Sierra Hikes, Thanksgiving weekend 2018.

After a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration with Georgia and Thom in Long Beach, I got up very early on Friday to drive to Lone Pine, where I would meet up with Diana and Jorge for two days of interesting hikes in the Sierras.  Right at 8:00AM I arrived at the hotel and the three of us went to the Alabama Hills Café & Bakery for a wonderful breakfast.  From there we drove north of Independence to hike up Red Mountain, a hill just below the high Sierra peaks covered with dark red rock.  The climb is pretty straight forward and soon we reached the summit.  Reading the Register, I noticed that Diana and Jorge had climbed this peak on this exact day last year!  Pretty amazing.  Red Mountain is actually a crater, which is pretty obvious looking down from the summit.  The summit marker lists it as such.  Jorge and I decided to walk around the crater rim, while Diana dropped straight down to the bottom.  Walking around the rim, the dark red color of the rocks is quite striking.  Also, the extreme drop-off to the base of the "hill" on the south and west side is impressive.  On the other side of the Rim, we joined Diana to the bottom of the crater, experiencing the complete silence and the extreme light weight of the lava rocks.  After climbing back up to the Rim, we dropped back down to the base of the Mountain, where we found a large patch of trees still showing off their fall colors. From there, it was an easy walk back to the truck.

Driving back towards Lone Pine, we took a side trip into the Alabama Hills, where we noticed a large group of trees showing of their fall colors.  Jorge wanted to hike up the highest point in the park, and with the help of information found on the web and pictures of the peak, we hiked the short distance to the summit blocks.  While climbing I noticed large clumps of cacti.  At the summit, we looked all around for the DPS Register, but did not find it.  Looking at the map Jorge had brought and the surrounding area, we were convinced that this was indeed the Alabama Hills High  Point.  After a while we started our hike back down.  Diana decided however to walk up a rocky outcrop close to this peak. While Jorge and I continued our route back to the truck, Diana followed a ridge to another high point, where she found the DPS Register!  The Register was placed on this high point in 2004 by Gordon MacLeod and Barbara Lillie.  Looking at the TOPO maps it is clear however, that the peak we climbed first is the true high point in the Park.

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Back in Lone Pine, we had a nice dinner at the Merry Go Round and bought some pie at the Mt. Whitney Restaurant which we took back to our rooms to enjoy.

The following morning we drove to Bishop, where we had breakfast at Jack's Restaurant.  After the eggs and pancakes, we drove North West to the trailhead for Tungsten Peak. The first part of the trail to a saddle is quite steep and a real wake up!  From there, we kept going up steeply following different use trails, until we reached the summit blocks with incredible views of Mount Tom and surrounding "Big Boys".  While enjoying the views, Diana pulled out a bottle of Whiskey (a mini one..), from which we each took a small swig to celebrate our gettogether in the mountains! We stayed at the summit for quite a while, taking lots of pictures and having a good time.  Before hiking back down, we walked across the plateau to see a rock that looks like a pig.... The downhill trek was a lot easier than going up, and soon we reached the truck at the bottom of the hill.  Getting back to the mail road took a little time, with all the dirt roads crisscrossing everywhere.

Our next target was Grouse Mountain, which we had seen in the distance from the summit of Tungsten Peak.  From Hwy 168, we drove about 7.5 miles on a dirt road to the trailhead, passing by a very large group of rock climbers.  This is a popular rock climbing area for beginners.  We parked at the base of Grouse Mountain from which we started our hike.  There are no trails to the summit, so Jorge took the lead taking us cross country.  After about 100 yards, we had to drop down about 100 feet via an extremely steep slope to a creek, which we had to cross.  Even though the creek was not all that wide, it was quite a challenge to cross with its fast running water, the half submersed rocks being slippery and covered with ice, and the thick bushes and broken branches everywhere.  After safely getting to the other side of the creek, we steeply climbed out of the canyon to where we started the actual climb.  We proceeded up the lightly snow covered slope getting pretty close to a rock face, from where we would have to go straight uphill to reach the saddle below the real summit.  Not feeling very comfortable walking on the snowy slopes, and realizing we would not be able to reach the summit and make it back to the truck before dark, we decided to turn around and leave the summit for another day.  Back at the creek, Jorge found a good spot to cross, and we all made it back safely.  We decided not to return the same way, but to continue on the dirt road which should loop back to the highway.  We really enjoyed driving this close to the high peaks, and stopped at different spots to take pictures.  The further we went though the road became rougher, with huge ruts and rocks sticking out of the dirt. We also had to cross a few creeks with a lot of water in it.  After going up a steep incline to road became complete covered with snow, and Jorge and Diana decided not to go any  further on this dirt road and instead turn the truck around.  Diana and Jorge pulled a miracle doing this, since there was no real pullout area to do this.  Kudos to the both of them!!  After again crossing the creeks  and rough parts of the dirt road, we suddenly ran into a small group of deer.  These galls were not shy at all and posed for us to take some great pictures.  Back at the rock climbing area the road was blocked by a wrecker who was pulling a stalled truck on its flatbed.  That will be an expensive trip!!  Further down, we passed several Sheriff vehicles and fire trucks going up the mountain.  We guessed there must have been something going on at the rock climbing area...

Back in Bishop, we stopped at Shatt's Bakery, where I bought a Dutch Christmas bread for Teresa, and an apple pie for dessert tonight.  Once in Lone Pine, we had Burgers and fries with beer and coke at the Mt. Whitney Restaurant.  Afterwards we checked out our pictures and enjoyed the apple pie in the hotel room before retiring to bed.

Thanks to Diana and Jorge, I had a great two days in the Sierras.