Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Bishop Mini Get Away

This was actually a last minute trip. Before coming to Bishop, we had reservations at John Muir Lodge in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. However, there were 3 wildfires developing in these 2 National Parks. The day I had to cancel our reservation ( guests could cancel at least 72 hours for full refund), the Rogue fire north of Grant Grove was not threatening the area yet, and all of the roads leading to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park were open. Despite no closures at that time in the park yet, I canceled our reservation since I wanted to be safe. I know, I can always pursue my dream to shoot the Perseid meteor shower and Milky Way with the giant sequoias ( world's largest trees) at some other time.
some places we explored around Bishop
After canceling our reservations last Wednesday, I tried to look for an alternative location to shoot the Perseid meteor shower and Milky Way. Of course, there is Anza Borrego Desert State Park, the one closest to San Diego. However, the desert this time of the year is very hot. I am not yet at that level of braving the desert heat in the summer. I looked at the weather forecast for Big Sur, since I thought the Milky Way and the ocean would be so perfect. Though I live close to the ocean but the city does not have enough dark light to allow residents to gaze at a beautiful starry filled sky. Sadly (though I expected it ), there were no more vacancy in all of Big Sur being a very popular and world known summer destination.

I thought then of hiking in the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains. I called Bishop Chamber of Commerce if they have health hazards warning in the area from the Rogue fire in Kings Canyon National Park, which is in the western side of the Sierra Nevada. The lady told me their mountains are not affected by fire and they do not get health warnings yet. I asked then for sky quality for possible Milky way photography in the night, and she told me the southeast sky is very clear, so should be very okay. After that call, I checked availability in Bishop, and felt so thankful I was able to book 3 nights, Saturday-Monday nights.

When we reached Bishop about noon time Saturday, the sky was very blue and so clear. I was like, "wow! great! I would have a grand time tonight!" To escape the heat in the desert valley ( the town of Bishop is in the desert valley, its mountain however is about 20-30 degrees cooler due to high altitude), we went up Bishop Creek Canyon to do some hikes. Since it is our first day hiking at high altitude, we chose a short one for our acclimatization hike. We hiked North Lake to Grass Lake.
Grass Lake and North Lake at Bishop Creek Canyon
 But there is no way for us to predict nature. After our hike to Grass Lake, the moment we reached the trailhead at North Lake, the sky was very hazy from the southwestern fire at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. We then moved to Lake Sabrina hoping the sky would be any better, but sadly, it was even worse.
hazy sky above Lake Sabrina, the smoke were coming from the wildfires at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park 
I was still hopeful. Bishop Creek Canyon is west of the town of Bishop, and was hoping the southeast portion of the sky at the town of Bishop is not affected, would be as blue and as clear as when we got there. We headed back to the town of Bishop, where we were staying for 3 nights. While we were on our way down, I saw a beautiful sunbow in the sky.
sunbow above the rugged mountain peaks, Bishop, California
The moment I saw the sunbow, I knew then that my hopes for a clear sky for Milky Way and meteor shower photography gets slimmer and slimmer. True enough, when we reached the town, the sky around was very hazy, all covered by smoke, the wind shifted direction somewhat bringing the smoke from the wildfires in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. Maybe hubby saw the hint of pain in my face, that he said, 

" dear, I know we came here also for the Milky way, but we still have day hikes to enjoy. We had a good hike today, let's have more good hikes on our next 2 days. "
True enough, we had beautiful hikes in our next 2 days despite the sky above us was hazy.

So, for day 2, we hiked the Morgan Pass trail in Little Lakes Valley.
the many lakes we passed during our hike at Morgan Pass trail, Little Lakes Valley 
What I observed, the morning sky in the Eastern Sierra is blue, but comes afternoon, with the shift in the direction of the wind, the sky becomes hazy from the western Sierra wildfire smoke. There was still no chance to shoot Milky Way. Then I learned that there were already some closures in Kings Canyon National Park as the Rogue Fire further develops. I felt thankful for deciding ahead to cancel our stay there, and no longer thinking of the Milky Way. Just the fact that we were there safe and enjoying our hikes instead of being stranded somewhere in Kings Canyon was enough for me to be so much thankful.

For day 3, we hiked at Sabrina Basin trail to Blue Lake in Bishop Creek Canyon.
Blue Lake and the Sabrina Basin Trail, Bishop Creek Canyon

It was again another beautiful hike, more steady uphill or climbing than Little Lakes Valley, but because this was already our 3rd hike at high elevation, we were not bothered physically by thinner air. Since we are not point A to point B hikers, every step of the way to Blue Lake was a scenic destination for us. :)
Blue Lake, John Muir Wilderness Inyo National Forest, Bishop Creek Canyon
The amazing beauty, the unbelievable solitude and the friendliness of the very few  day hikers and backpackers equally awed of the place made the hike really so worthwhile and rewarding. The lake was huge enough for the few people that were there, that everyone could find their quiet spot to enjoy the place all to themselves. The water was so unbelievably clear that it was a joy watching the fishes swim. 

Our hikes did make up for the star-filled sky we missed, and the more we explore the Eastern Sierra Nevada of California, I feel so thankful that I could enjoy a rocky mountain escape without having to fly. 

Quoting Jon Muir, 

"The mountains are calling, and I must go." - John Muir

I am glad we came. To my heart, the Eastern Sierra is the California Rockies. 

On day 4, we drove back to San Diego from Bishop, which is 5 hours away by car. It's always hard to leave the mountains, but I look forward also to be back to the ocean, knowing that I can go back to the Sierra Nevada Mountains again and again. Each time seeing differently, because of the many ample opportunities of seeing amazing beauty and experiencing solitude the Sierra Nevada mountains provide to those who seek it. 
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  1. Bishop is such a picturesque place! It's great that you enjoyed the hikes, it looks really worth all the effort. Very beautiful views and places!

  2. Your photos are always amazing and your trips/experiences are even lovelier. I though bishop was a name of a person, so there's a place called Bishop, now I know! LOL!

  3. It all worked out at the end and your photos show how beautiful nature is! I love the last few photos! Amazing..

  4. There's always a reason behind whenever there are things happen, it's just how we figure it out and find's nice that you didn't pursue of going to the first place you wanted to visit and ends up learning and visiting the different area where we also haven't seen.

  5. Despite the haze you were still able to enjoy all that beautiful scenery. All those mountains and that clear water. It looks like paradise.

  6. I've never been to a hiking adventure before. It must be really nice to see nature at its best in the company of the people you love.

  7. You got a good adventure out of it, and you got to see some very beautiful things.

  8. Stunning photographs! The earth is such a beautiful place and I love how you captured nature in all its glory! I will be revisiting your site soon to view more pics. Thanks for sharing!

  9. The mountains are calling me too! Ok, not mountain but nature. ;)

    There will always be next time, Beth. Glad that your hikes made up for the star-filled sky that you missed.