Inyo National Forest parallels US 6 and US 395 for 165 miles between the eastern California towns of Inyokern and Lee Vining. The forest contains Mount Whitney—at 14,505 feet, the highest point in the contiguous United States—as well as portions of the Pacific Crest Trail and the John Muir Trail. Inyo National Forest shares in managing nine wilderness areas, including the Ansel Adams and John Muir wildernesses. Between US 6 and the Nevada border, the White Mountains rise to 14,246 feet and hold the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, with the oldest living trees on the planet; the Bristlecone visitor center is open to the public from mid-June through late October (weather permitting). Most of the Sierra's highest peaks are visible to the west from US 395.
Vehicle travel is restricted in Devils Postpile National Monument and the Reds Meadow area of the forest: Only vehicles with camping or disabled parking permits, and a few other exceptions, are allowed beyond the Minaret Vista turnoff between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., mid-June through Sept. 30. All others are required to use a shuttle bus that operates during the restricted times.
The 2-hour round-trip makes 10 stops, including the Devils Postpile ranger station, where trails lead to recreation areas. Shuttles, which operate mid-June to mid-September, depart the Mammoth Mountain Adventure Center every 20-30 minutes beginning at 7 a.m. The last return shuttle departs Reds Meadow at 7:45 p.m. A shuttle day pass is $7; $4 (ages 3-15). A shuttle 3-day pass is $14; $8 (ages 3-15). Phone (760) 872-1901. The daily entrance fee for vehicles is $10 per private vehicle or $20 for a 3-day pass. Permits are required for overnight access to the Ansel Adams and John Muir wildernesses.
Mammoth and June mountains have ski areas that are popular in winter, while mountain biking, hiking, camping, fishing and backpacking are the main summertime diversions. Gondola rides to the top of Mammoth Mountain provide outstanding views and access to hiking and mountain biking trails. Rides are available daily 9-3:30, mid-June through late Sept. (weather and wind permitting). Fare $25; $20 (ages 13-22 and 65-79); $12 (ages 5-12); free (up to two children ages 5-12 per paying adult and ages 80+). Phone (760) 934-2571 or (800) 626-6684.
Minaret Vista, at 9,175 feet, offers a sweeping view of the Ritter Range. A store and café, as well as saddle and pack horses, are available at Reds Meadow. An interagency welcome center on Main Street in Mammoth Lakes is open year-round; closed Jan. 1, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Phone (760) 924-5500.
Roads throughout the remainder of the forest provide scenic drives. The Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center is south of Lone Pine at the junction of US 395 and SR 136. Phone (760) 876-6222 or TTY (760) 876-6228.
For additional information contact the Superintendent, Inyo National Forest, 351 Pacu Ln., Suite 200, Bishop, CA 93514; phone (760) 873-2400 or TTY (760) 873-2538. For wilderness information phone (760) 873-2483. Campground and wilderness permit reservations can be obtained online through www.recreation.gov.
High-AltitudeTemples throbbing, gasping for breath and nauseated, you barely notice the scudding clouds or the spectacular view.
You might be suffering from Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). Usually striking at around 8,000 feet (2,450 m) in altitude, AMS is your body's way of coping with the reduced oxygen and humidity of high altitudes. Among the symptoms are headaches, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, insomnia and lethargy. Some people complain of temporary weight gain or swelling in the face, hands and feet.
You can reduce the effect of high altitude by being in top condition. If you smoke or suffer from heart or lung ailments, consult your physician before your trip. Certain drugs will intensify the symptoms. To avoid Acute Mountain Sickness, adjust to elevations slowly; a gradual ascent with a couple days of acclimatization is best if you have time. For example, if you are planning a trip to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, you might want to spend the first night in a lower altitude city such as Denver as opposed to heading directly to an environment with extreme elevations.
On the way up, eat light, nutritious meals and stay hydrated by drinking a large amount of water, taking care to avoid caffeine, alcohol and salt. In addition, your doctor may be able to prescribe medication that can offset the effects of high-altitude.
If you develop AMS, you should stop ascending; you will recover in a few days. If the AMS is mild, a quick descent will end the suffering immediately.
Other high-altitude health problems include sunburn and hypothermia. Dress in layers to protect yourself from the intense sun and wide fluctuations in temperature.
Finally, after you lounge in the sauna or whirlpool bath at your lodgings, remember to stand up carefully, for the heat has relaxed your blood vessels and lowered your blood pressure.