Sonora Pass: Sardine Falls

My photo of the month for September 2016 is a bit delayed because we just returned from a week-long trip to the Eastern Sierra, and I wanted to include the photos that I made on that trip in the selection, of course. And while I actually pretty much knew already that the photo below would be the pick, I still wanted to review all the photos briefly before making the final decision.

Sardine Falls of McKay Creek, seen from Sonora Pass Road, near Bridgeport, California, September 2016.
Sardine Falls of McKay Creek, seen from Sonora Pass Road, near Bridgeport, California, September 2016.
Photo of the month for September 2016. Permanently priced lower than my regular prints.
Click image to open in my store (opens in a new browser tab)

That this photo actually exists is something like a funny accident – it was one of the few days during our trip when we had some clouds and we were headed for the ghost town of Bodie. The visit to Bodie was more of an “okay, we’re in the area, let’s just get over with it and see it” kind of thing – I was more curious to see this abandoned mining town in its surroundings to get a feeling for the place, and not actually to make photos of it (adding to the millions of images that already exist).

We had already been delayed by road work on Highway 395 at the Lee Vining burn scar (where they’re fixing the slope, most likely for post-fire erosion prevention) and then got delayed further by more road work near the turn off to Bodie. When we were finally moving again, I was so perplexed by how close we were to the turnoff that I missed it! Since going back would have meant another 20 minute delay, we instead proceeded to the Sonora Pass area.

Shuwen had suggested this area anyway but I originally dismissed it, since it seemed kind of far from Mammoth Lakes, where we had rented an apartment for the week. While we were driving towards Bridgeport, Shuwen then found out that the hike at Leavitt Meadows is on the “Top 8 Hikes” list of a pamphlet she had picked – and that we had already done the other seven hikes! And the prospect of becoming a “pamphlet completist” for the top 8 fall color hikes along Highway 395 was motivation enough to continue to Sonora Pass. :-)

The area is really beautiful, albeit a bit dry and dusty at the end of September (obviously). It must be very beautiful in June and July! It was also rather warm and since we weren’t prepared for a hike too well on that day (lack of substantial snacks to power us all the way to Secret Lake), we just took a bit of a longer walk at Leavitt Meadows. We then continued to drive higher up on Sonora Pass Road, just to see what’s there.

At a spot with particularly beautiful fall-colored Aspens we made a stop, and I noticed this incredible scenery in the other direction. Light and shadow played on the landscape. At first I thought this waterfall was Leavitt Falls, but somehow we completely missed that one. Instead, this is Sardine Falls of McKay Creek – which is a bit confusing, since there’s also a nearby Sardine Creek, with its own waterfall, that can be seen from Sonora Pass proper.

We haven’t been much to this area in the past and it looks like there’s some good hiking trails there. I guess we’ll be back. :-)

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