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Mid-winter and ready for summer

by Carolyn Purkiss

I miss the warmer weather, the longer days, and being able to get outside more like the time last September when my husband Doug and I, and friends Sandy and John set out on a motorcycle ride to Tom’s Place by Crowley Lake and back taking a side trip around June Lake Loop.

It was a beautiful morning, sunny, warm and clear, as we started our trip on Highway 208 in Wellington then, turning south on Highway 338, we passed through the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and over the Sweetwater Summit at an elevation of 7,120 feet.

The Sweetwater Mountains, in the Bridgeport Ranger District, begin in Mono County, California and continue north into Lyon County, Nevada rising from the surrounding valley floor at about 6,000 feet to Mt. Patterson at 11,763 feet and are located between the Sierra Nevada on the west and the Great Basin on the east.

Visiting the Bridgeport Ranger District Web site I learned it covers over one million acres of the Humboldt-Toiyabe Forest in both California and Nevada. Its size makes it one of the largest districts in the National Forest Service system. Many habitats and ecosystems exist within the boundaries of the district. Hiking, backpacking, camping, fishing, hunting, OHV recreation, horseback riding, bird and wildlife viewing and photography are some great things to do here.

Highway 338 is a good road for motorcycles with light traffic, gentle curves and beautiful views of the mountains, pasture land and some farms. The East Fork of the Walker River could be seen on the east side of the highway just before crossing into California on Highway 182 ending at Bridgeport.

We headed south on Highway 395 over Conway Summit at 8,138 feet looking down at Mono Lake reflecting pastel colors of blue, gray and white. We continued past Lee Vining and Crowley Lake with a stop for lunch at Tom’s place. After lunch we started back along the old highway for a few miles that eventually comes out on Highway 395. Traveling north we passed Mammoth Lakes, Deadman’s Summit and turned west on Highway 158, the June Lake Loop.

As we rode around the loop a mountain came into view with a waterfall high up cascading down the mountainside. Horsetail Falls, AKA Rush Creek Falls, is a 270-foot waterfall dropping down from Agnew Lake in the June Lake Loop area. The waterfall is easily visible from the roadside on the June Lake Loop. We stopped and I took some pictures. Continuing on we passed June Lake, Silver Lake and Grant Lake stopping at a very old weather beaten sign from the Inyo National Forest explaining the Mono Craters that were visible in the distance.

“The Mono Craters are a chain of volcanic mountains. The highest stands 2700 feet above the valley floor. When they began to form late in the ice age this basin was covered by ancient Lake Russell. Mono Lake is a remnant of that lake. Initially in their formation a series of explosions created high bowl shaped cones of pumice – volcanic froth. Later great domes of obsidian, a black volcanic glass formed by rapidly cooling molten lava, arose in the cones. The obsidian usually overflowed the pumice rims and advanced onto the plain of steep sided jumbles of boulders. These obsidian domes and flows are dominant features of the craters. Pumice blasted out and carried by the winds covers many square miles,” I took some more pictures.

After stopping for ice cream cones at Bridgeport we continued on our way this time north on Highway 395 past Walker, Coleville and Topaz Lake. We traveled a total of 253.9 miles leaving about 10 a.m. and getting back about 5:30 p.m. It was a great day.

n Carolyn Purkiss can be reached at 266-9482 or by e-mail at k6dug1@juno.com