eastern sierra

Winter In The Sierra

"Man... This wind is pretty heavy. Is your van feeling it as much as mine?" After a bit of static, I heard Beau click on to channel 4 on the walkie: "Yeah... let's just take it slow. We'll be fine." We were heading up the pass from Bishop towards Owens Valley, in hopes to beat the storm and find a spot for the night. The Weather report showed that Mammoth mountain, which is about 15 minutes north from our projected camp spot, was going to get dumped on. The wind was taking its toll and making it hard for us to drive and stay in our own lane. We drove up the pass at approximately 30mph.

"Man... This wind is pretty heavy. Is your van feeling it as much as mine?" After a bit of static, I heard Beau click on to channel 4 on the walkie: "Yeah... let's just take it slow. We'll be fine." We were heading up the pass from Bishop towards Owens Valley, in hopes to beat the storm and find a spot for the night. The Weather report showed that Mammoth mountain, which is about 15 minutes north from our projected camp spot, was going to get dumped on. The wind was taking its toll and making it hard for us to drive and stay in our own lane. We drove up the pass at approximately 30mph.

We reached the summit, finally, and passed a small town coined Tom's Place. Here, the wind got only worse. Pine trees and aspens were almost getting torn out of the ground and ending up on the highway. Yet we kept trucking. Earlier at a Starbucks in Bishop, we contemplated going back up to Owens for the night due to the approaching storm and just finding a place to sleep at lower elevation. But the thought of waking up to snow on the ground and a few yards from a hot spring made us want to risk it. 

We reached the summit, finally, and passed a small town coined Tom's Place. Here, the wind got only worse. Pine trees and aspens were almost getting torn out of the ground and ending up on the highway. Yet we kept trucking. Earlier at a Starbucks in Bishop, we contemplated going back up to Owens for the night due to the approaching storm and just finding a place to sleep at lower elevation. But the thought of waking up to snow on the ground and a few yards from a hot spring made us want to risk it. 

First time in a spring with snow on the ground.

First time in a spring with snow on the ground.

Dear friends.

Dear friends.

"Wind seems like it's dying off, but those clouds sure look dark." "What?" Beau questioned, in an alarmed voice. "I said the wind is getting better but those clouds look like they're gonna dump. Over" I said, knowing his next response. "Oh, I couldn't hear you because you didn't say 'Over.' Over." I had a few days to kill, and wanted to go on a trip. Originally, I planned to go somewhere I had never been, but I heard the mountains were gonna see a lot of snow, and I had never been up this time of year. It was the tail end of winter, and I hoped to see some snow. Born and raised in So Cal, I've seen little in my days.

"Wind seems like it's dying off, but those clouds sure look dark." "What?" Beau questioned, in an alarmed voice. "I said the wind is getting better but those clouds look like they're gonna dump. Over" I said, knowing his next response. "Oh, I couldn't hear you because you didn't say 'Over.' Over." I had a few days to kill, and wanted to go on a trip. Originally, I planned to go somewhere I had never been, but I heard the mountains were gonna see a lot of snow, and I had never been up this time of year. It was the tail end of winter, and I hoped to see some snow. Born and raised in So Cal, I've seen little in my days.

Warms you twice.

Warms you twice.

My favorite kind of road.

My favorite kind of road.

Cooking dinner.

Cooking dinner.

"Follow me. I know of a spot right next to a spring that I think I remember is pretty level. Hopefully no one is around." "What?" Beau asked again, trying to keep the humor alive. We pulled up and spent some time backing up and pulling into the gravel, trying to find the most level ground, an essential vanlife skill. We got it good enough, and started cleaning and organizing our vans for the night. Rain started to sprinkle and the shrubs were doing their wind dance. The sun went down, and I invited Beau over for a movie in my van. He surprised me by buying a copy of  The Last of the Mohicans. 

"Follow me. I know of a spot right next to a spring that I think I remember is pretty level. Hopefully no one is around." "What?" Beau asked again, trying to keep the humor alive. We pulled up and spent some time backing up and pulling into the gravel, trying to find the most level ground, an essential vanlife skill. We got it good enough, and started cleaning and organizing our vans for the night. Rain started to sprinkle and the shrubs were doing their wind dance. The sun went down, and I invited Beau over for a movie in my van. He surprised me by buying a copy of The Last of the Mohicans. 

If you ever have the chance to stop by the Mono Lake Information Center, do it. They play some rad films about Native Americans who occupied the Mono region.

If you ever have the chance to stop by the Mono Lake Information Center, do it. They play some rad films about Native Americans who occupied the Mono region.

Alabama Hills.

Alabama Hills.

First light.

First light.

Bishop Skatepark. 

Bishop Skatepark. 

Snow flurry on the 395.

Snow flurry on the 395.

Breaky.

Breaky.

Spent the first night with the valley to myself.

Spent the first night with the valley to myself.

