Day Five, September 17, Mileage 419, 2427 total
Cold. That’s how I woke up. It took all my cold gear I brought plus my trusty mexican blanket to stay comfortable during the night, and I actually had to lower the hatch in the middle of the night.
But it was another early start, heading out of the campground before the sun rose. I decided to go up to the end of the road, topping out at 10,000 ft. The drive was a delightful romp through curves after curves (going faster than I can do with passengers), often highlighted with incredible views of Wheeler Peak or glowing aspens.
At the top, there was a selection of trails to choose from, including heading up to the 13,000 ft. peak. In a departure from my past desires to always get to the top, I chose a two trails that took me by a couple of alpine lakes and then to a bristlecone pine grove. Hitting the lake so early in the morning, it was mirror flat and I took advantage of that in my pictures.
Later, I arrive at the bristlecone pine grove complete with interpretive signs. This one sign captured the spirit of my soul and my trip.
I feel like these trees, with scarce nutrients making growth slow and difficult. I want to believe that this is making me stronger, and while I believe it in theory, I definitely do not feel very strong at times.
The beauty of these trees can not be captured by a camera, as the depth of colors, the texture of both the live bark and the dead wood, and the amazing healthy green on the few live boughs just defy being captured by anything but the human senses. However, here is what I was able to capture.
I sadly headed back down to the car trying to hold the beauty in my head and my heart.
The drive back to the loneliest highway and out of the park was a chance to set a new record. Yes, I am competitive. And yes, I care about the mileage I get in my car. So this photo shows my new record of 153 mpg while going 70 mph. The 5000 ft. of vertical drop definitely helped….
After geeking out over the mileage, I pointed the wheels toward the other side of Nevada, hoping to make it to a nice campground near Lee Vining for the night.
On the way I saw encouraging signs of alternative energy. The first was an industrial solar plant near Tonopah. It is a 110 MW solar plant that, due to its technology, can store multiple hours of energy for production into the evening. The glow from the central tower was incredibly bright, almost a mini-sun. Again, the picture does not do it justice.
The second was Nevada’s first wind farm, the Spring Valley Wind Farm. It has a capacity of around 150 MW, even greater than the solar plant. I am encouraged by these developments, but I must also acknowledge that the solutions still are not perfect. I just believe that they are better than the alternatives over the long term.
As part of a recurring theme, the campground that I was trying to get into near Lee Vining was full, so I changed plans to cross another item off my bucket list. Despite many trips by Mono Lake, I had never stopped to check out the tufas.
What was even more bizarre were the brine shrimp and the brine flies. What are brine flies? I thought you would never ask. Check out this video that could be a Hitchcock thriller.
I finally made it to a national forest campground and enjoyed a lovely mountain stream to lull me to another good night’s sleep.