Author Topic: Coyote Flat - August, 2020 (photos)  (Read 424 times)

JFanaselle

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Coyote Flat - August, 2020 (photos)
« on: August 12, 2020, 10:42:28 AM »
Here are my photos from the SCCX trip to Coyote Flat over this past weekend (thread for the trip is here: https://www.sccxterra.com/smf/index.php?topic=5082.0 ). Coyote Flat is located at 10,000 feet in elevation in the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountain range, south of Bishop. From the trailhead, the road climbs about 5,000 feet in just a few miles as you traverse several switchbacks up the grade. It's bumpy and has a few small obstacles, which makes for a gnarly drive, especially for those towing trailers. The payoff at the top is totally worth it! The flat area is gorgeous, with several trails that brand off of the main road. With some of those trails reaching nearly 11,500 feet in elevation, this area is actually the highest point that you can operate a vehicle within the Sierras.

After grabbing lunch and fueling up in Bishop, we all met up at the trailhead just after 2:00 pm and aired down. We spent just over 2 hours climbing the road and getting to the campsite, which included two stops to change flat tires. The rocky/bumpy road was not kind to the tires on Sage Bromax's trailer, and he was forced to run them at full tire pressure after going through both of his spares. After cresting the summit, the road drops into a little canyon and runs along Coyote Creek for a while. After that, you enter the actual "flat," which is like a giant open prairie way up in the mountains.

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JFanaselle

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Re: Coyote Flat - August, 2020 (photos)
« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2020, 10:42:42 AM »
I failed to take photos of the actual campsite, which was pretty epic. We were in a tree-covered area next to a small dry lake bed. There were several pristine campsites spread among the trees, and we barely even noticed another large group of people camped opposite of us on the other side of the lake bed (about 1,000 feet away). We set up camp and took it easy on that first night. As Sage Bromax mentioned in the Xcursion thread, the altitude was really taking a toll on most of us. I think it was Jayrat who informed us that at that elevation, you're only taking in about 70% of your typical amount of oxygen with each breath. Completing a task as simple as pulling a few boxes from your vehicle and carrying them to your campsite would leave you out of breath and needing a few minutes of rest. With a wood campfire ban in place for the Inyo National Forest, CAWoody set up a propane fire pit, and everyone spent the evening relaxing.

We awoke the next morning to several deer wandering around the camp area. Several of us decided to do some exploring. Andrew Bromax decided to take his 4Runner down to Baker Creek, while myself, Jayrat, Steve C, and FB in SD all decided to head toward Coyote Lake. CA Woody and his wife were dealing with pretty significant altitude sickness, and decided to stay back at camp, along with Sage Bromax, who was just looking forward to relaxing after the drive up the evening prior.

We headed back across the flats and then south toward Coyote Lake. The flat area is so beautiful, with streams of water flowing along the roads, and cattle grazing on the natural grasses. The views are unlike anything we ever see here around So Cal.

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« Last Edit: August 12, 2020, 10:54:45 AM by JFanaselle »

JFanaselle

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Re: Coyote Flat - August, 2020 (photos)
« Reply #2 on: August 12, 2020, 10:42:49 AM »
The "lake" was really more of a small pond, and was mostly dried up. The lakes in this area are all fed by snow runoff, so their levels vary drastically depending on how much snow the area received, how late in the season the snow fell, and how warm it got once the snow season was over. Steve C said that when he was up here a few years earlier, the lake was significantly larger (over Labor Day weekend).

We took some photos near the lake and then headed further south along a different trail. That trail traveled through a huge open valley that still had snow lining the ridges. Once we reached the top of the ridge, the view to the south was UNBELIEVABLE! We were at an elevation of about 11,500 feet, looking out toward Mt. Whitney and the valleys below. We had a beautiful view of a lake known as South Lake. There was no wind at all up on the ridge, and the temperature was in the mid 70s. It really couldn't have been more perfect.

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« Last Edit: August 12, 2020, 11:01:02 AM by JFanaselle »

JFanaselle

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Re: Coyote Flat - August, 2020 (photos)
« Reply #3 on: August 12, 2020, 10:42:57 AM »
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« Last Edit: August 12, 2020, 11:08:07 AM by JFanaselle »

JFanaselle

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Re: Coyote Flat - August, 2020 (photos)
« Reply #4 on: August 12, 2020, 10:43:05 AM »
After grabbing some photos and enjoying the view, we crested the summit and continued moving south for a while until the road came to an end, overlooking South Lake below.

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« Last Edit: August 12, 2020, 11:10:43 AM by JFanaselle »

JFanaselle

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Re: Coyote Flat - August, 2020 (photos)
« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2020, 11:08:27 AM »
We headed back to camp and enjoyed the evening. We made dinner and enjoyed a few drinks around the propane fire pit. I couldn't resist the urge to get some shots of the beautiful sunset, and I also snapped a few photos of the Milky Way over the horizon once it was dark. As the evening went on, we agreed that we had accomplished our mission to thoroughly enjoy ourselves and relax, and we collectively decided to break camp and depart on Sunday morning instead of the original Monday plan.

