Today was a driving day. I left the Mammoth Lakes area (happily; it was nutty with tourists there!) and took my time coming down to Lone Pine, just east of Mount Whitney. I was looking forward to hiking to view the highest point in the contiguous United States then driving through Death Valley to the lowest point, but that wasn’t to be. Wildfires in the area filled the skies with smoke as I drove south, and the road to the Whitney Portal was closed to everyone but firefighters.
The air was hot and dry, and by evening, it held steady at 95 without so much as a breeze (I feel sorry for the fire crews!!). Ick.
The first campground I tried was smoky. The second was a wide open space without so much as a tree for shade. The third option was perfect; I could nestle in between hills of rocks for a backcountry camping experience all my own…but I wasn’t sure it was legal and I worried about the winds shifting direction and the fire coming my way. Alone and without cell service, I’d have no warning, and that scared me. The next campground was empty and offered little in the way of “amenities” outside of a couple pit toilets and a spigot of running water. Still, the cost was $16 a night, and it didn’t feel right, especially since I was apparently the only camper (so the safety factor didn’t seem much higher).
My indecision doesn’t often serve me well. It’s usually a great big waste of time and a drain of energy. Tonight wasn’t much different until…
I spotted a guy walking his dog across the way and asked him where he was staying. He told me of a spot 20 miles up in the hills where rain had just come through and cooled the air. That sounded worth the drive!
It was a long winding mountain road, as many of my routes are, and it took me most of an hour to get there, but the temperature dropped all the way up the hill, and it was a glorious 65 by the time I reached the campground. The place was teeming with legit backcountry campers, most of whom were backpacking the John Muir Wilderness or through-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I was out of my league (and I felt like I was sleeping in a penthouse atop my car!)…but for $6 a night, I was all in. And glad for having taken my time in finding just the right spot (this time).