My month long photo road trip thru the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains started
at Carson City NV. Its proximity to Lake Tahoe makes it an ideal base camp for
exploring the area. I lived in the Carson City area for 2 years right after my
retirement and had a list of places I wanted to re-visit and photograph.
The places on that list near or at the lake itself included the Bonsai Rock, Eagle Falls,
Emerald Bay and Fallen Leaf Lake/ Mt. Tallac. I also wanted to revisit Carson Pass
where I had once photographed fields of wildflowers on a sunny June day.
Bonsai Rock is an offshore rock that has several small trees growing out of the flat
top. It is located just off the northeast shore of the lake, about 1/2 mile south of
Sand Harbor. The climb down from the road to the shoreline is steep, rocky, poorly
defined with over grown scrub trees. This would be my first time making the climb
down so I went mid-morning instead of sundown when I would have preferred.
Bonsai Rock at Lake Tahoe
Eagle Falls and Emerald Bay are both on the west side of the lake, near each
other. These two are ideal sunrise shots; a nice parking lot is right across the road
from them making it is easy to drive there in the dark, cross the road, and with your
flashlight set up your tripod for the first light shot. The day before I had scouted the
area and took the marked trail upward to Upper Eagle Falls; you don’t want this falls.
The Eagle Falls you want is right across the road from the parking lot and a few feet
below the level of the road.
Eagle Falls with Emerald Bay and Fannette Island in the background
Emerald Bay and Fannette Island at Lake Tahoe
Black bears are common in the Sierra Nevada mountains so I advise that you carry
bear spray if you go out hiking on the trails. The chances of needing it are very, very
small but you should be prepared. Also, be bear aware with your food. Bears love
your back pack snacks. My dog and I encountered 2 bears on the trail in the first
week of this trip. The first was on a trail near Emerald Bay, and the second while
hiking in Molybdenite Creek canyon near Bridgeport. Both times we encountered the
bears about 40 yards down trail from us. The first stopped, looked at us for about 20
seconds, then turned and shuffled off into the bushes. The second one saw us, then
bolted off the trail into the brush when he realized we were people. I expect most
bear encounters are like these.
Fallen Leaf lake, which is overlooked by Mt. Tallac, is located just off the south-west
side of the lake. The road off the main road to the lake is well marked and a short
drive. I recommend planning to spend several hours scouting out the east side of
Fallen Leaf, there is plenty of parking and trails leading to the lake.
Fallen Leaf Lake
Fallen Leaf Lake with Mt. Tallac in the background
The last site I wanted to photograph was Carson Pass. Located 42 miles south of
Lake Tahoe, you reach this pass via US 395 south from Carson City, then CA-88 W.
Surprised by what I found when I got there, 5 feet of snow covered the trail I wanted
to take. The snow-covered mountains were much more suited for snowmobiling
than photographing wildflowers. The first time I went there was after a drought
winter; this time it was after record snowfall over the winter. This unexpected
circumstance occurred a number times during the rest of the road trip.
Carson Pass in June
Moving on, I drove the 81 miles south to Bridgeport CA., then took the road along
the east side of the reservoir to Paradise Shores RV park. I knew I was in California
when I drove up to the office trailer and heard loud Reggae music playing from the
office. It turned out to be a nice base camp for exploring the area.
I first wanted to explore Emma Lake, an easy 1.2 mile hike 17 miles northwest of
Bridgeport near the Little Walker River drainage. The narrow winding forest service
road leading to it was blocked by snow well short of the trailhead. So I turned the
Jeep around and drove to the nearby trailhead of a trail leading up Molybdenite
Creek. This easy, gently rising trail led thru aspen groves, sagebrush areas and open
spaces. We walked up it for 1 1/2 - 2 miles then turned around and headed back to
the Jeep. It was shortly after starting back down when we encountered the second
bear of this trip. He bolted off into the bushes and my dog and I slowly advanced
down the trail, cautiously watching for the bear.
Molybdenite Creek My dog and I encountered our second bear of this trip in those trees right of center
Next place I explored was Horse Creek Canyon. I drove 13 miles west to Upper Twin
Lakes and parked in a free public parking area near the trailhead. The trail up Horse
Creek Canyon is well defined, moderately steep but with many switchbacks to ease
the climb. As we got higher up the mountain, I saw an obviously glacier carved
canyon across the valley. After about a 2 mile hike, I took some photos of Sawtooth
Ridge towering over our heads, then sat and took in the high altitude feeling before
descending the trail to the car.
The glacier carved canyon at Robinson Creek near Upper Twin Lakes
Sawtooth Ridge above Horse Creek Canyon
The second indicator that I was in California came when I went to fill up the Jeep
with gas. What was $3.65 a gallon in Carson City was $5.29 in Bridgeport. I found the
gas prices were that high during the entire trip until I returned to Carson City.
7 miles south of Bridgeport, I found the turnoff to one of the major sites I wanted to
visit, the ghost town of Bodie CA. Another 8 miles of good gravel road brought me
to the California state park of Bodie. The state maintains the buildings and site in an
unrestored state, so it appears today in a natural historical state. I parked the car
and walked the town site for 3 hours. I took over 100 photos. The many park rangers
were very helpful, as were the brochures obtained at the park entrance. I left feeling
very satisfied with the day. The next day I moved on to June Lake, south of Lee Vining.
The historical town of Bodie CA. It is a California State Park
The J. S. Cain house in Bodie
The pool table inside a building on Main Street, Bodie
You can see all of the photos I took on the Eastern Sierra Nevada roadtrip at https://unsplash.com/@stp_com