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Travel Advisory Update: Eastern Sierra, Owens Valley, Mono Lake, Mammoth Lakes Awful for Photography

I reported 2 few days ago on smoke in the Eastern Sierra Nevada region, which is coming from the terrifying Sonoma fires.

There was one nice idyllic day two days ago in eastern Yosemite: no smoke and instantly-evaporating jet contrails (further south not as nice).

Yesterday was poor and today is worse for horrible for photography, with some kind of thermal inversion causing layered smoke at high altitude. Adding insult to injury, yesterday the conditions changed so that every jet in this extremely busy route leaves a contrail that expands to huge size.

I drove up to Crowley Lake early this morning, and the view towards Mammoth is just as bad, maybe worse. I don’t know how eastern Yosemite is faring today. I will probably head that way tomorrow, hoping for a change—and Thursday might bring light snow.

Smoke layers near Bishop, CA
f2.8 @ 1/10600 sec, ISO 20; 2017-10-16 09:36:23
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back camera 6.6mm f/2.8 @ 57mm (6.6mm)

[low-res image for bot]
Sky covered with contrails from airplanes
f1.8 @ 1/3200 sec, ISO 20; 2017-10-16 09:44:05
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back camera 3.99mm f/1.8 @ 28mm (4mm)

[low-res image for bot]

James G writes:

I just got back to SLO from the Eastern Sierras late last night and you are right on about the air quality. When I went in over Tioga Pass on Thursday 10/12 the air quality on the western side of Yosemite was horrible. Coming in to Yosemite Valley via Tunnel View you could barely even see Half Dome. I had assumed the smoke was from the big fires in the park just south of Glacier Point Road. Friday though, the air in the Saddlebag/Lee Vining Canyon/Lundy Canyon area was clear and this held through all of Saturday as well. A great opportunity for photography though I had hoped for some nasty weather, which always makes things interesting.

Sunday morning was a different story. I could tell at first light that the winds had shifted as there was definite haze even at altitude in Rock Canyon. Driving down toward Bishop You could see the smoke pouring out of gaps in the mountains (Pine Creek and Bishop Creek) and layering over the alluvial plain below Mt. Tom. Bishop had the worst air quality I’ve ever seen there. I ended up cutting my trip short a day because of the bad air quality (and having left my L-bracket at home). On the drive back home Onion Valley wasn’t so bad but the smoke was pouring over and around Mt. Whitney and Whitney Portal sucked. I pity the climbers who were planning to climb and summit today. Here is a pic my son sent me of the air quality in the east bay (Oakland) on Friday. As bad as the Eastern Sierras were, I was grateful to be there and not in the bay area.

Sorry about your pack rat. At least he/she was confined hopefully to the engine compartment. I remember as a small child mice in the wilds of the Montana Rockies chewing in to my dad’s army surplus sleeping bags to get at the feathers. You may end up having to gas it, though that leaves you with another problem :)

DIGLLOYD: Saturday was a joyously idyllic day. I’m hoping for several of those later this week.

Yes, smoke can be seen pouring down some canyons like Pine Creek. Conditions are highly variable, depending on the vagaries of the wind.

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