Sort of short notice, but I figured I'd throw out a feeler to see if any of the Defendersource people that are in Socal/Norcal are up for a trip this weekend (7/25-26). I'm going out with a few other rover guys to check out the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest and White Mountain Peak. Here's the basic breakdown:
The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Inyo National Forest - Special Places is located north of Bishop in the white mountains. Home of the Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva), the longest living organism on the planet with the oldest tree being dated at over 5,000 years old.
White Mountain Peak is the 3rd highest peak in California at 14,252 feet tall. It's normally a 15 mile round trip from the gate for the Barcroft Research station. Two weekends a year they open the gate and allow you to drive up to and park at the Barcroft Research Station cutting the round trip from 15 miles to 11 miles. At elevations starting around 12K feet and topping out at the summit of just over 14K feet, any break in the overall distance is appreciated.
The general plan is to rendezvous Saturday at noon in Bishop at the Vons right off 395. From there we'll head up to Laws and then onto Silver Canyon Road for the drive up to the Schulman Grove Vistor Center. Silver Canyon road is a gravel switchback road that goes up the eastern flank of the White Mountains. Once we get to the top we'll hit up the Schulman Grove visitors center to look around the trees in that are. We'll continue north and check out some old mines and cabins. Another stop will be at the Patriarch Grove which is home to the worlds largest Bristlecone Pine. From there we'll head into an area called Cottonwood Valley which is situated at about 10.4K feet, check out another old mine and cabin, and then set up camp for the evening. We'll wake up early and break camp and then head to the gate that normally cuts you off from the last two miles of driving to the Barcroft Research Station. They open the gate early (around 6:30am IIRC) Once we get to the Barcroft Station we'll park the trucks and start the hike up.* This is a very strenuous hike *
It's not technically difficult as you are following a two track service road to the summit, but since it is at very high elevation the lack of oxygen can do a number on you. From all accounts it takes most people about 5 hours to summit, and then 3 hours back down since it's all downhill.
If hiking isn't your bag and you just want to come out and check out the bristlecone pines and then stay at camp and sleep in that next morning you are more than welcome. There are a bunch of other roads to check out in the area with all manner of old mines and miners cabins in various states of decay..