View Full Version : California in June
This east coaster is going to take his 4x5 to the CA mountains in June. Thought I'd see the big trees in Sequoia NP, then go to Yosemite. Already got reservations and everything.
I can extend this trip by a few days. What are your recommendations for things to see outside the big parks? I seem to remember something about Bristle Cone Pines over near Bishop, for example.
For that matter, what are your favorite day hikes in the parks? I know Yosemite valley from several years ago, but that was in early May and travel in the high country was snowed out. I haven't been to Sequoia in more than 25 years. I welcome all suggestions.
I'm not intimately familiar with that area, but I live outside of Sacramento and one of the most memorable trips I made was going down the eastern side of the Sierra to Mono Lake. From Yosemite you would take the Tioga road, which should be open by June, into the Town of Lee Vining. When I was there a few years ago I was only shooting 35mm and MF, but I can't wait to get back there now with a 4x5. The Tufa towers sticking up out of the lake on the south shore would make good subjects; in fact there's a ton of stuff to shoot there, and the ghost town of Bodie is only an hour or so away.
You can check out Mono Lake and why it's so interesting by going to
Hope this helps, have a great trip.
I'd also vote for Mono Lake. Bodie, in it's state of "arrested decay" is fantastic. Also, think about Death Valley and a ghost town near there, Rhiolite (sp?) in Nevada. The Redwoods are always good, as is the northern California coastline. Redrock, Agua Dulce, Johannesberg, Joshua Tree are also neat.
BTW - there is nothing photogenic in L. A.
Heading over to Mono Lake and the eastern Sierra would be well worth the extra time. Bodie, the old ghost town, is also a great place to shoot. I love the Bristlecone Pine forest in White Mt.s, especially the upper grove. Great place for first light. You want to be there early. The light blows out quickly.
The only possible glitch is that you have to go over Tioga Pass to get from Yosemite to the east side and this year we have a lot of snow. Tioga is typically open in June, but not always. If Tioga is still closed, you should develop some alternative plans. To get to that area without using the pass is a very, very long drive. If we still have a lot of snow, you also might have trouble getting to the Bristlecones, especially the upper grove. It is at about 11,000 feet and they do not plow the road. Best check before you drive there.
Try picking up the Photographer's Guide to Yosemite by Michael Frye. He points out some great locations and hike for shooting. It is well worth the price. They also sell it in the park. Yosemite is one of my favorite places and it is hard to go wrong anywhere there.
'BTW - there is nothing photogenic in L. A.'
It all depends by the shooting style you have and the subject matter you prefer.
I personally find the light in Downtown very interesting.
If your doing Yosemite you'll want to make it to the Tioga Pass/Tuolemne (sp?) area. When leaving the Park, turn left just pass the cappuccino cart and make for Saddlebag lake in the Hoover Wilderness. Mosquitos the size a box cars but very photogenic with plenty to see and do. A trail links to Lundy Lake and if you want to explore the far side of the lake without carrying your kit all the way a ferry will take you across(Saddlebag Lake, that is!) Lee Vining, Mono Lake and 395 that will take you to Bodie or the White Mountains &the Bristlecones is just down the hill. Saddlebag is the highest lake in CA that you can drive to (10,300'---lots a 'bang' for your beer/wine buck!) and if you want to camp, select a site back in the trees(little trees---10.300' remember?) for protection as it can get windy in the evenings. More than one geodesic dome tent has no doubt launched into Saddlebag Lake! Glaciers, old mines, way cool! All this providing the pass is open. Sometimes they can't get the snow off until the 4th of July. It was snowing in the sierras yesterday, btw. FWIW, Both Kings Canyon and Seqouia are traditionally less crowded during tourist season and quite spectacular. For lodging in the Yosemite Valley I recommend the Housekeeping Camp--try for a river view. Since they scrapped the canvas curry tents thirty years ago, the place kind of looks like a DP camp, but the location is to me, worth it if I have to stay in the valley. Others may disagree, but if you want to see thee park, stay in the park. If you want to commute from Oakhurst you'll be doing just that and traffic is heavy during the tourist season. If you're plans include back packing, the trail from Granite Creek to Mammoth is very nice and cuts through Devil's Postpile---a 4 day trip on foot incl return. Deadman, Crown Valley and Six Shooter pass in the Kings/Sequoia are also neat areas. If you've got a 4WD(a real one) Back Country Adventures in Northern California by Massey and Wilson in a good resource.
