White Mountains

White Mountains

John Louth

“To wake up after a cold night to the first light after a storm has broken can only be described as magical.”

 

We all have a romantic notion of being snowed-in to a cabin at one time or another.  Visions of deep snow and a sparkling sunrise with hot drink is something we all identify with, whether it’s a dream or in the case of a filmmaker, a necessity.  While filming background footage for the Bristlecone Pine documentary, now shown at the Schulman Grove Visitor Center, I was faced with the choice of hunkering down in the cold, closed for the season visitor center or trying to ski to the site to time the end of a passing snowstorm. Skiing up a stormy, closed road alone in the dark of night was not particularly inviting, so I chose the “get there before the storm ends and wait till it passes” route.

It’s easy now to say that was the best choice. To wake up after a cold night to the first light after a storm has broken can only be described as magical. For background or “B-roll” footage the sparkling snow still heavy on tree limbs was a sight difficult to share. As the sun rose, the few degrees of warming was enough to start the “unloading” process of the limbs shedding their powdery mantle. Cascading and tumbling down through the branches of the ancient trees that have seen tens of thousands of winter storms, the gleaming snow was hard to capture through a lens. But, as they say, someone had to do it!

The White Mountains are a wonder. The westernmost range in the Great Basin, “the Whites” are a part of a long but very distinct range extending from Lone Pine to the Montgomery Pass area in Nevada.  They are only split into the “Inyos” and “Whites” at Westgard Pass (a low spot in the range) for geographic convenience and naming purposes. The entire range holds the greatest concentration of Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva) and is honored to have the world’s oldest living tree, the Methuselah, deep in the canyons north east of Schulman Grove.  

The entirety of the range is held in public trust as National Forest and Bureau of Land Managed land.  Although scissored by roads there are some wonderfully remote and rugged locations. Hiking, remote camping, geology study and backroads jeep adventures are but a few of the pleasures that await those that want to explore. About the only thing missing is swimming, there are no natural lakes in either the Whites or the Inyos; a few stock ponds and irrigation impoundments are it! The west side of the Whites present a unique climatological oddity: a double rain shadow. The Whites are screened out of moisture coming from the west by the Sierra Range and again on the west-facing slopes from monsoon storms that come from the east/southeast. 

Friends of the Inyo have participated in many stewardship projects in the Whites.  From assisting four-wheel drive clubs in brushing out legal, open roads to trail reconstruction FOI has been involved in Stewardship projects to help resource management agencies suffering from budget malaise. FOI stands ready, willing and able to continue these projects and looks forward to engaging other groups in helping to protect and make responsibly accessible to visitors the wide open vistas, meadows and mountain tops of the Inyo/White Range.

 

*Photos courtesy, from top to bottom: Ben Wickham, Drew Foster, John Dittli, Laura Beardsley, Friends of the Inyo Stewardship Crew 2016.