Mount Whitney Portal

When we drove away out of the Alabama Hills we decided to turn right to head up Whitney Portal Road instead of down back in to Lone Pine right away. Our first stop was at the garbage bins at the entrance to the Lone Pine Campground so we could divest ourselves of that horribly stinky, scratchy bag of crap and sharp rusty things. The BLM website says it is closed for the season but the gate is open and inside it is seemingly full of campers and some obvious day hikers. We drive the loop and take a look and put it on our list of possible spots for next time and then head back out to Whitney Portal Road and up.

Almost immediately a little “something” that looks like an A-frame cabin meant for a cat catches our eye on the side of the road so we pull off and see what it is.

Roadside memorial for two Marines killed in a bus accident
A nice spot for a memorial. More info is on the other side.

Sadly it is a memorial for two young United States Marines who lost their lives in a bus accident here on July 1st, 1987. We spend a moment to pay our respects and then walk back to the Tacoma to continue up the mountain.This is the article I found about the incident:

Taken from bouncing truck so...sorry for the quality
Taken from bouncing truck so…sorry for the quality

I specifically looked for a Tacoma with a V6 so as not to bog down too badly on steep terrain but right now we are loaded down with an extra thousand pounds of shell and gear and so the narrow, steep switchbacks are causing us slow going in 2nd and 3rd gears. I want a TRD Supercharger 😉 It’s a little before noon and the sun is out in full force painting the eastern side of the Whitney Range and the access road. It’s bright and 65 degrees F on the way up but around the final switchback the shadow shrouded entrance into the Whitney Portal Campground and the Portal itself greets us and the temp plummets. Behold the glory that is the Mt. Whitney Range.

shadow shrouded entrance to the Whitney Portal Campground area
Shadows greet us near the Whitney Portal Campground entrance

The Whitney Portal Campground is closed for the season. Apparently no one in power understands the beauty of winter camping in the snow. What a shame. We drive past the gated campground entrance and into the parking area at the Whitney Portal itself. Five minutes ago it was 65 and sunny. Now it is in the low 40’s, at best, and shadows abound.

snow on the ground at Whitney Portal
Snow crunching under the tire treads

We drive around the loop and park to have a look about. Several other cars are here but no one else is around.

My Tacoma looking all magnificent and shit parked at the Whitney Portal in the snow.
Gosh darn good looking truck in one of her elements

Willow gets out and immediately begins freaking out happily about the snow on the ground. Running back and forth and doing circles only to stop and take a bit of snow and then another and another. For a desert dog she sure is a freakshow around snow.

My dog looking magnificent beside the sign at the beginning of the trail up Mount Whitney
Damn, she is good looking!

We walk over to the stream (actually Lone Pine Creek) bisecting the parking lot and Willow immediately jumps in. Big mistake. You can see her eyes widen in shock at the near-freezing water and she is out and shaking off in seconds. Silly girl. I carefully step across some rocks and logs to get to the other side of the stream and she eventually follows after a long debate about whether its worth just splashing across that frigid water…it is not. We walked down to the entrance to the campground and see the trail to Meysan Lake. If we were not on a schedule and if I was not leery about leaving the Tacoma in the parking lot with half of my life in it for a couple of days we would have easily gotten our packs out and trekked in that direction. Add another destination to our “Next Time” list.

We both carefully cross the creek back to the side of the parking lot the Tacoma is on, load up and head back down the mountain. Right past the part of the road where it turned shady on the way up we pull to the side of the road to take a quick picture back down at the Alabama Hills area still bathed in the mid-day sun.

picture taken from Whitney Portal Road looking back down the mountain to the Alabama hills area
The drop off just ahead is straight down

When we get back down off the mountain and into downtown Lone Pine we head north on 395 and begin the next leg of our adventure.

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