One of the great things about living in Southern California is that you have such a large diversity of landscapes and environments within just a few hours drive. Back in 2011, a friend and I did a hike along a short section of the Pacific Crest Trail in the southern Sierras. This hike really whetted our appetite for the southern Sierras and got us thinking about what was further in. The southern Sierras were also enticing because they are a reasonable drive from Los Angeles. This time we added a third friend who owns a pretty hard-core Jeep TJ Rubicon to get us down the dirt road heading deeper into the wilderness (the Chimney Peak Back Country Byway). It really only required a regular higher clearance vehicle, but it was great knowing we could drive through a field of boulders if we came across one (which we thankfully didnâ€™t).
We left Los Angeles Friday evening and got up to the turnoff for 9 Mile Canyon Road pretty late. Surprisingly the campground was completely empty, but this worked out because we ended up having quite a lot of fun trying to eventually get a good throw of the rock with rope tied to it over a decent branch to hang our food. The next morning we first drove the extent of the byway loop to the spot where it has been closed due to a washout for many years. We continued up to a little peak with some pretty cool views to the west of the Domelands Wilderness area along with some rather large microwave repeaters humming away. Happy to get away with our electronics still working, we backtracked over to the closest point the road got to the Domelands Wilderness and Rockhouse Basin. With larger sweeping views in mind, we continued on foot along a ridge line and series of smaller peaks trying to find the best view looking west. If we had backpacking overnight gear with us and more time the Domelands Wilderness would have been our destination, but we had to settle with enjoying that beautiful landscape from afar on this trip. It will definitely be visited on a future trip.
We eventually made it to a nice overlook spot and settled down for a few hours waiting for sunset. The area looked like it had burnt roughly five years or so prior, so there were no live trees covering much of the area. While we did not have much of any shade, the dead trees did give us some interesting foreground subjects. Iâ€™m a sucker for clouds and the weather provided some beautiful ones. I ended up filming two time-lapse clips of what amounts to cloud porn. Then, when the sunset light started hitting the clouds, I was really having some fun. Our hike back started at sunset and the dirt road which we hoped would make the trek back to the Jeep easier ended up being almost impossible to follow at times. We figured it hadn’t seen four wheels in just as many decades. Thankfully the GPS guided our flashlights through the dark and we got to the Jeep safe, but exhausted. We had originally planned to camp that night, but we made the decision to drive. Showers and beds were too strong of a draw and none of us felt like setting up a tent with the easier option available.