I woke up to a loud knock on the window of my camper and opened my eyes to be blinded by a red headlamp. Beau. It was barely light outside, but we wanted to make sure we were the first ones in the tub. All night I wondered if I'd wake up to snow. I quickly remembered, threw on my long johns, and popped open the door. I had to shove it open because the door handles had frozen shut on the van. A few tries and it flew open. I popped out my head out and sure enough: snow. Beau was pretty pumped and had already been walking around checking it out. We gathered gear and headed for the hot spring. This trip made me take a vow that I would never go another winter without camping in the snow.

I woke up to a loud knock on the window of my camper and opened my eyes to be blinded by a red headlamp. Beau. It was barely light outside, but we wanted to make sure we were the first ones in the tub. All night I wondered if I'd wake up to snow. I quickly remembered, threw on my long johns, and popped open the door. I had to shove it open because the door handles had frozen shut on the van. A few tries and it flew open. I popped out my head out and sure enough: snow. Beau was pretty pumped and had already been walking around checking it out. We gathered gear and headed for the hot spring. This trip made me take a vow that I would never go another winter without camping in the snow.

Summer Siesta

It came and it went. For the longest time I can remember, summer is a time of fun, rest, and preparation for the school year to come. As I approach the end of my adolescence, there comes a time when a chapter closes and a new one opens. In my case, this is my last 'summer' ever, as I head into my final year of my undergraduate education.

It came and it went. For the longest time I can remember, summer is a time of fun, rest, and preparation for the school year to come. As I approach the end of my adolescence, there comes a time when a chapter closes and a new one opens. In my case, this is my last 'summer' ever, as I head into my final year of my undergraduate education.

Summer came to an end almost a week ago exactly, and I've already been back to hitting the books. It's a daunting feeling, knowing the freedom of summer has escaped me, and for the next several months I understand I won't be spending much time in the outdoors. But that's okay. Seasons come, and seasons go. I'll have my day. Here's a few photos from some of my favorite moments of summer.

Summer came to an end almost a week ago exactly, and I've already been back to hitting the books. It's a daunting feeling, knowing the freedom of summer has escaped me, and for the next several months I understand I won't be spending much time in the outdoors. But that's okay. Seasons come, and seasons go. I'll have my day. Here's a few photos from some of my favorite moments of summer.

Ed waiting for the tide to drop.

Ed waiting for the tide to drop.

Cousin John, moments before a big fish hopped onto his life.

Cousin John, moments before a big fish hopped onto his life.

Wetsuit shuffle.

Wetsuit shuffle.

Driving through the mojave in the middle of summer, with no A/C...

Driving through the mojave in the middle of summer, with no A/C...

Avrie on the trail to Parker Lake, just outside of Lee Vining, CA.

Avrie on the trail to Parker Lake, just outside of Lee Vining, CA.

Moments at home with little sis.

Moments at home with little sis.

Morning cup.

Morning cup.

Wish me luck in my last year of college, as I attempt to get my life together...

Wish me luck in my last year of college, as I attempt to get my life together...

Reminiscence

Since about the age of 10, I have been an annual returnee at Silver Lake Resort. This majestic campground lies deep in the Eastern Sierra, specifically on the June Lake Loop. My great grandparents started camping here in their old four-wheel camper about 70 years ago. The love for the mountains was passed onto my grandmother, and then to her three girls, including my mother. The tradition has been alive ever since and has grown into a huge getaway for our entire family. I can't tell you the number of stories I have at this place: secret adventures with my cousins and uncle, losing bets and eating fried worms, staying up till the wee hours holding battle raps in the  cabmen,  swimming at the base of waterfalls, getting stuck on a peak due to golf ball-sized hail, chasing coons, catching fish, and, most importantly, expanding my love for the mountains and exploration. I believe this place has had a huge impact on who I am today.

Since about the age of 10, I have been an annual returnee at Silver Lake Resort. This majestic campground lies deep in the Eastern Sierra, specifically on the June Lake Loop. My great grandparents started camping here in their old four-wheel camper about 70 years ago. The love for the mountains was passed onto my grandmother, and then to her three girls, including my mother. The tradition has been alive ever since and has grown into a huge getaway for our entire family. I can't tell you the number of stories I have at this place: secret adventures with my cousins and uncle, losing bets and eating fried worms, staying up till the wee hours holding battle raps in the cabmen, swimming at the base of waterfalls, getting stuck on a peak due to golf ball-sized hail, chasing coons, catching fish, and, most importantly, expanding my love for the mountains and exploration. I believe this place has had a huge impact on who I am today.

This year's trip was a little different. A lot of my family had to stay behind at home and were not able to make the trip out. Receiving news that my cousin John would not be able to make it this year due to his ending adolescence and the acquisition of a corporate internship, I was devastated. For me, I still need to make the trip possible every summer. This year, I decided to bring my closest confidant, Avrie, and finally show her my old stomping grounds for the first time ever. We spent the week searching for level ground to sleep on, cooking delicious meals, skipping rocks until the stars came out, and to my greatest joy, showing her around my favorite place on earth. Sit tight, this post contains a lot of photos...

