The Sierra Nevada Mountains in West Nevada and California, act as backdrop to Kings Canyon, Lassen Volcanic, Sequoia, and Yosemite National Parks. Few visitors climb them, even fewer stop to wonder what lies on the far side of their oft-snow-capped peaks. If they did, they might discover something as different as the far side of the moon.
Sierra Nevada, meaning ‘Snowy Range’ in Spanish traverses 600 kilometres from south to north, with a footprint 100 kilometres wide. At Mount Whitney, it reaches a 4,400-meter altitude, making it the highest spot on the U.S. mainland. Mighty glaciers carved the Yosemite Valley out of granite far below.
Sierra Nevada Mount Whitney in September
The geothermal activity that erupted the Sierra Mountain chain to life continues unabated on the eastern side in places like Hot Creek. This flows out from snow melt where it is seldom warmer than 50 °F (10 °C). As it continues on its journey it merges with warmer water up to 68 °F (20 °C).
When it reaches Hot Creek Gorge, numerous hot springs raise it to a comfortable swimming temperature. Some of these erupt suddenly as very hot spurts two meters high. You may know it from Steve McQueen’s movie Nevada Smith. Seek advice from the Inyo National Forest authorities before visiting.
Sierra Nevada Hot Creek in Summer
Bodie Litter from the Past
Some 20 miles away abandoned Bodie has a cooler take on life in Bodie State Historic Park. There were once 8,500 people living here in wooden shacks and hoping to get rich on gold and silver in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Ten years later, in 1886, the industry collapsed. People drifted off in search of other fortunes. By 1900 the last had left leaving their meagre possessions behind them.
The wooden shacks and rusting mine heads survived due to the rarefied atmosphere far away from the corrosive oceans. Conservation efforts are best described as ‘arrested decay’ while California agencies squabble over scarce resources. Perhaps it is better that way. To be able to wander freely, peer through open doorways, and hear murmurings from the past. Speak to us about local accommodation.