Hi there...did I forget to mention that after our day at Yosemite, there was another day of utter gorgeousness that made me wonder why I ever spend my time anywhere else but the mountains? Silly me. 

As we woke up, the rain that had come and gone all night was starting to drift away over the mountaintops, leaving puffy clouds and a bright blue sky in its wake. We ate breakfast and packed up pretty quickly, because I had a game plan, and in order to fit everything in, we had to use our time wisely. Phase One: photographing the Mammoth Lakes area in the early morning light. 

These photos are of Horseshoe Lake, located at the end of the Mammoth Lakes loop. This whole area looks like an eery combination of moonscape and mountains because of the large amount of CO2 gas that is slowly killing off trees around the lake; in 1989 there was a swarm of earthquakes in the area, and because Mammoth Mountain is actually a young volcano (!), the quakes caused magma to rise up and create cracks in the ground, which resulted in high concentrations of carbon dioxide gas leaking into the soil. There are signs all along the road leading up to Horseshoe Lake warning the public to be cautious, and to avoid camping or spending time in any low-lying areas, especially in the winter, when CO2 can get trapped under the snowpack. 

As we drove around, I reveled in the smell of rain lingering in the air. Despite the fact that the temperature was in the low forties, I rolled down the window and allowed the wind to whip through my hair. When you live in a place like Los Angeles, it's amazing how noticeable the difference in air quality is whenever you leave the city. I could practically taste the freshness on my tongue.

Phase Two: Drive around on a bunch of dirt roads.

Phase Three was to go on a hike to a mountain lake. That's the thing about this area: you're never more than a brisk walk or a quick car drive away from scenery that looks like it's straight out of a fairytale. The hike to Parker Lake was no exception, and the lake itself, was,'ll see. 

We were only able to spend a little bit of time by the lake because I had a few more stops to make, but let me tell you: this place is a meditator's wet dream. It was completely silent except for the breeze ruffling the trees and the occasional bird call, and it was surrounded by fallen logs and swaths of soft, long green grass that were practically begging to be napped upon. It couldn't have been more picturesque if it had been ripped straight from a Disney movie.

^^ I was pretty excited that we were hiking through the Ansel Adams Wilderness. The areas throughout Central California contain a ridiculous amount of names that I love. 

Our next stop was a hunt for fall color a bit further down the mountains. I follow the seasonal blog California Fall Color, which told me that the area was a bit below peak, but advised me as to which lakes might be seeing more color than others, so Toby humored me in driving down lots of long, winding roads that seemingly led to nowhere but really ended up overlooking spots like this: 

We continued driving around for an hour or two, Toby pulling over whenever I saw a good patch of color, me hopping out of the car and crunching around the side of the road snapping photos to my heart's content. 

Finally, I grudgingly admitted that we had to start the drive home if we were going to go to bed at a reasonable hour, so we made our way back out of the mountains and headed south. Luckily, the entire drive offers up some pretty spectacular views, so I was entertained until the sun went down and the landscape was obscured by darkness. 

These are the moments when I wish I had more knowledge about my camera's video-taking functions. I can point and shoot with the best of them, but when it comes to motion, I'm clueless. Still, I had to try, because sometimes a photo just isn't enough:

Dear Sierra Nevada, how are you so pretty 100% of the time? 

Happy Hump Day, friends.