If you want something less primitive there is the Ahwannee of course, and the Wawona Hotel. Great restraunts are The Elderberry on the way to Yosemite on 41(reservations suggested) the Whoa Nellie Deli out of Lee Vining(with the most picturesque circus trapeze I've ever seen out front, overlooking Mono Lake---a gourmet restraunt with self serve gas pumps is a good description) The White Horse in Three Rivers(Sequoia/Kings area---try the green lipped mussels!) If you want a room at Lee Vining check out the Mono Inn which is owned by the Adams(Ansel) family. The Ashcroft Gallery is in Oakhurst which represents some excellent photographers is something to look for if you're headed up 41. All in all theres too much to see and do so don't try to do too much or you'll need a vacation from your vacation. Pick a few "targets" and save the rest for another trip.
I haven't been to Yosemite and Sequoia in years, but I suspect that if you're planning a June visit you'll have *lots* of human company. BTW, Death Valley's average temp in June is a toasty 109F.
If you're looking for smaller hordes of people and cooler weather, consider flying in to San Francisco, renting a car and heading north. There are redwood groves just north of SF, but the further north you drive the more spectacular the California coast becomes.
IMHO, both Humboldt and Del Norte Counties in northernmost coastal California are second(?) only to the Big Sur area in stunning natural beauty. Alternately consider flying into Oregon, renting a car, spending a week or more driving down the coastal route to SF. Fantastic redwood forests, small towns, smaller crowds and the highly-scenic rugged North Coast make that region well worth the trip if you're into that type of photography. Coastal U.S. Route 1 north of SF is notoriously busy during the summer but Rte 101 further north is more navigable.
Whatever you destination, don't forget the sunscreen, snake bite kit and poison oak salve ;-)
Assuming Tioga Pass is open and you can get over to Highway 395, I would suggest visiting the Alabama Hills outside the town of Lone Pine. This would be on your
route to Death Valley via Highways 136 & 190 which originate in Lone Pine. The weather may influence your travels, snow in the mountains and heat in the desert but you should have a grand time.
A few more thoughts: From 395 June Lake & Mammoth are just N(?) of Bishop and S. of Lee Vining. Also Lake Tahoe really affords some great classic "High Sierra" landscapes once you get away from the casinos and traffic. Both Heavanly and Squaw operate gondolas in the summer that will get you up in elevation. Try taking 88 out of Ripon and explore the more interesting turn outs. All the lesser trans sierra passes between 50 and Tioga are pretty grand unless you get stuck behind a motor home. On the Western side, there is the Gold Rush country with a steam railroad in Jamestown and plenty of scenic gold rush era 'burgs. For nature, if the Nat'l Parks are simply too crowded hit 395 and explore all the little valleys that wind down from the eastern slope. The Walker and Carson rivers have some spectacular vistas. For Giant Seqouias, the Mariposa Grove gets overrun in the Summer. For serious photography I'd check out Grant Grove in Kings Canyon or the Shadow of The Giants nature trail at Nelder Grove(outside of Yosemite NP)which unlike the Grant and Mariposa groves, is mixed with other species of trees, but less traffic. I've been there in the Summer and often have the whole place to myself, or at the very most shared it with one or to other groups.
I'll second the proposals for Mono Lake and Bodie - both are excellent locations.
Depending upon the time you have, I'd also suggest:
For architecture photography and the Golden Gate bridge, try San Francisco, about 3-4 hours drive from Yosemite. Regular attractions include the Golden Gate bridge, Alcatraz, and the tony town of Sausolito, just north of San Francisco.
For coastal scenery - I'd recommend a drive on the coast hugging (mostly) Highway 1. On a drive up from San Francisco to the town of Mendocino (pricey accomodations), you'll come across historic lighthouses, fantastic coastlines, and windswept beaches.
You could also try going south of San Francisco on Highway 1 with more coastal scenery till you hit the city of Santa Cruz (about 2 hours drive), with its colorful characters. Further south is Monterey, with its Cannery Row and 17 mile drive, and Carmel (Ansel Adams lived here, if I'm not mistaken).
South of Carmel is Big Sur - with the most dramatic coastal scenery I've seen - difficult to describe but strongly recommended.
Happy journey and good light.
As you may have guessed by now, Bruce, the only thing wrong with your plan is extending your trip by days, rather than years. There is so much nice scenery around where you'll be, you'll have trouble narrowing your choices. All of the suggestions already mentioned are excellent.
The key factor may be whether the Tioga Pass is open when you reach Yosemite. If so, I'd concur with the suggestions of heading over to Highway 395. From there, Mono Lake, Bodie, and various other great locations are within striking distance. And, as noted, be prepared for temperature extremes. Bodie, for example, is above 10,000 feet, and can be quite cool even on a nice June day. Sun screen is essential, too. If you do a search on Highway 395, you'll find a couple of good sidtes that can help in your planning. By June, Death Valley is a bit too toasty for most folks and most film - unless you have a good ice chest for the film.
Whatever you decide on, it should be a memorable trip, though. Have a great time.
