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    Road Trip USA: Five Days Camping in the Buttermilk Country


    DAY ONE: Leaving Swall Meadows for the Buttermilk Country of the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains, California. Early September 2018.

    My adventure in the high Buttermilk Country of the far eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains in California began at the home of good friends in Swall Meadows.


    I left the small village of Swall Meadows one clear morning and drove to Bishop, California and then up State Highway 168 before turning up the jeep tracks to my camp site in an aspen grove high in the Buttermilk Country.


    Swall Meadows is beautifully situated at the foot of the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains.


    It was a beautiful morning when I set off . . . the camper fully provisioned for many days in the wild.


    I stopped to get the lay of the land.  The Buttermilk Country was on the other side of Mount Tom, up a gradual incline toward the high peaks.


    Driving up into the mountains on the sandy and rocky jeep trail.


    My first view of the aspens along a stream . . . the yellow color is a sign they are a little water stressed . . . and the nights are getting cold up here.


    I drove deep into the high country and found a level spot next to a stream along a jeep track in an aspen stand.


    It was late afternoon when I found my flat camp site.  I set up the shade tent . . . but left the rest of my setting up for later . . . the steep and clear sunlight begs for a ramble with my camera.


    I walked up the jeep track from my camp.  A glorious afternoon.


    I had found a magical place to camp.


    The sun was low in the sky . . . and an early shadow was expected as the sun was going to go behind the nearby high mountains of the Sierra Nevada.


    Such incredible light and color.


    The forest floor under the giant Ponderosa Pines, all cones and needles.


    As the mountain shadow descended over the aspen grove, I followed the sound of a babbling stream nearby.


    Believe  it or not, the water here, at 8800 feet on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains, is diverted through a system of pipes and small waterworks like this . . . to serve the city Los Angeles many hundreds of miles away.  Gotta have those green lawns!!!


    DAY TWO: Exploring my immediate surroundings

    I was up when the first light hit the high peaks.


    When the light finally hit my little patch of forest . . . the scene was like a fairyland!


    I was camped way up close to the Eastern High Sierra Nevada mountain peaks.


    I was camped in a mix of dry Ponderosa Pine, small aspen thicket, and rocky forest.


    Clear light, bright forest.


    A big mix of trees . . . size and type.


    After a light breakfast and coffee, I grabbed my camera for a walkabout near my campsite.  I first followed this nearly obscured old jeep track up into a nearby stand of bright aspens.


    I was amazed by the colors and clarity of light and air.


    The summers' succulent growth had dried after a long summer in the sun.


    And throughout my walk -- always a quick glimpse of the tall Sierra Nevada.


    The brightness of the autumn yellow aspen leaves was astonishing.  I have not bumped or oversaturated these colors . . . these aspens were THIS bright.


    Such a glorious place to camp.  This photo brings back such a strong memory for me:  This is where I camped up in the high Buttermilk Country. 


    A delightfully cool, clear, and still morning.


    I love the look of these old, grand Ponderosa Pines in the transition from high country to desert.


    I slung a rope up over a big branch and hoisted my food pails up there . . . bear-proofing?


    The yellow aspen in the bright, clear morning sun . . . at 8000 ft. elevation.


    Tall yellow aspens against a deep blue mountain sky.


    Absolutely quiet; not a breath of air movement . . . only the sound of my boots crunching on the pine needles . . . .


    A forest portrait.


    I took a mid-day walk out along the road I came in on . . . heading out of my little grove of pine and aspen.


    Pretty views opened up as I walked down the hill.


    After a drop in elevation of only 200 feet, the aspens were no longer yellow . . . either there is more ater here or the night temperatures have not turned the leaves yet.


    Yes, a soaked meadow above the track . . . a mountain bog and a babbling brook even at this late summer day.


    Another wet meadow below the track . . . .

    The long track . . . I would hear about one 4X4 a day pass on this jeep track.  Although it does not look too rough right here, there are some very bad patches that definitely require four wheel drive and high clearance to get by.


    I turned around here and walked back up to my campsite.  I would take a much more challenging hike the next day.


    I was so pleased when I arrived back at my camper . . . to see the fantastic spot I had found.


    I was happy to sit in my camp chair behind my camper and look at this view  . . . for the rest of the day.



    All of my walkabouts begin with walking out of the forest grove where I camp.


    The trees become sparser and the ground drier.


    On this walk along the jeep track I noticed a camp site that had been used quite a bit in a stand of ponderosa pines.  A nice place for several vehicles on a family outing.


    Further out of the woods.


    The drylands beyond.


    Further towards the high altitude drylands.


    Pines in the dry landscape.


    Out ahead a desert track.  I have missed this kind of topography during my many years in the wet tropics.


    Contrary to what some may think, there is so much to see out here.


    Looking down the valley toward Bishop, California, many miles away and many feel lower in elevation.


    What is over that hill?


    A large erratic stone and a view down valley to the Buttermilk formation of large boulders.


    Beautiful view back to Mount Tom.


    Looking back up the road on my walk I see a beautiful grand view.


    I took a second look back up the jeep track and noticed a hiker coming my way.  He was backpacker from nearby Bishop who had been walking, camping and climbing at higher elevation for five days.  He stopped for a chat about the local water rights battles involving stream diversion to meet the water needs of an ever-expandig Los Angeles.  He felt that if any more mountain stream water were diverted 'over the hill', this whole region would become a completely arid region . . . absolutely no plants whatsoever . . . another Death Valley.












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