This year's trip was a little different. A lot of my family had to stay behind at home and were not able to make the trip out. Receiving news that my cousin John would not be able to make it this year due to his ending adolescence and the acquisition of a corporate internship, I was devastated. For me, I still need to make the trip possible every summer. This year, I decided to bring my closest confidant, Avrie, and finally show her my old stomping grounds for the first time ever. We spent the week searching for level ground to sleep on, cooking delicious meals, skipping rocks until the stars came out, and to my greatest joy, showing her around my favorite place on earth. Sit tight, this post contains a lot of photos...

Celebrating the 4th on our first day in the mountains. We hiked a nearby hill from our camp and watched the Bishop firework show all the way from Owens Valley.

Celebrating the 4th on our first day in the mountains. We hiked a nearby hill from our camp and watched the Bishop firework show all the way from Owens Valley.

Avrie learning why I'm not the biggest fan of shore fishing...

Avrie learning why I'm not the biggest fan of shore fishing...

Three out of the six nights of our stay we decided to return to this spot, one of our all-time favorites. We slept right beside this stream carving perfect shapes through the grass. 

Three out of the six nights of our stay we decided to return to this spot, one of our all-time favorites. We slept right beside this stream carving perfect shapes through the grass. 

Skipping rocks.

Skipping rocks.

A person I could always have the most fun with. My best friend.

A person I could always have the most fun with. My best friend.

Watching storm clouds roll in at 5:30 am. iPhone photo.

Watching storm clouds roll in at 5:30 am. iPhone photo.

Cruising through Yosemite National Park. 

Cruising through Yosemite National Park. 

Wake up.

Wake up.

I sure do love hot springs. Looks like Avrie does too.

I sure do love hot springs. Looks like Avrie does too.

Every trip I go on I gain more love and respect for my trusty old van. 

Every trip I go on I gain more love and respect for my trusty old van. 

Dawn patrol.

Dawn patrol.

Local wildlife.

Local wildlife.

Towards the middle of our trip, in between spotty cell service, we received a text from our good pals Riley and Rachel from back home. Avrie and I recently became close friends with this couple from our hometown and have shared some memorable trips and great laughs. These two are the kind of people you can instantly feel comfortable around and never want to part ways. They longed to get away from the southern California heat and traffic and asked to join us in the Sierras. We adjusted our plans for their arrival without hesitation.

Towards the middle of our trip, in between spotty cell service, we received a text from our good pals Riley and Rachel from back home. Avrie and I recently became close friends with this couple from our hometown and have shared some memorable trips and great laughs. These two are the kind of people you can instantly feel comfortable around and never want to part ways. They longed to get away from the southern California heat and traffic and asked to join us in the Sierras. We adjusted our plans for their arrival without hesitation.

Swimming in Yosemite Creek.

Swimming in Yosemite Creek.

Riley teaching me how to maintain a well-shaven face while in the mountains. I usually don't carry a razor.

Riley teaching me how to maintain a well-shaven face while in the mountains. I usually don't carry a razor.

Step 1: add water into pan for rinsing. 

Step 1: add water into pan for rinsing. 

Step 2: lather face with a tiny bit of leave-in conditioner when you don't have actual shaving cream. 

Step 2: lather face with a tiny bit of leave-in conditioner when you don't have actual shaving cream. 

Step 3: shave entire area that once had hair. But, of course, leave the stache. Voila.

Step 3: shave entire area that once had hair. But, of course, leave the stache. Voila.

Riley and Rachel's camp-ready Acura SUV. With a little help from her parents, Rachel built a bed frame and storage in the back of her SUV with room for two. An impressive build.

Riley and Rachel's camp-ready Acura SUV. With a little help from her parents, Rachel built a bed frame and storage in the back of her SUV with room for two. An impressive build.

Down time. 

Down time. 

Supplies.

Supplies.

Do you know about the upside-down house in Lee Vining?

Do you know about the upside-down house in Lee Vining?

Pitted.

Pitted.

Even though this years trip to the mountains was a little different than usual, I am still grateful for the company I was able to share it with. I got to take my girlfriend and two good friends to my favorite place on earth and show them why I admire this place so much. Being in this area once again always makes me reminisce of the good times shared with my cousins and family. I have a long family history of camping in the Eastern Sierras. I can't wake to be able to pass it on to my own someday.

Even though this years trip to the mountains was a little different than usual, I am still grateful for the company I was able to share it with. I got to take my girlfriend and two good friends to my favorite place on earth and show them why I admire this place so much. Being in this area once again always makes me reminisce of the good times shared with my cousins and family. I have a long family history of camping in the Eastern Sierras. I can't wake to be able to pass it on to my own someday.

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Instagram: @seanrcollier

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