Eastern California
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Eastern Cal:
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Introduction
Most tourists in California only visit the major cities and drive along the famous Highway 1 between
San Francicso and Los Angeles. However, eastern California is equally beautiful, with a landscape
in stark contrast with the rest of California. Particularly the desert and the Highway 395, which
is the inland equivalent of the coastal Highway 1 - and just as photogenic. And motels and
campgrounds are just as numerous as affordable.


Attractions: (from south to north)

1. Palm Springs
Admittedly, there other nice areas south of Palms Springs, such as Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and the
area around Salton Sea. Nice areas if you already are in the neighborhood, but not really worth an extra detour.
Palm Springs has a couple of small scale attractions that are nice:

1.1 Agua Caliente Indian Reservation
Agua Caliente is a wonderful area with desert and an oasis. There are several trails. Just continue on South Palm
Canyon Dr. in Palm Springs and you´ll reach the entrance. You can easily spend a day there.


Hummingbird at Agua Caliente Indian Reservation


1.2 Windmill Farm
In a time of global warming and a need for clean energy, you can go to north Palm Springs and look at the
huge windmill park (there are almost 4 000 wind turbines, producing energy equivalent of a nuclear reactor).
Windmill tours are offered at 1-10 & Indian Avenue on the North Frontage Road (20th Avenue). The windmills
are very photogenic if you are a little creative in finding interesting patterns.

1.3. Palm Springs Tramway
The best known attraction in Palm Springs is the aerial tramway up to Mount San Jacinto though. The
difference in altitude is massive: From 2 643 feet at the valley station to 8 516 feet up in the mountain.
The mountain is often snow-capped in the winter, so bring warm clothes. The ride up only takes 15 minutes.
But be aware that the tram is closed annually for around two weeks for maintanence in september (Sept 10-21
in 2007). To go there, take North Palm Canyon Drive (Highway 111), north of Racquet Club Road, west to
Tramway Road and you´ll reach the tram. There are plenty of signs.


Palm trees just south of Palm Springs


2.Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is truly one of the great wonders in California. It´s a paradise for rock climbers, and
most of the park is in the high desert, which means that it doesn´t get too hot there. The park has a unique
eco-system, with many different cactuses and of course the famous Joshua Tree. And there are plenty of interesting
trails in the large park. And please explore the rocks; It´s really surprising how entertaining the rocks are
even for a non climber. Wear som sturdy hiking boots or some tightly knit sneakers and you´ll surprise yourself
how much you can climb on the granite rocks with excellent grip. Even I, a 280 plus lbs weightlifter with 30 lbs photo
gear climbed like a fly on a wall.

2.1 Barker Dam
The short 0,8 mile hike to the Barker Dam is very rewarding, with lots of birds at the dam, and several interesting
plants. The best season is during the spring, when the cactuses are blooming. The Trailhead to Barker Dam is clode to
the Hidden Valley, north in the park.

2.3. Hidden Valley
Hidden Valley is great for watching climbers, as it has a few of the most spectacular rocks in the park. It also has
a campsite, with mostly climbers. One of the most awesome things you can experience at the campsite is to watch the
coyotes sneak into the campsite looking for leftover in in the evening/night under a starlit sky in complete silence.
Don´t be scared (they are completely harmless to humans) and turn of your lights and sit slient and you´ll see
them clearly against the starlit sand. A near religious experience!


Rock climbing in Hidden Valley


2.3. Rocks
If you´re about to explore the rocks yourself though, the area at White Tank is a good choice. There is a 0,3 mile trail
to the Arch Rock, and plenty of similarly odd boulders. And a few hundred yards south of Jumbo Rocks campsite, you´ll
have the characteristic Skull Rock - right beside the road.


Skull Rock


2.4 Cholla Cactus Garden
Don´t miss the Cholla Cactus Garden in the central part of the park, and try to go there in the afternoon for superior light.
It´s beautiful when cactuses are backlit by the last beams of sun.


