On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions.
From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
In June of last year in my post on these pages of the Palisades, commenter BishopBag recommended that I should shoot in Little Lakes Valley northwest of Bishop. I looked at the location and thought it would be a good site for a Milky Way shot with the stars reflected in one of the lakes, Long Lake being the best candidate. Unfortunately, the California wildfires of late summer and early fall made the trip impossible last year. UncleEbeneezer brought us photos from Little Lakes Valley last November.
I made the journey up to Little Lakes Valley earlier this month with several other photographers from the local photography Facebook page. The goal was to photograph the Milky Way in it’s vertical position, reflected in Long Lake. While getting that shot was a failure due to increasing cloud cover drifting in from the south and a slight breeze disturbing the reflection, I did get a couple of photos of the Milky Way as it swept across the southern skies of Long Lake. The hike to Long Lake was a reward in and of itself, with a number of lakes along the way with some amazing views.
Before you reach Heart Lake, you pass Mack Lake(which is barley visible from the trail) and Marsh Lake(which is more of a marsh). Heart Lake has a easily approachable shoreline and was great for shots of the mountain peaks just poking up over the trees lining the lake.
The trees surrounding Heart Lake make for a good subject for an infrared photo in this case using the IRChrome filter.
About a 1/4 mile from Heart Lake the trail passes above Box Lake, this time with a better view of the mountain peaks to the south.
Portrait shot of Box Lake.
Infrared panorama of Box Lake.
A bit over another quarter mile down the trail, we arrived at Long Lake. We crossed Rock Creek on some logs at the northern side of Long Lake and set up our cameras for shots of the Milky Way. This shot was taken as the last rays of the sun were reflecting off the tops of the peaks south of the lake.
As the light of the sun faded into darkness, we began to see the Milky Way’s galactic core rise over the mountains to the southeast. This was shot just after the end astronomical twilight as a test shot.
With the clouds beginning to increase, I started my primary shots a bit early. After a few shots, the clouds began to cover the galactic core and a breeze began blowing across Long Lake disturbing it’s mirror like surface.
Oh, I’d like to go camping there. It’s peaceful.
The last picture is so peaceful, but all the photos are beautiful.
Awesome as always Bill. Love the infrared shots, reminds me of fall. I’m always yearning for the first frost from the beginning of July.
Thank you for your well crafted pictures. I hope you and yours hove done OK since the loss of your beloved pups.
Pretty spectacular work.
One of the best little hikes in the Sierra. Lovely pix!
@UncleEbeneezer: Yes it is. And if you continue up to Mono Pass it is perhaps the quickest, easiest way to get to high elevation in the Sierra.
Wow. Wow. Wow. Just gorgeous.
It’s wonderful to be reminded how lucky we are to live on such a beautiful planet.
Incredibly gorgeous shots!
The Milky Ways are simply celestial!
Of course I had to look at a map. Those lakes have very aptly expressive names, which must have come from flying over them? Looks like a great place to walk.
Amazing photos, as per usual Bill, but that last one is just amazing.
I finally googled Long Lake and it wasn’t at all where I thought you were. It’s all the way above Lake Tahoe, and then some. I’m not familiar with the eastern Sierras that far north; we never explored very much north of Lee Vining. Little Lakes Valley, otoh, is about where I thought it was. We also never explored that area, because June Lake was our base.
Thank you for making the trip and sharing with us.
@Baud: Lots of good places to camp there, it’s really quite nice.
@JPL: Thanks, we’re thinking of a return trip already.
@satby: Thanks, the road up there is actually a good location for fall colors. I wanted to head up there last year for that as well, but fall colors don’t look great with brown skies. Maybe this fall or next…
@Geminid: Glad you like them. It’s been a very rough ride since Nikki passed.
@Van Buren: Thanks, it’s a great location.
@UncleEbeneezer: It is a really good hike, we flatlanders were still huffing and puffing.
@lashonharangue: We saw the trail off to Mono Pass, this hike was enough for us.
@arrieve: Thanks, the eastern Sierra is really a special place.
@Dagaetch: Thanks much.
@SkyBluePink: Thanks, I was a bit disappointed I didn’t get the shot I wanted, but I was happy to get those. We’ll try again soon, it’s the perfect location.
@HinTN: You can get a good view of the lakes from hiking up to Mono Pass(from the photos I’ve seen).
@opiejeanne: Thanks, if the weather had held out for just another 1/2 hour to hour, I’d gotten the money shot. Maybe next time. There are a number of Long Lakes in California and several in the eastern Sierra(one is about 15 miles away near South Lake west of Bishop). This caused a bit of confusion when we were planning the trip.
Mary Ellen Sandahl
All of those shots are wonderful and evocative. I’ve never been in the wild parts of the West, but even so, these pics remind me of camping trips to the eastern Canadian Provincial Parks. Just the wildness of it, and man barely intruding. And the skies, wow!
From the celestial to the earthly: are those fireflies in the after-dark lake pics?
Sorry about your grieving for Nikki. I hope these photo trips help you to work through to the less painful side. Like so many of us, I know that feeling too well.
@Mary Ellen Sandahl: Thanks, the eastern Sierra is really pretty, rising 8 to 10 thousand feet over the Owens Valley. We don’t have fireflies out here in California, the light in the lake are the stars being reflected off the still waters of the lake. Thank you for your kind words about my girls passing, the photo trips help a bit, but my finances are make them difficult.
@opiejeanne: There are unfortunately many “Long Lakes” in the Sierra. This one is in a valley accessed from Hwy. 395 from a hamlet known as Tom’s Place, between Bishop and Mammoth. Look for that to confirm you are in the right spot.
@Dmbeaster: Yup, when I suggested this trip on the local photography group FB page, one member(also the founder/former admin) said it was an 1800′ climb from the trailhead to Long Lake…wrong Long Lake*.
*This would be the hike from South Lake(southwest of Bishop) to a Long Lake close to there.
Great pics, as always.
@JustRuss: Thanks much.
J R in WV
As usual, great work in the mountains. I can tell you were really way up in elevation, as the tree line is just above the lakes, so 10K-12K feet I would guess. Do you know the actual elevation of the lakes?
Thanks for sharing these photos with is, stunning mountain views, beautiful scenery, the final shot is frabjously wonderful~!!~
@J R in WV: Thanks, the trailhead is at about 10,250, I think Long is about 10,500 so it’s about a 2.5 mile hike and 250′ elevation change. So you’re about right just from judging the treeline. That’s the really nice thing about this hike, you actually drive to gain most of the elevation rather than hike, and the scenery is amazing.
Power outage put a big hole in my day, but back online now and loving these pics, BillinGlendaleCA! Especially that last one with both earthly and galactic clouds.
@stinger: Thanks, I was kinda bummed about the earthly clouds.