ve been on a million times by now (not really a million, but a lot) and I just wanted to get out to the mountains and see the trees and all their brilliant leaves looking beautiful and on fire for Fall.
I like to get a burrito at the Chipotle in Manteca (Chipotle is my go to for roadtrip sustenance in places where I don’t know the restaurants – fresh, cheap, fast, and easy) but save half for a quick stop in Yosemite. I sat on the beach at Tenaya Lake, right off of the highway but just far enough through the trees and into the mountains for it to feel like a vacation, to finish my burrito.
I pulled onto the 395 as the sunlight was fading. I stopped over Tioga Pass a few times when the colors were brilliant to get some snaps, but for the most part Yosemite National Park had less colors than I expected. I wasn’t sure why: Maybe the elevation was too high? Were there more in the Valley? I don’t know as I just drove right through the park.
I meandered a bit along the roads for sunset and then pulled into a campsite near June Lake and made myself ramen for dinner. Just me, my tent, the lake and stars and mountains, a single burner, and some noodles. There were a few of the non hooked up RVs around and across the camping area there was a big friendly campfire going on, but I just ate and slept. It had been a long day of driving.
I woke up early for sunrise, packed up my stuff in the dark, and headed out. I’d heard that the leaves were good at McGee Creek and so I headed there, the night blanketing me as I drove and then the crunch of gravel when I found the dirt road as the sky started to get light.
It was absolutely freezing out in the morning, although it ended up being warm later in the day, but I bundled up and alternately drove and ran around. These images of the trees looking like brushed gold in the morning light and the mountains painted pink in the sunrise make me so happy. They feel like nostalgia and happiness and all things good in the world. They feel like quiet mornings and eyes slow with sleep and the excitement of adventures and roadtrips. There’s a quietness that I see in these that feel like being along on a dirt road with the mountains doing the thing that makes you happy.
I’m ordering a huge print of that top image. I want to feel those things all the time.
Around 8:30am I put my camera down and made oatmeal in the empty parking lot. The trees rustled in the light wind and served with freeze dried strawberries and brown sugar, I could almost pretend it was a tasty breakfast (hah). I loaded up my pack with water and camera gear and snacks and headed up the mountain.
McGee Creek trail was absolutely spectacular and everything I could have hoped for in a Fall hike. Stunning views, exceptional mountains, a beautiful rumbling creek/river, and SO MANY YELLOW TREES. It was incredible and I am so glad I went.
it was by turn sunny and warm (take all the jackets off) and then the clouds would blow in for a minute and it would get chilly. At one point I even got a snow flurry! It was beautiful and incredible and I loved walking along in the flakes. Isn’t it crazy how even a small flurry can bring the quiet of the snow?! One of my favorite things.
I didn’t bring a tripod, but I wanted a photo of me with all the leaves. Obviously this one is a bit silly, but it was fun to set the time and run and wait for a few quick shots. Pro camera just sat down on the trail? A-okay by me, haha.
This is the meadow where I ended my hike, had some lunch, and then turned around. It was a beautiful spot, feeling almost like a lake. There was a beaver dam at the edge of the meadow (just out of sight on the right hand side of this image) that extended maybe 30-50 feet across. Since it had been built, there was a small pooled lake that had been built up. Definitely a neat find! Made for a stunning view as well. I think I audibly gasped when I saw it.
No beavers to be seen though (although they are nocturnal, so probably that wouldn’t help, haha) and I couldn’t spot their little island in the middle either (google beaver dams, it’s interesting).
But seriously: How was all this variety of light in ONE DAY?! Too good.
In the evening I made dinner and photographed the stars at Mono Lake before heading back to a different spot near June Lake to sleep. Maybe one day I’ll edit that one into a timelapse to share here… hah.
More coming later in a Part 2. Look for it here if I ever get it together and it goes live. <3