Closed Trails and Cave Camping!
Is there anything more beautiful than when you are following the open road, and all of a sudden the Eastern Sierra's come into view? The way the jagged mountain peaks jet out of the landscape and into the horizon is awe inspiring.
We headed up the Mt. Whitney trail with the goal of reaching Lone Pine Lake. The total distance for the hike is approximately 5.6 miles and is rated as moderate. As far as we know, there are no dogs allowed on the trail; however, be sure to check with the local forestry office to confirm. The actual trailhead is located right across from the bathrooms. You will pass through a wooden awning structure, which has notices and trail information posted. Be sure to check that before heading up the trail.
The trail is well marked and easy to follow. 3/4 of a mile into our hike, we were felling the elevation change from the switchbacks and moderate ascent change. Nonetheless, the incredible views made every huff and puff worth it!
The first landmark we reached on the trail was Carillon Creek at 8,620 ft elevation. The creek was flowing with a nice trickle of cold fresh mountain water. It's an easy crossing over a few rocks to reach the other side of the trail.
We then made our way to the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek at 8,730 ft elevation. The creek was beautiful with a small waterfall, which included some icicles and ice left over from the snow the area received a week before.
After the creek crossing we entered the John Muir Wilderness. There is a sign clearly marking this landmark. Well, this is where we had to stop our journey and turn back. Unfortunately for us, the hiking notice posted indicated that the rest of the trail was closed. We strongly urge others to heed any posted hiker notices, as they are there for our safety. Although we were a little bummed, we both enjoyed our hike back down the mountain. The total distance we hiked clocked in at 2.5 miles. We vow to return to tackle the hike again and make it all the way to Lone Pine Lake. Stay tuned...
Continuing the Open Road 4Two adventure, we got back into our truck and headed down the mountain to the famous Movie Flat Road to enter the Alabama Hills! Movie Flat Road has been a popular place for movie sets, with over 400 movies filmed in the area with everything from old westerns to sci-fi thrillers. The area is Federal Land, managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and is an area you can camp for free! It's some of the best dispersed camping as you can spread out and really connect with mother nature. Please remember to practice "Leave No Trace" when camping on BLM land to allow the continued use of recreation.
We were surprised at how busy the area was; however, it is a popular location for mountain climbers to frequent in the off season to practice. We traveled through the area and found a location we both liked that even featured its own personal cave. We did find that the spot was uneven for the truck; however, it was an easy fix for our traction boards. Traction boards are great to have not only for getting you out of a situation off-road, but for leveling out your truck. After setting up basecamp, we explored the rock formations in and around the area and settled into camp for the evening with an awesome camp meal of surf and turf and a nice cold beverage.
With the nighttime temperatures dropping into the mid to low 40's, a nice campfire would have been great. However, with the fire ban still in effect, we had the trusty Mr. Buddy Heater to keep us warm in the cave. It was wonderful to sit back, relax, and star gaze. The night sky here was just amazing and the stars twinkled so bright. We spent the rest of the night in the rooftop tent watching some Netflix movies.
The next morning, we enjoyed a nice warm cup of coffee and a hearty camp breakfast. We tested out a new addition to our overlanding/camping set-up, a RockPals 250W Power Station. Since we shoot our videos on an iPhone, we needed something to keep our devices juiced and ready. This unit is small, portable, and priced right. It kept our devices at the ready and our camp lights on throughout the night. The RockPals makes a great addition to our camping gear and we highly recommend it.
After breaking down camp, we headed out to enjoy the Arch Trail Loop. The Arch Loop trail is an easy 0.6 mile hike. The trail is easy to follow with stones on either side and a brown trail marker to lead the way. We followed the loop trail and found the beautiful Mobius Arch Rock. The arch is a famous photo spot as you are able to frame the Sierra's within the natural rock formation.
We had an amazing time in the Alabama Hills and cant wait to return to explore some of the off-road trails that cover the area.
Check out the whole adventure on our YouTube video below. Until next time, we will see you down the Open Road. - Randy & Milin.