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Big Virginia Lake

Leaf Peeping on the East Side: Tioga Pass Area, Green Creek, Virginia Lakes

What do you do to celebrate the first day of Fall? Head to the east side of the Sierra to check out the early fall color at the higher elevations. We didn’t know what we would find but hoped we would find some Aspens turning their pretty fall colors.

Distance: About 300 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation Range: 7,200′ to 9,000′
Date: September 23, 2015

Driving east over Tioga Rd., we made a stop where the 9,000′ elevation sign is just east of Ellery Lake. There is a wide spot here where we parked and walked down the old road, seeing some color.

Tioga Pass Yellow Aspens

Tioga Pass Yellow Aspens

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Start of Fall Color, Looking Toward Tioga Pass

After this walk that stretched our legs and our enthusiasm about the amount of color that we were seeing this early, we continued east to Hwy 395, then north, past Conway Summit. We noted the shape of the fall color of the aspens along the way.

We turned left on Green Creek Rd., heading up the gravel, sometimes washboard road, to Dynamo Pond.

Dynamo Pond

Dynamo Pond

Dynamo Pond Reflections

Dynamo Pond Reflections

Dynamo Pond

Dynamo Pond

Suzette and Rosemary Working Their Way Along Dynamo Pond

Suzette and Rosemary Working Their Way Along Dynamo Pond

Dynamo Pond

Dynamo Pond

Did you know that this is the site of the first hydro-electrical generating plant in the United States? 13 miles away from Bodie, back around 1890 the town was using a tremendous amount of wood to produce the steam for the mines, in addition to the homes and businesses. The Chinese provided this by the “mule load” until the Bodie-Benton Railroad was completed to transport heavy loads of lumber and firewood.

Tom Legett, the Superintendent of the Standard Mine, trying to find ways to reduce the $22,000 costs related to cordwood, was confident that “free” electricity could power the mine. He convinced stockholders to invest in the idea and the Standard Mining Company bought up the land they needed to capture the flow from Green Creek, with the construction of the plant completed in 1892. Green Creek already had a ditch that had been constructed for mining, long abandoned though.

When the power line was surveyed, the surveyors were instructed to make sure it was absolutely straight and had no angles or curves because there was the fear that the power might “jump off into space.” The Standard Mill was shut down and equipped with agitators, motors, generators and everything needed to change from steam to electricity. It worked! Last fall, I wrote extensively on the history of this area and you can read more about it here.

We headed up the road, stopping along the way when we saw some nice color.

Fall Color Views Along Green Creek Road

Fall Color Views Along Green Creek Road

Fall Color Along Green Creek Road

Fall Color Along Green Creek Road

We continued up the lower portion of the beaver ponds, found a good spot to park where we could have our picnic lunch and walk around to get photos.

Lunch Spot

Lunch Spot

Beaver Ponds off of Green Creek Road.

Beaver Ponds off of Green Creek Road.

Those beaver ponds were drop dead gorgeous. The golden grasses lit up in the sun. We saw beautiful reflections in the water and the mountains that surrounded them had spots where it looked like a river of yellow aspens drew a line down the mountain.

BeaverDam off of Green Creek Road.

BeaverDam off of Green Creek Road.

Beaver Ponds off of Green Creek Road.

Beaver Ponds off of Green Creek Road.

It was time to move up the road but we only made it a while till the scenery begged us to take this picture of a beaver dam in the upper end of meadow.

Beaver Dam on Green Creek

Beaver Dam on Green Creek

Upper End of the Beaver Ponds

Upper End of the Beaver Ponds

We drove all the way to the end of the road where the Trailhead to Green Lake begins, then headed back down the road. The afternoon light on the trees on the way down caught our eye and we made several photography stops along the way.

Color Along Green Creek Road

Color Along Green Creek Road

Winding Dirt Road Through Yellow Aspens

Winding Dirt Road Through Yellow Aspens

How could we resist the opportunity to take some groups shots with those beautiful yellow aspens as a backdrop?

Group in front aspens Gail r

Group in front aspens

Great Spot for a Group Portrait (Photo by Rosemary Gregory)

Great Spot for a Group Portrait (Photo by Rosemary Gregory)

We headed south on Hwy 395, turning off on Virginia Lakes Rd. Our first stop was Trumbull Lake and what beautiful reflections!

Trumbull Lake (Photo by Rosemary Gregory)

Trumbull Lake (Photo by Rosemary Gregory)

Trumbull Lake

Trumbull Lake

Our next stop was Big Virginia Lake.

Big Virginia Lake

Big Virginia Lake

Fishing on Little Virginia Lake

What a Catch!!

What a Catch!!

There were quite a few people fishing. Some were on the shore and some were in float rafts. Look at this huge fish this fisherman landed. That is huge!

Our last stop was Little Virginia Lake. So pretty!

Little Valley Lake

Little Virginia Lake

As we headed back down the road with that afternoon sun at our backs, it started lighting up the color on the aspens on the way down. The butterflies were mighty busy working the flowers.

Yellow Aspens along Virginia Lakes Road.

Yellow Aspens along Virginia Lakes Road.

Aspens in the Process of Turning Color along Virginia Lakes Road.

Aspens in the Process of Turning Color along Virginia Lakes Road.

Yellow Aspens along Virginia Lakes Road.

Yellow Aspens along Virginia Lakes Road.

Butterfly and Flower

Butterfly and FlowerThere were other pretty color to capture.

Heading back down Hwy 395, we stopped at Conway Summit, 8,123’ elevation, with that unbelievable backdrop of Mono Lake behind us. We met some nice people visiting from Tennessee that took our picture for us. We returned the favor, taking one of them.

Conway Summit View of Mono Lake

Conway Summit View of Mono Lake

It was a most excellent adventure! We look forward to exploring more color on the east side very soon!

Prior Blogs in the Area:

Hiking With Sally and Raven to Green Creek October 13 2014

Leaf Peeping Along the Eastern Sierra October 3, 2014

Leak Peeping in Lundy Canyon October 5, 2013

Sources:

California Fall Color Eastern Sierra

Mono County Fall Colors

 

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