Last weekend Aubrey, my father, and I spent a few days exploring the Inyo Mountains. Inyo county, the second largest county in California (just behind neighboring San Bernardino County), is home to the lowest and highest points in the contiguous US (Badwater, -279′; and Mt Whitney, 14,505′). Between those two famous points are the Panamint, and the Inyo Ranges. Now that the gold and silver prospectors of yesteryear seem to have given up their dreams of riches, both areas tend to receive little attention. Although most of their mining claims were flops, mining of silver, lead, zinc, copper, gold, tungsten, talc, borax and soda in Inyo county did bring in over $150 million. That number is not inflation adjusted, and much of the mining happened between WWI and WWII – 1918 alone brought in over $5 million: almost $80 million in todays dollars. It’s probably safe to say that the region has brought in over $1 billion in todays value.

The real tangible value of all that mineral exploitation for people like me and you, however, is access. There are over 2,200 miles of roads in the Inyo Range alone, in a large part thanks to those intrepid prospectors. Here you can find corners of solitude far away from anyone else as you bask in the afternoon sunshine and watch thunderstorms develop over the Sierra.

Click images for larger pop-up view!

Breakfast is Served

Bacon and Eggs, Eastern Sierra style. (photo by Aubrey)

Inyo Camp

My dad, working on dinner at our camp in the Inyo Mountains, with a spectacular view of the Sierra Nevada.

Sierra Storm, Inyo Mountains, Black and White

Alpine Spirits : Prints Available

Late afternoon sun shines through a clearing storm over the Sierra Nevada, seen from the Inyo Mountains on the other side of Owens Valley, CA.

Me, and the Lizard

(S)He scampered off before I could go in for a kiss. (photo by Aubrey)

Hot House Dining

Me, my dad, and Aubrey, hanging out in our 'hot house' - a custom designed and built portable heated structure.

Our first destination was an abandoned tungsten/gold/silver mine. It quickly became clear to us, as has been published previously, that the effort of building the road that gains 3-4,000 feet from the valley floor far exceeded any rewards reaped from the minerals. We’d hoped to find some fluorescent minerals with our ultraviolet lamps, but were a little disappointed (largely a result of the miner’s own disappointment). Still, we found a few nice specimens and loaded them into an abandoned bulldozer.

Mine, Fluorescent Rocks, Inyo Mountains

The Miner

My father poses in an abandoned bulldozer at an old tungsten mine in the Inyo Mountains. The colorful rocks in the bulldozer are fluorescent minerals, illuminated with a ultraviolet light.

Next, we travelled north, exploring the endless sage brush valleys, and hill tops populated with juniper trees and pinyon pines. Back in the day, this area provided the native people with an important source of food in the fall: pinyon pine nuts. I haven’t yet had the chance to try one, but we might go back in the fall to collect a few – I hear they are remarkably tasty!

Photographing Photographers

It's the anti-selfie. So meta. (photo by Aubrey)

Juniper Tree, Inyo Mountains, Sierra Nevada

Ancient Views : Prints Available

This old Juniper has enjoyed this spectacular view of the Sierra and Owens valley for its entire lifetime. I feel fortunate to have shared the experience for an afternoon.

Inyo Mountains, Sierra Nevada, Sage and Pinyon

Pinyon Valley : Prints Available

A veritable paradise in the Inyo Mountains: sagebrush valleys, rocky outcroppings, pinyon pines, juniper trees, and commanding views of the Sierra Nevada.

Inyo Mountains, Sierra, Valley

Paradise Valley : Prints Available

A peaceful morning among granite boulders in a sage scented valley with ancient juniper and pinyon pines, with views of the snowy Sierra in the distance. 

Lupine Petals, Spring, Summer

Spring Tears : Prints Available

These fallen lupine petals made me think of crying spring flowers, giving in to the summer heat.

Jeu de Boules

Playing a game of Jeu de Boules - a french game involving tossing 1-2 lb metal balls at a target. And a glass of Pastis, which we were missing, hence our bad aim. (photo by Aubrey)

Bonus – A few scenes from Moab, UT

Last month I had the pleasure of being a speaker and workshop leader at the annual Moab Photo Symposium. While most of my time there was spent socializing with good friends and teaching a fantastic group of photographers, I did squeeze in a few images I thought I would take this opportunity to share.

Wild Zen Garden, Moab, Utah

Wild Zen Garden : Prints Available

The last rays of sunshine illuminate the sandstone landscape, dotted with bonsai like juniper trees. I found this scene near Moab, UT; Castleton Tower can be seen in the distance.

Fisher Towers, Moab, Utah

Mudstone Towers : Prints Available

The last rays of sunshine illuminate the tall mudstone fortress of the Fisher Towers, near Moab, UT.

Campfire, Golden Cottonwood, Colorado Plateau

Campfire Gold : Prints Available

The glow from a campfire illuminates an elegant cottonwood tree on the Colorado Plateau.

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6 Comments to “Inyo Range Wanderings”

  1. Navin Sarma says:

    Great set as always Floris. Sorry I missed you at Moab. I think my fav is Spring Tears, really nice

  2. Wil says:

    That was a great trip Floris and Aubrey!

    Floris, you did an awesome job on ‘The Miner’ (which included myself…), and knowing all the effort that went into this composite picture. Not just that it included me sitting still for half a minute:) The combination of sky, machine, miner, and fluorescent minerals — excellent.

    Aubrey, thanks much for catching the photographer(s) in action!

  3. Weihao Pan says:

    Wow, looks like an awesome trip you guys did. I really like “Alpine Spirits”. Very powerful and mysterious feeling of it. Last one, Campfire Gold is also unique and special too. Did you use a flashlight to illuminate the front trees?

  4. Thanks Weihao! I only needed a touch of light on the front trees – I think I used the LED from my iphone to light them.

  5. I always enjoy your creative imaging, Floris! Great to see you made it to “Paradise Valley” – what a place, huh? Pinyon nuts don’t taste any different that your commercial variety “pine nuts” – enjoy!

    ‘Alpine Spirits’ is awesome, and you are way too young for that hot house. Aren’t you supposed to stone-up to the cold Adamus-style? 🙂

  6. Thanks MG!

    When there’s an old man in your company, you gotta spring for the comforts of the hothouse… admittedly though, I too, enjoy it over the cold 🙂

    At least the pinyon pine nuts will have that unmistakable “free range” spice of life to them!