If you’ve never heard me say, Tioga Pass is one of my favorite areas in and around Yosemite so when I saw this awesome photo by Kartik Rmanathan I knew I had to post it.
Knowing this area like I do, let me explain what you’re seeing in the shot. Lee Vining Creek drops out of Tioga Pass and into the canyon just behind the photographer. Immediately below the photographer and out of shot to the right is a small hydro electric power generation facility.
Lee Vining Canyon has 5 campgrounds. The bright yellow spot in the middle is Aspen Campground. It’s my favorite and the favorite of a lot of other people, hence the lights. It’s a rustic campground set in the middle of an Aspen grove. You have pit toilets and you have to pump your own water but it’s really cool.
Next to the campground is a large meadow. Lee Vining Creek drops down from the power plant as a rough and tumble free stone stream. It tumbles past Big Bend Campground (always packed and lots of mosquitos) and makes it’s way to Aspen campground where it levels out spring-creek style and slows into a deep and narrow channel by the campground and through the meadow. Other side of the meadow it starts it’s tumultuous drop downhill all the way to Mono Lake (about 5 miles away).
When I’m doing anything in the Eastern Sierra, this campground is usually my base of operations. I’ll set up camp in the campground and use it as my jumping off point for jaunts all around the region.
If you’re into fishing they plant Alpers Trout in the creek up by Big Bend Campground. Lots of people fish the rocky areas hoping to grab some of these trout. The creek is often overgrown with Alder and willow bushes making casting a bit challenging sometimes.
More patient fly fisherman types (like me) can fish the spring creek section. The water is slow, clear and there’s no cover so stomping up with a spinning rod and plunking in a spinner with trout eggs probably won’t get you many fish. But a well pattern cast in slow and left to float may get you a very nice, unexpected surprise of the 14-16″ brown or brookie. Good stuff but you have to be patient and watch for the take on the downswing. There’s a lot of fishing pressure because the area is so accessible and the fish are incredibly choosy taking time to inspect your fly to see if it’s just right.
If your luck isn’t holding here head down to June Lakes or Mammoth or up 395 to Twin Lakes and Bridgeport or the West Walker River. Lots of stuff to fish.
If you’re into hiking this is the place to be. It’s at the doorway to everything along Tioga Pass. There are hundreds of miles of uncrowded trails nearby whether it’s into the Ansel Adams Wilderness, Yosemite National Park or even the Inyo National Forest.
If you’re adventurous try hiking to the top of Mount Dana. It’s that big peak right above the campground. There are great views of the Sierra and sometimes, on a really clear day, you can see all the way to the Coast Range.
This whole area is full of history. From here it’s only about an hour to Bodie. Bodie is actually closer but the road is pretty rough so I take it slow. Bodie is a ghost town ran by the State of California. If you’ve never been there, I highly recommend it. It’s great for kids and adults, and you can even bring your dog. It’s beautiful to photograph almost anytime.
Some of the biggest who’s-who in Hollywood have homes in Mammoth and it’s only a short drive down the road from Aspen Campground. That means shopping galore including a Ralph Lauren outlet. There’s lots of dining and music and food and even a movie theater. Perfect if you have someone who just doesn’t enjoy the outdoors as much as you.
For a photographer like me, this is the ideal location for a base. In the fall there’s the aspens changing color. In the summer there’s sunsets just up the road at Tuolumne Meadows. In the morning Mono Lake offers some stunning views as the first light hits the Sierra. Bodie offers no end to photographic subjects almost all day long.
There’s so much in Yosemite and all up and down the Eastern Sierra that’s close to shoot. I’ll usually go out shooting for a day, come back to camp and have dinner, head down to Lee Vining after dinner to grab an ice cream then head up into Yosemite to do some shooting at Tuolumne Meadows or along the Tioga Road.
And for all you science nerds out there, did I mention the volcano? Yup, Mammoth Lakes sits smack dab in the middle of a caldera. There are cinder cones and volcanic glass flows all around the area to explore.
As you can see this is a great place to check out and has a lot to offer.
Great shot, Kartik. Thanks for sharing in the group pool!
Photo by Kartik Ramanathan via Flickr.