Words and photos by Laurel Dailey
Visiting the Sierra in winter is a study in patience and preparation.
Sections of the road are open and dry, with only the mountains cloaked in snow to indicate winter’s true conditions. But other times, that snow marches right down the mountain, clambering up to the windows of our car as it inches through a canyon formed by ice.
Sometimes, the skies are blue, wide open, and optimistic. Other times, the clouds close in, pressing closer and closer to the ground until blurring into the horizon.
We might spend a good portion of the crawling drive reciting the Lord’s Prayer while ice forms on the windshield. We make it through, though, out of the pass and into the Round Valley, where we take a random turnout onto a random road just grateful to be able to see again.
Other pre-dawn adventures are frigid—waiting for the sun to light up the Sierra, wind slicing straight to the bone.
And even then, only the faintest blush of alpenglow blooms on those mountains, the ones closest to us, as their towering brethren wait behind a murky cloud cover.
The best early morning adventures occur in the steam of the hot springs. 140 degree water at its source, it flows (and cools) on its serpentine path till it meets several campsites and tiled or redwood tubs at a perfect 100-ish degrees. They say it’s some of the purest water in the world, and who am I to argue?
Laurel Dailey is a Long Beach-based photographer. You can typically find her with 75 different tabs open in Chrome, plotting her next adventure. To wit, you can read more at getouttadodge.us or on Instagram.