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.
Heading north of US395 out of Bishop, you climb about 3,000 feet up the side of a volcano and end up in the Long Valley Caldera. This caldera is similar but smaller than the Yellowstone Caldera measuring about 20 miles east to west and 10 miles north to south. On the western edge is Mammoth Mountain which is both a ski resort and a lava dome. The Long Valley, like Yellowstone is home to active geothermal locations. The most stunning is the Hot Creek Geothermal Site. Hot Creek flows from the Mammoth area though the caldera to reach the Owens River to the east. At the Hot Creek Geothermal Site, the hot springs flow into Hot Creek, hence the name. These shots were taken on two separate visits to the geothermal site, a week apart with one in the late afternoon and one in the morning.
Just a reminder to folk to STAY ON THE TRAIL.
This is from my first, afternoon visit. The smoke from the fires to the southwest is cresting over the mountains to the west and the sun is to the right of the shot. I’ve done some depth based dehazing in Photoshop with this capture.
Pretty much the same shot from the same location a week later, the smoke has cleared and snow fell on the mountains two days before I headed back for a revisit.
Landscape shot of Hot Creek. The hot springs are at the center of the shot. The hill(not the one with snow) at the right is part of the resurgent lava dome that has been growing. Yes, this is an active super volcano.
The hot springs from my first visit, there are a number of hot springs throughout the caldera, many are developed and the temperature is regulated, these are not and have very dangerous variations in water temperature.
A shot of the springs from my second visit in the morning. Being that it was cooler, there is quite a bit more steam coming off the springs.
There is a trail that heads about a quarter mile down the creek with geothermal vents every few yards. You can see one of these vents emitting steam.
I love that first scenery shot. Glad you ignored the sign.
@Baud: Glad you like it, I did stay on the trail.
What a glorious landscape. Thank you for showing it to us!
Those are amazing. I feel like a stuck record because I say that every time, but theyare.
That first shot is glorious. I wish there was a lot more snow on the mountains. And an active super volcano? I didn’t need to learn that, Bill. Ignorance is bliss.
@JeanneT: Thanks much, I’ve got some more great shots coming up.
@sab: Glad you like them, I’m headed back up that way this afternoon.
@Mary G: We got the snow for the second shot. You get the geothermal activity from the magma chamber under the caldera.
Awesome landscape. Do you get a sulfurous smell from the water?
Wow. That shot with smoke in particular. I also appreciate how you discuss the image processing. Do you know any good sources that teach the basics to get started? Thank you again for sharing your work with us
Very impressive landscape. Are using the area to produce electricity?
@p.a.: Yeah, it smells a bit funky.
@Rusty: For Photoshop, there’s PixImperfect. Unmesh is a great teacher and his YouTube channel does things in little bites(it’s also free).
@Betty: A geothermal power plant was built near Mammoth in the 1970’s, I’m not sure if it’s still producing power. I heard that the locals had concerns about it having a negative impact on the geothermal features of the caldera.
Great shot, as always. The second shot is especially good. Nicely captured the light.
Just fun and proof that it is still good to be alive. I had no idea this existed…and so pristine.
Thanks, and the trip was written up well also.
“Violators will be cited”—or poached.
Great pics, as always. We missed that spot on both our trips up the Owens Valley. Gotta go again, I guess!
Many happy memories of the trip my family took back in `89 out that way. Thanks for the flashback.
I really liked that park because it was lots of cool things like Yellowstone, but w/out the massive crowds (and active forest fires)
We stopped there a few years ago and thought it was very cool. You probably know this already but there are a couple undeveloped hot springs in Bishop. If you take the road that leads to Lake Sabrina the other way (east from downtown) go a mile or two then just after the cattle-guard in the road turn onto a dirt road it leads to 3-4 swimming holes right near the river. We were lucky enough to get one mostly to ourselves when we went there.
I wallowed in that creek 40 years ago on my way from Portland to Prescott. Between Big Pine and Rt 95 my friend’s motorcycle throttle cable broke. In the 3 hours it took to mcgyver it not a single car passed. Good times.
Violators will be
Your oct 10th visit – wow! Gorgeous.
Snow? In southern California? I was told that was unpossible. :P
I love the pictures. I always like anything with snow capped peaks so I can’t pick a favourite.
J R in WV
Great photos of a spectacular place. Lava dome expanding, huh? Whocoulda guessed?!
Beautiful area, outstanding photos!
@?BillinGlendaleCA: Great photos and, I’m glad you stayed on the trail because there used to be a sign telling how many had died by going off the paved trail, falling into a hot pot, of which there used to be several. The smell was incredible but we never had the place to ourselves.
There used to be a changing room building at the top of the trail, and we soaked in the designated area several times, when we were staying at June Lake and were sore after a day of hiking. Always brought old sneakers to wear in the pool. There was a warning at that site to stay within the designated pool because there were leeches in the creek above and below it, and to be aware of the temperature of the water because it was constantly changing. People set out eggs to cook on the ledge at the far side, where little streams of boiling water trickled out of the rocks. The creek itself was cold, so it was a challenge to find exactly the right spot where the temp was just right.