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« Last Edit: August 12, 2020, 11:16:59 AM by JFanaselle »

JFanaselle

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Re: Coyote Flat - August, 2020 (photos)
« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2020, 11:11:06 AM »
The drive back down the mountain on Sunday morning was less eventful than the drive up on Friday. No flat tires, and with gravity working with you instead of against you, we made it down the mountain in just over an hour.

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« Last Edit: August 12, 2020, 11:19:37 AM by JFanaselle »

JFanaselle

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Re: Coyote Flat - August, 2020 (photos)
« Reply #7 on: August 12, 2020, 11:25:05 AM »
Our decision to leave a day early was called in to question when we had to face the Sunday traffic along the 395. The town of Bishop was overwhelmed with people, and it was impossible to find a place to grab breakfast or even use a restroom. The group continued along and we began to spread out and say our goodbyes. Jessica and I decided to take advantage of the extra day and do some further exploring. We stopped at the historic Mt. Whitney fish hatchery, and after grabbing lunch and fuel in Lone Pine, we took a detour through Ridgecrest to visit the town of Trona and the Trona Pinnacles. It was 109 degrees there, so after supporting the local economy a little, we decided it was time to finish our journey toward home. We made one last stop to explore the Atolia Tungsten Mine site, and then grabbed dinner in Adelanto. We navigated the traffic through the Cajon Pass and got home at about 8:00 pm.

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FrankB

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Re: Coyote Flat - August, 2020 (photos)
« Reply #8 on: August 12, 2020, 02:00:42 PM »
Great pictures and narrative Joe.

That looks like it was a really nice trip, to a great part of California.  I thought I saw what appeared to be the outline of an old airstrip up there someplace near Coyote Lake.  Did you see anything like that?

JFanaselle

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Re: Coyote Flat - August, 2020 (photos)
« Reply #9 on: August 12, 2020, 02:59:51 PM »
I thought I saw what appeared to be the outline of an old airstrip up there someplace near Coyote Lake.  Did you see anything like that?

Never spotted anything like that, but honestly, I wasn't really looking. You've piqued my interest, and now I'll be studying the Google Earth views. :)

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Re: Coyote Flat - August, 2020 (photos)
« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2020, 04:02:04 PM »
In my old guidebook it mentioned that the military had put a high altitude landing strip in to test the performance of planes and helicopters.  When he wrote the book there were still structures there.  But only the bare dirt is left of the runway.  It is south of where we camped.  I think the only remnant of that time we saw was that short section of asphalt at the top of the first set of switchbacks.
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Re: Coyote Flat - August, 2020 (photos)
« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2020, 07:26:37 PM »
Nice photos Joe. The trail looked pretty decent and awesome weather too.
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Re: Coyote Flat - August, 2020 (photos)
« Reply #12 on: August 12, 2020, 08:31:35 PM »
Great pics Joe!
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JFanaselle

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Re: Coyote Flat - August, 2020 (photos)
« Reply #13 on: August 13, 2020, 10:34:29 AM »
In my old guidebook it mentioned that the military had put a high altitude landing strip in to test the performance of planes and helicopters.  When he wrote the book there were still structures there.  But only the bare dirt is left of the runway.  It is south of where we camped.  I think the only remnant of that time we saw was that short section of asphalt at the top of the first set of switchbacks.

Ok, I think I found it here: https://www.google.com/maps/place/37%C2%B012'15.9%22N+118%C2%B028'36.4%22W/@37.204418,-118.4789617,707m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m14!1m7!3m6!1s0x80be16019ea66407:0x13cd1e4d95e98916!2sBishop,+CA+93514!3b1!8m2!3d37.3614238!4d-118.3996636!3m5!1s0x0:0x0!7e2!8m2!3d37.2044177!4d-118.4767735

Yeah, we didn't make it that far south/west of the area we camped. I suppose Andrew went that way when he went down to Baker Creek, but I'm guessing he didn't stop off and explore the old airstrip. I don't see any buildings on the satellite view any longer.

ETA: Did some more research. Believe it or not, there is a huge group of aviation buffs out there that like to maintain information on old airstrips (I've researched several in my own area using these same sources). As you noted Tony, it was built in the late 60s by the US Army for high altitude training and testing. Some folks claim it's the highest elevation airstrip in the CONUS. About 15 years ago, the forest service tore everything up and dug trenches into the runway in an effort to discourage folks from landing there. Someone went up there and filled them back in with dirt, and hobbyists continue to use the airstrip at their own risk.

http://www.airfields-freeman.com/CA/Airfields_CA_Fresno_N.htm#coyoteflats

https://backcountrypilot.org/forum/coyote-flats-ca-37-2-north-118-48-west-247

Here's a video of someone buzzing the site late last year:


« Last Edit: August 13, 2020, 11:06:14 AM by JFanaselle »