Alabama Hills – Bishop Volcanic Flats
Waypoints: Alabama Hills, Lone Pine Merry Go Round Restaurant, Big Pine Carrol’s Grocery, Schulman Grove Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, Bishop Upper Crust Pizza, Bishop Volcanic Flats
Miles hiked: 6.5
Miles driven: 116.8
Break camp: 27 min
Make camp: 24 min
Camp type: Dispersed camping no services
Camp cost: $0
I woke to twilight again around 5:30. I grabbed my pre-made hiking bag and then fed Beans. I then took photos of the pre-dawn view at the car for a while as a crescent moon perched low in the sky.
I watched the sunrise color slide onto the Sierras through Mobius arch. I bounced around between a few photo locations.
After a while, I took the unnamed trail away from the parking area. A bird of prey glided low over the scrub. The view and lighting remained beautiful as I walked parallel to the mountain range. I wanted to stop and take photos often. This was balanced with the mosquito entourage that seemed to follow in my wake awaiting such an opportunity to prod me further.
I followed the trail a few miles until I met up with the road. On the mile or two road walk I typed up a bit of the log of previous 2 days and resurfaced the idea to make a spreadsheet to accompany the log in the same style as my hiking log.
Sara had just gotten out of the camper and had started making the bed when I arrived back from the 5.5 mile loop at 8:11am. We took the time to tighten roof straps for travel and headed into Lone Pine. No restaurants with patio seating opened until 11am. We parked in the shade and worked via hot spot in the car for an hour and a half. At 11, we moved to the patio of the Merry Go Restaurant and had a Chinese food buffet from the quaint 17 sided building. After lunch, we drove a short ways north to Big Pine. There in front of Carrol’s Grocery, we found a table next to the soda machine that had 2 outlets to charge our computers while working in the shade. By about 3:30pm, the sun had moved enough that we were no longer in the shade. We shortly thereafter wrapped up work and made a second run into the Grocery to pick up sandwich materials, 2 apples, and a box of cereal.
From there we headed up to the Ancient Bristlecone Forest! This place has been on my list of spots to visit for a few years. They are among the longest lived species of tree on earth (individual trees that are 5000+ years old). The extreme conditions of their habitat makes for a very short growing season. This results in slow growth of wood that is very dense and resinous, which makes it very resistant to fire and pests. It was 43 degrees and quite windy at Schulman Grove. Sara and Beans opted to enjoy the trees from the car while I took a quick jog of the Discovery trail. I definitely want to return here for a longer visit.
The wind had been picking up all afternoon as a cold front moved in. Overnight called for 30-40mph gusts in the valley and 70-80mph gusts at higher elevations. We had originally thought of camping at Grandview campground after the visit but given that it was at 8500′ elevation, we decided against. The view was quite grand. The sky looked a little ominous and it was a tad windy but absolutely worth the trip up. Our brakes got a bit hot on the long steep descent. We stopped to feed beans and take a few photos and gave them a chance to cool off.
We had picked out a destination of Sage Flat Campground to the west of Big Pine. On the drive down, we decided instead to head to Bishop for pizza. On the way into town, a police checkpoint had halted more than 40 tractor trailers that then lined the highway shoulder southbound. They were held from continuing out of town because of the strong winds. We continued on to our to go margherita pizza from Upper Crust Pizza, and I got a few items from the grocery next door while waiting. We picked out BLM lands just north of Bishop to camp for the night. GPS estimated a 10 minute trip out there, and we opted to drive over before eating the pizza. While it did take 10 minutes to arrive at the entrance, it took a total of 25 minutes until 8:15pm over a bumpy dirt road to arrive to an unoccupied site. We ate in the front seats and then set up camp. With the strong cold winds, we did as much of the arranging from inside the car as we could. The site we found was on the leeward side of a hill, which we hoped would reduce some of the wind. I did some writing and then went to sleep.
Next Post: Day 4