More likely that violators will be parboiled.
@Yutsano: Yes snow, but this is the eastern Sierras on the other side from Yosemite, and not SoCal.
This is just a little snow in Southern California: https://flic.kr/p/5NKhge
When I was a teen a buddy’s dad lived in Mammoth and a few of us would visit summer and winter. I’ve sat in one of the hot springs a bit down the river from where your pictures were taken. When we used to go we’d stop on the side of the dirt road off 395 and there might be a couple of people in the water, or no one else for miles. The hot spots were very hot and the creek was very cold. One late night I thought I heard some one on the edge of the creek behind me and it was a cow standing there looking at the strangers in her river about 5 feet away. This was a shooting location in an early part of a John Wayne movie, the name of which escapes me. They build a bridge across the river below the hot springs which made it nicer so that we didn’t have to swim across the very cold creek/river to get to the hot spring. And of course you had to swim back before you could leave….
This is a very interesting area of CA, thanks for the beautiful pictures and the memories.
Nice shots, Bill, and a good explanation. Yes, this is the ‘other’ supervolcano in the west, the one that doesn’t get as much press. Fortunately the magma chamber is mostly solidified at the moment, but there sure is enough heat left over to create a lot of hot springs.
There was a bit of a disagreement here last time about whether this region is in “southern California”. I’d argue that the frame ‘southern California/northern California’ isn’t all that useful for understanding the state outside of comparing major urban areas. I’d call this region “eastern California”, because it has more in common with Nevada than with what people usually think of as northern or southern California.
@Interstadial: Did people actually argue that Yosemite is Southern California? I think you’re right, (except it’s much more beautiful than Nevada which is irrelevant to your point). Kind of like eastern Washington. We don’t have a north/south divide, we have an east/west divide with no “middle Washington”. Politically it has more in common with eastern Oregon to the south. we just visited eastern Washington and people there are nuts.
@Wag: Thanks, I had to do quite a bit of clean-up on the second shot due to the smoke. You could start to smell it in the air as I drove further north to Mono Lake.
@Traveller: I almost didn’t go there on this trip up there, but made it my second daylight shot when I returned a week later.
@Rand Careaga: Cited, and/or poached.
@Fair Economist: it’s a bit off the beaten path, you have to take a bit of dirt road to get there(I think I still have all my fillings).
@Pharniel: It is a bit like Yellowstone and you are correct, much less crowded. We did have the forest fire about 100 miles to the southwest.
@UncleEbeneezer: I spent the night up there after out night hike to Long Lake in July, but didn’t see the hot springs.
@Kevin Jenness: US-395 is pretty well traveled with folk from LA headed to Mammoth and parts north, most of the other roads are pretty lightly traveled even now.
@Gravenstone: Heh, that too!
@RaflW: After my first visit, I was planning on returning in the early Spring when there was still snow on the mountains, but I managed to get that shot on my second visit.
@Yutsano: We do get snow in the San Gabriels every year.
@J R in WV: It is an active volcano. The geology of the eastern Sierra and Owens Valley is pretty fascinating. Glad you like the shots.
@opiejeanne: They don’t let you near the river or in any of the pools at the geothermal site now. I did make sure I stayed on the trail and they still have that sign about the folk that didn’t.
@ETtheLibrarian: Makes them more tender for supper.
@Ruckus: They have fencing now below and above the geothermal site now and crossing the river is illegal now(see, cited and parboiled above). It is an interesting area and glad you liked the shots.
@Interstadial: I is not nearly as well known as Yellowstone and there are concerns about increased activity as there is at Yellowstone due to increased earthquake activity. While Eastern California might be more accurate, Hot Creek is actually west of Downtown Los Angeles.
@opiejeanne: As you know, we pretty much have a north/south divide as well as an east/west divide.
@opiejeanne: You’d be surprised by some of the Nevada mountain ranges off the beaten path. Try the Ruby Mountains or Great Basin National Park if you’re ever in the vicinity of those places.
@?BillinGlendaleCA: Reno is also west of Los Angeles! The coastline and the grain of the landscape from Cape Mendocino soutward are tilted with respect to longitude, so to speak.
@Yutsano: It’s not Southern California. Rather Eastern Sierra. East more or less of Yosemite & Kings Canyon. Kind of an Ansel Adams playground, and a water colony for LA — which is why it’s largely undeveloped. Also where about 250 movies were shot because it’s a day drive N from LA and amazing country. (wiki Alabama Hills)
@Interstadial: Bishop is due north of DTLA, Reno is west of Bishop.
@Tommy D: It’s the eastern Sierra, but we Southern Californians like to claim it as our own. We did steal the water fair and square. //
I’m headed to the Alabama Hills tonight, I should have been on the road a couple of hours ago.