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California Fall Colors and Eastern Sierra Adventures with our dog, Spruce

2020 has been a strange year for all of us. My husband, Brandon, and I had originally planned to go on a backpacking trip in the Eastern Sierras this fall to celebrate our anniversary, but with the crazy fires (and COVID), we had to adjust a bit. Instead of backpacking like we did last year, we ended up booking a hotel in Mammoth Lakes (the Westin Monache Resort, which is actually dog friendly!) and going on some day trips and adventures instead!

Of course, when we arrived in Mammoth Lakes we had no idea that we would be sitting in a pocket of terrible smoke from the Creek Fire (the AQI was over 600!), but thankfully we were able to drive an hour or two away and experience somewhat cleaner air (though you’ll notice that there’s still a bit of haze in most of the photos).

First up on our agenda was a stop at Tamarack Lodge and a little walk around Twin Lakes. The lodge is a place that we come back to time after time because it’s easy to get to and has nice trails around the lakes. We even considered having our wedding here (they have a cute ceremony spot across the bridge in the woods)!

It was so blustery and cold, but Spruce stayed cozy in his Kurgo Loft Dog Jacket. I love that it’s reversible and has a zipper so that you can still use a harness and leash! This is our go to jacket for him when the weather gets cooler and we even bring it on our backpacking trips because it packs down so well!

Spruce always insists on leading the way, even when he has no idea where we’re going! 🙂

This is the bridge that takes you across to the forest chapel/wedding ceremony spot!

My favorite view of the lake right before the bridge! Spruce is also looking pretty regal!

Love how his ears are blowing in the wind 🙂

Another reason that we wanted to head to the Eastern Sierras was so that Brandon could do a bike ride that he had been training for! This intense ride (called Horseshoe Meadows) was about 50 miles and included 7000 feet of elevation gain. He had planned to complete the ride in August when we were in the area for a camping trip, but we ended up shearing his bike off the roof of our car and completely destroying it! *Insert face palm here*

This time (with a completely new bike) we paid more attention to our roof rack and only had to deal with poor air quality and a dead car battery on the day of the ride (haha)! But we were thrilled that he was finally able to complete the ride and Spruce and I were happy to be the support crew!

This photo was taken part way up the climb. You can see some of the switchbacks below!

Spruce tried to race Brandon at the end of the climb!

Our last day in the Eastern Sierras was spent in search of fall colors! Normally we would have hiked farther into the backcountry, but all of the national forests were closed because of the fires so we were stuck with easier walks and car accessible routes. Even so, we were still able to find some great colors!

North Lake (outside of Bishop) was probably the most colorful spot that we found, and Spruce loved taking a dip in the lake as well! There was a bunch of parking in 2 separate lots at the end of a dirt road, and easy trails circling the lake.

Our only group photo taken by balancing the camera on a rock 🙂 But somehow we got Spruce to look forward at the right moment!

We brought Spruce’s Kurgo K9 Core Sweater (pictured above) on this hike. It’s super soft fleece and has an adjustable neck zipper (which is perfect for his big head and neck!) and zipper opening for a leash/harness attachment on the back. We had to take it off when he decided to take a dip in the lake though!

Seriously such pretty colors on this hike! If you go here, make sure to head up the hill from the lake to get this view!

You can see some of the smoke in the background over the hills here.

After North Lake we headed toward…you guessed it…South Lake (pictured above). The road to South Lake (which is conveniently called South Lake Rd), was actually even prettier than the final destination! So many great spots to stop and snap a few photos!

I probably took way too many photos on this road, but come on, look at this scene!

The fires made for a pretty crazy sunset over the Sierras! Look at that blood red sun!

On our way home we stopped by Lundy Canyon outside of Lee Vining to give Spruce a break and take a little walk. We actually just wandered along the dirt road for a bit and turned around at the trailhead, but it was still pretty! (Just a note that there is pretty limited parking at the trailhead if you’re looking to start there.)

We kept Spruce on his leash/harness for part of the hike since there were cars going back and forth. This is our go to harness: the Journey Air Harness from Kurgo. We like to use the front leash attachment when he’s super crazy and energetic, but there’s also an option to use the back leash attachment when he’s chill 🙂 Also, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to use the giant handle on the back of the harness to move him when he’s being stubborn or hold him back from trying to play with a dog that doesn’t really want to play!

It’s also easy to run free in the harness when he’s off leash!

So many people have told me that they’re surprised to find such nice fall colors in California! But the aspens in the Eastern Sierras really show off when the weather gets cooler! June Lake is another place we love to go to check out the colors (it’s not too far from Mammoth Lakes). We stayed at the Double Eagle Resort and Spa in June Lake earlier this year and love how dog friendly they are! Plus you can’t beat the views from the rooms around the lake!

I hope you enjoyed this post! If you love all the fall feels and colors, check out our fall road trip through Utah, Wyoming, and Montana!

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i'm sarah (she/her) , your new quirky, color-loving friend!

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My goal with every client is to cultivate a fun, creative, and approachable vibe. All types of people, all types of bodies, and all types of love are welcome here.

Color and creativity fuel my soul, and whimsical details make my heart happy! I believe in finding joy in the everyday, that real emotions are better than perfectly posed, and that building real connections with my clients is what allows me to create honest photos and capture genuine moments.

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