Sierra Nevada

Photos + Words: Molly Steele

Windows down. You’re driving through a forest of Ponderosa Pines that smell like snickerdoodles. It’s the Sierra-fucking-Nevada. You know the one – tallest peak in the Lower 48, countless glacier lakes, granite curves that make you lose your mind. She’s got it all. Legs of crystal springs dripping and dropping and flowing down through the pines.

I’ve driven up and down the Sierra Nevada more times than I can count. She’s complex and mysterious. Sierra Nevada. Jagged, snowy. A saw.

We – my dude crush and I – were barreling down the 14 in Mojave somewhere around midnight because sometimes that’s just how impromptu trips work. It’s still sweltering in the desert during the day and so checking into a bug-infested hotel with blood stains on the sheets actually seemed like a better choice than the tent. We wanted to backpack to the top of the Minarets in time to see the lunar eclipse blood moon thing happen over Lake Minaret so time and rest was of the essence. Do you listen to the Reverberation Radio podcasts? They’re great for road trips: road trips through the Mojave, road trips through the Mammoth, road trips up the coast alone, wherever.

So driving through the Sierra Nevada is incredibly beautiful, but it doesn’t compare to the backcountry trails and forest service roads throughout the area. In just a day’s hike you can get to a number of glacier lakes for a taste of the most delicious water you’ll ever find. I like to bring a jar back with me. We hiked 16 miles to Lake Minaret with 50 pounds on our backs and got there just in time to see the alpenglow, this beautiful light phenomenon that requires some effort to witness but it totally worth it. Back in LA temperatures were hitting 100 but at the lake it was in the 30s. We cooked our warm dehydrated food over the campstove, anxiously scanning all directions for approaching bears. The eclipse glowed through the overcast skies over the lake and lit up the mountains once the moon returned to full. Throughout the evening, we could see lights from hikers up on the high ridges of the Minarets as they traversed the range under the moon.

The days following the hike were spent tending to our aching bodies with some R&R in the many hot springs in the area. I’d tell you the names and where to find them, but I don’t want to blow up the scene. They’re worth the hunt all throughout the year. Just get on the road.