Cholla Cactus Garden


3. Death Valley
Death Valley National Park is a place of superlatives: Hottest, driest and lowest elevation. And as stunning as potentially
dangerous. And extremely diverse in terms of wildlife and geology. For the National Park Services official 12 page park
guide of Death Valley, with campsites, attractions and regulations, see here: Death Valley Guide

3.1 Dantes View
The mountain-top at Dantes View, over 5 000 feet over the valley itself, offers the most breathtaking view in the park.

3.2 Zabriskie Point
Zabriskie Point has also a wonderful view, with simply awesome colours! Sunsets and sunrises are very polular among
photographers and other visitors. And for a good reason. And a clear advantage in Death Valley is that the sun is very
reliable most of the year.

3.3 Badwater
Badwater should clearly not be missed when visiting the park. It´s the lowest point on the entire western hemishpere!
And a great place to take pictures of the very intersting patterns on the ground.

3.4 Artist´s Drive
A scenic drive that is very popular. Particularly in late afternoons, when the warm light is creating wonderful colours
over the hills.


4. Bristlecone Pine Forest
You should probably be a fairly dedicated amateur photographer in order to take the detour from Highway 395 to the
Ancient Bristelcone Pine Forest, altough very few would regret taking the tour. The elevation is high, very high
up there on the White Mountain Range (over 11 000 feet), and litte else is growing except for the ancient pinetrees.
They are very photogenic though, especially late in the afternoon. The oldest living tree in the world: The Methuselah
(over 4 600 years old) is unmarked though, so don´t bother looking for that. There are a few nice trails there, and
a primitive campsite a few miles down from the top if you intend to stay late and take some pictures late in the afternoon.

Bristlecone Pine



4. Big Pine/Bishop area
Take your time and slow down on Highway 395 in these communities. Have a lunch and enjoy the view of Owens Valley
between the massive White Mountains and Sierra Nevada mountains. Enjoy the view of Mount Whitney, the highest
mountain in Americas lower 50 states. Or visit Mountain Light Gallery in Bishop, and envy the stunning photographs
by the late Galen Rowell - one of the best nature photographers ever.


Owens Valley from White Mountains

Cows with unsurpassed view in Big Pine



5. June Lake Loop
If you´re not in a hurry, it´s well worth the effort to take the June Lake Loop. Particularly if you´re into fishing
(there are large trouts there) or if it´s fall (it´s one of the few places in California where there are nice fall colours).
And there are a couple of campgrounds there if you want to stay.


June Lake



6. Mono Lake
Mono Lake is a fairly known attraction, due to it´s often photographed tufa. Sunrises are supposed to be the best time to take
pictures. And the lake itself is very interesting: It´s huge and extremely salt.


Tufa at Mono Lake

View over Mono Lake



7. Lundy Lake and Virginia Lakes
These lakes are somewhat hidden secrets except for fishermen and initiated photographers. You´ll reach them from detours a few miles
north of Lee Vining, at Conway Summit. Fall is the best season as there are absolutely beautiful colours at that time. There are always
fishermen at both Lundy Lake and the Virgina Lakes. And take it easy at Virgina Lakes: The elevation is very high, and it´s easy to
get really dizzy while hiking too fast.


Lundy Lake in fall

Fishermen at Virginia Lakes in spring


8. Bodie
Bodie is perhaps the best preserved ghost town in America. It used to have 10 000 inhabitants by 1880, with 65 saloons! Bodie
is very popular among photographers, and for best light avoid mid day. Bodie is open year round, but chains are necessary during
the winter du to it´s high elevation. To reach Bodie take State Route 270 from U.S. 395 about 7 miles south of Bridgeport.
Go east 10 miles to the end of the pavement and continue 3 miles on an unsurfaced road to Bodie. The last 3 miles can at times
be pretty rough.


Bodie
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