summit of the sierras


Fall colors at California’s Conway Summit

Take in the views from Conway Summit Area of Critical Environmental Concern, a destination for aspen viewers in the fall as the trees turn brilliant shades of yellow and orange against the backdrop of the Sierra.

Conway Summit is a mountain pass in Mono County, California. It offers spectacular views of Mono Lake and the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The summit is traversed by U.S. Highway 395, which connects Bridgeport and the East Walker River on the north side of the pass to Mono Lake and Lee Vining to the south. It marks the highest point on U.S. 395.

Conway Summit was named after John Andrew Conway, a settler in the area in 1880. Geographically, it was formed from an upland plateau by the sinking of the land in the Mono basin area. The Sawtooth Ridge of the eastern Sierra Nevada, topped by 12,279 foot Matterhorn Peak, rises to the west of the pass; Green Creek and Virginia Lakes, in the Sierra Nevada to the west of the pass, are two local destinations for fishing, camping and aspen trees. The Bodie Hills and the infamous Bodie ghost town lie to the east.

Photos by Bob Wick, BLM.


Milky Way Over Mono Lake From Bodie Hills by Jeff Sullivan


Day 52
Mile 702.2

We woke up excited to reach Kennedy Meadows. Kennedy Meadows is a traditional stop along the PCT. It’s kind of the official end of the desert and beginning of there Sierra Nevadas. It’s also where you have to send a bear canister to store your food in (as per regulation in the national parks), an ice axe, and some kind of traction devices. We woke up early to make it there, and we passed Jackie and Mike along the way. They camped near a river and went swimming the previous day. That big flowing river was a welcomed sight after 700 miles in the desert where our water sources mainly were slowly dripping springs.

We crossed the 700 mile mark and continued on into Kennedy Meadows. The landscape changed completely once we got to the river. We walked through a green meadow of sage bushes and peered into the distance to see the snow capped peaks we will be crossing in the next few weeks. We reached the road and walked 3/4s mile to the driveway of the general store and were greeted with clapping and cheering (this is tradition to clap for those entering Kennedy Meadows), and we felt quite triumphant.

We met back up with our friend Wang we met on our second day hiking! It was so good to see her again. Soon after, Jackie and Mike arrived and we cheered for them. We went to breakfast at a place called “Grumpy Bear’s” down the road and texted our families using their shoddy wifi. Cell service and Internet is a rarity near these parts, so updating blogs and calling home is not always easy. Also I forgot to mention in a post a few days ago that we now have trail names. Nate has been carrying his camera by hanging the brain of his backpack on his chest, so he got the trail name “The Brain” and naturally, I was named “Pinky”. So we are henceforth known as Pinky and the Brain. The restaurant had a tiny dog running around named Pinky that I totally fell in love with.

We went back to Kennedy Meadows and got our giant box filled with food and tons of new gear. Nate’s mom also snuck some homemade cookies in the box which we gladly partook of and shared with friends. We weren’t sure how all the gear and food was going to fit in our packs. I got a shower and we washed our socks in a bucket. I knew this would be the last chance for a shower for a good, long while.

We have seven days of food to get us to Independence. In this stretch we will enter the Sierras, summit Mount Whitney, and go over Forester Pass which is the highest and possibly sketchiest point on the PCT. There’s not really any easing into this! We’re really excited.