We usually spend Easter weekend in one of two places: Carrizo Plain (in good wildflower years) or Lava Beds National Monument. This year we decided that a visit to the Eastern Sierra was in order instead. Five months without a Bishop fix was long enough and despite the passes still being closed, driving the long way around for a three day weekend was worth it.
On Thursday night we headed out from San Jose for Truckee where we had (gasp!) booked a hotel room for the night. That hotel was conveniently next door to one of our favorite breweries, FiftyFifty. Several delicious beers were enjoyed with dinner, and we retired early to get up the next day for some outdoor adventures.
The next morning Reno didn’t distract us by the casinos and lights, but by a giant outdoor store called Scheel’s. The best way I can describe it is the offspring of Cabelas and REI. With the size and Disney-like grandeur of Cabelas and a decent gear selection in addition to the hunting products, it was a bit fun to wander around. For some reason unknown to me, creepy animatronic presidents lined the upper balcony. Each arm of the store was a different sport, and the paddle sports, camping, and fishing sections distracted me for a while.
Exploring the Eastern Sierra
We walked out with a new cooler (had been on the shopping list for a while) and finally worked our way south along 395, the highway that runs down the Eastern Sierra. A few hours later we arrived in our happy place, Bishop. Heading straight for Chalk Bluff Road, we decided to hike to some petroglyphs I had been researching. There were two glyphs I was looking for, and I was certain about the location of one, but not about the other.
Recently there was some terrible destruction done to some petroglyphs on the Volcanic Tablelands. The crime happened at glyphs that are well known with the BLM even publishing guides to them. The glyphs I was looking for are far more obscure and secret, and I intend to keep them that way. My pictures share no more than what is already available on the internet.
The approach I had figured out was pretty quick and straightforward, so we were able to scramble around the rock piles and find the glyphs I was seeking. The Sky Rock Petroglyph is a giant panel facing up, and it’s difficult to scramble up on to it. I didn’t scramble up anyways since I couldn’t see a way to do it without stepping on the glyphs. If you visit this area please do not climb up on the rock! You can get a good view with a ladder, or from the rocks around it.
A little more exploring revealed the second panel, the ’13 Moons’ Petroglyph. After some time to photograph and reflect on the glyphs and the special location, we headed over to the Tungsten Hills to a tucked away dispersed campsite for the night.
In the morning we headed back to Chalk Bluff Road to climb in the Happy Boulders. I really love this area and although I am not exactly a great outdoor climber, I really enjoy working on bouldering problems here. And even better is watching the great climbers that come to this classic area! We found some good climbs on the shaded side of a few rocks since it was getting hot out, and ended up hanging out with some friendly folks from the Tahoe area. The outdoor rocks kill my hands so much faster than gym climbing, so after a couple of hours we hiked out.
Heading further south, we stopped at Alabama Hills Cafe for lunch (YUM!) and drove into Short Canyon for a wildflower hike. The trail from the end of Short is known for its wildflowers, but this year appears to be a bust. The super dry winter we’ve had is not conducive to wildflower growth.
Indian Wells Canyon
From Short Canyon we followed the super cool Aquaduct road around Five Fingers into Indian Wells canyon. Our campsite for the night was near an old mining camp and the ruins were plentiful and gave us plenty to explore with the remaining few hours of daylight.
Sunday was the day that we had a long drive home ahead of us, but not so long that we couldn’t get in a short hike in the morning. We decided to hike Morris Peak, an HPS peak that we could easily hike from camp. Although we started off getting off-trail within the first 1/2 mile, we ended up making the best of it by creating a loop out of our ‘incorrect’ approach and the correct descent.
It was a quick but fun three days in the Eastern Sierra. And it gave me a taste for summer. I know that the dry winter is bad news for California, but I can’t help but be slightly excited that the passes and high country should be accessible earlier than usual – more play time!
Climbing Morris Peak
Loop dayhike, cross country and route finding required.
4.8 mile loop from primitive camp area.
+/- 2500 ft
Trailhead and Permit Notes:
There are no permits required for hiking Morris Peak, nor for camping in Indian Wells Canyon. 4WD recommended for reaching the hike start as shown in the map below. Roads are rough.
Dispersed camping is available throughout Indian Wells Canyon. This route starts at an old cabin site that has some developed dispersed camping. This canyon is popular with off roaders and you will likely have company. Please practice leave no trace, observe campfire regulations, and be careful around rusted and collapsed mining ruins.