During my Eastern Sierra road trip (for more details, take a look at my previous post: The Cost of an Eastern Sierra Gateway), we stopped at the small town of Lone Pine.
Road trip stops are supposed to be interesting. Lone Pine is a 2,000 habitants, one traffic light town. In fact, I found its offerings overpriced and bland (sorry, but I had such a bad lunch there).
But our attention was not fixed on Lone Pine. We had to pass thru town to get to where we really wanted to go. We came here just to admire this baby (see below).
That my friends, is Mount Whitney. And this is not an ordinary peak. At 14,505 feet, it is the highest summit in the contiguous United States (the highest peak in the U.S. is Mount McKinley which is located in Alaska). Now, you can see why I was so excited to reach Lone Pine. It meant I was super close to this mountain!!
Take a close look at the summit. Impressive, right?
The peaks next to Mount Whitney are known as The Needles.
This was my first trip to the Sierra Nevada area. By the way, I don’t even remember the last time I was able to contemplate a mountain range. Well, all I can say is that the peaks with all its colors, formations and speckles of snow are absolutely beautiful. It is an epic landscape that continues for 400 miles. That is enough to keep me bust for a lifetime (see why I love to live in California).
From Lone Pine, we took the road leading to the Whitney Portal. As the name suggests, this is where the trailhead for Mount Whitney is located. A lot of people start from here the ascend to the top of the Sierra. But the area is more than just the starting point of a trail. There is much more to do.
First, the road which takes you to the Portal is flanked by supreme scenery. For example, you can stop briefly to admire the following:
– Alabama Hills – Rock formations famous for the huge amount of movies filmed among the area characteristic boulders.
– Excellent views of Mount Whitney and The Needles.
– Once you get to higher points on the road, stop to take a look at the Alabama Hills and the Owens Valley from above. This is an impressive view.
– Don’t forget to look up. At one point, you are going to feel like Mount Whitney is directly above you.
Because my visit took place during fall, some wildflowers were in full bloom. This just added color to the already stunning panorama. Get informed about road conditions before visiting in winter.
At one point you start to get really high (the Portal is at 8,000 feet above sea level). As I have confessed before, I am terrified of heights. I was looking at the floor of the car most of the time. Just to think about it (or take a look at the photos), I start to get a weird sensation on my legs.
Once you officially enter the Portal, there are a lot of possibilities to have a good time. The area contains trails designed for day hikes. There is a beautiful waterfall begging to be explored. Numerous lakes and creeks provide entertainment to fishing lovers. There are spaces for picnicking (but beware of the bears). If you want to explore the area in more detail, campgrounds are available.
Getting close to Mount Whitney was reason enough to make this trip. However, there were many more striking stops. Stay tuned if you want to discover more striking places.
Have you ever get close to a mountain? How did you feel? Let me know in the comments section below.