'BTW - there is nothing photogenic in L. A.' - only if you go through the city with your eyes closed. I guess the Getty Center, Disney Concert Hall, the Arboretum, the Huntington Library, Union Station, and Echo Park should just close shop...
by the way, be sure to have a lot of insect repellant around...lots of water=lots of mosquitoes. Especially near standing pools in Yosemite Valley.
John Berry ( Roadkill )
I went to The big Y about 6 yrs ago. Figgers it would be raining the one day I had there. The pass was still snowed in at the end of may when I went, so my mono plans were out. I was on my way to Zion and antelope canyon. Ralphs mention of the heat and film, reminded me that what I used, was one of those battery powerd coolers. It keeps stuff 30-40 degrees cooler than ambiant temp. Kept it cool enough to preserve ,but the cool part was it was warm enough I could pull it out of the cooler and shoot it. Draw on battery is enough I wouldn't leave it pluged in while I was out on a couple hours treck, but it worked great and it is what I recomend if your going to the warmer areas. My old ford courier had 2-50 air conditioning. ( 2 windows down and 50 miles an hour) I like-ta died but $ 400.00 worth of film was nice and comfy.
Ok guys. I'll stand corrected. There are a *few* spots in LA worth burning film on. Yup, the Disney Concert Hall is a challenging photographic structure. The Getty Center has too much art, the Arboretum too flat - I like some mountains with foliage, the Huntington Library too many books, Union Station - trains, and Echo Park - well . . . . it echos.
BTW - Cast me another vote for Oregon. Last time I was there I found covered bridges. Lots of them. Old, well kept up, falling down, hard to get an angle on, impossible to find, in private roads, in a Von's parking lot, up a long dirt road. And on well marked highways. I loved it.
So long wifey. I'm off for a week . . . . or 2 . . . . . or . . . . .
"BTW there's nothing photogenic in LA."
Ray McSavaney would disagree. He's almost made a career out of photographing people and structures in LA. Take a look at his book "Explorations" some time. Unfortunately it doesn't contain any of his LA street portraits but it has some of his freeway and other LA things. That book is the most interesting combination of photographs and text that I have, well worth getting even if you have no interest in LA.
By the way, as you drive (I'm assuming you're driving) through California's Central Valley, you'll be driving through some of the most scenic areas around...the orchards, farms and fields. Most people just pass them by on their way to somewhere else.
Oh, and anyone who goes to the Huntington Library to shoot the books or the Getty to shoot the art or Union Station to only shoot trains ought to be...well, shot. You would be missing out on some of the most beautiful architecture and gardens anywhere. Jeez...
Good chow along the way---
The Whoa Nellie Deli in Lee Vining(Ahi tuna)
Erna's Elderberry House in Oakhurst(reservations)
The White Horse in Three Rivers(green lipped mussels)
Mammoth Orange at the 152 & 99 junction(relic of the past with delightfully coronary clogging fried food and fresh squeezed OJ)
Sherwood Inn near Minkler(I haven't been here in awhile---try at your own risk)
The Ahwanee(maytag blue cheeseburger!)
The Wawona Hotel(just about everything the Ahwanee has but about 20% cheaper)
The Vineyard in Madera
The Basque Hotel in Fresno
The Kirkwood Inn in Kirkwood(Zak's fries)
Chukchansi Gold Casino in Coarsegold (buffet for serious pigging out)
Mel's in Jackson(milk shakes)
Bullene in Three Rivers
Chatom in Murphy's
Radanovich near Mariposa
Fresno State (CSUF) in Clovis
4x5 sheet film usually stocked at:
Horn's at Fig Garden Village in Fresno(tri-x and polaroid)
Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite Valley(Ilford the last time I was there---call 'em for info)
Best place to watch eagles:
Duecy's Lodge upstairs deck/ bar at Bass Lake
Best place to see bears drinking stolen beer:
Granite Creek campground on Beasore Rd. and
Red's Meadows near Mammoth
Best trout fishing:
(I'm not saying!)
Cheapest Gas I know of:
Costco right off Frwy 41 in Fresno, take the Herndon Exit and
Costco in Carson City at the intersection of HWYS 50 & 395
Mariposa Grove, especially on hot summer days
Hidden old overgrown cemetaries in the area:
Akers Cemetary in Minkler(on the way to KCNP)
Foresta Cemetary in Foresta(inside YNP--watch out for the snake!)
Neatest old cemetaries still being kept up:
Oakhurst(a stones throw from Mc Donald's and Burger King)
St. Joseph's in Mariposa
Handiest thing to keep in your car when driving through the San Joaquin Valley in the summer:
A scotchbrite pad for scrubbing bugs off your windshield(the wooden handled thingys at gas stations are worthless!)
Art Gallery featuring LF photography where you'd least expect it:
Ashcroft Gallery in Oakhurst
I hope this helps!
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