Double Asteroid Occultation Trip to the Eastern Sierra

June 7, 2003

My first weekend of summer vacation, and two asteroid occultations criss-crossed near Bishop in the Eastern Sierra. The chance to do some science, see the most spectacular mountain scenery in the lower 48 in spring, and also scout camping sites for future field astro classes - and I was looking forward to a good weekend.

Weather was good. I drove through Los Banos, up past road side stands selling fresh cherries and peaches. I couldn't resist, and bought enough to thoroughly man my co-pilot's seat. My route took me up past Pinecrest and up to Sonora Pass. I briefly stopped at Fales Hot Creek - site of our classic Astro 28 day trip in Sept 2001. The valleys of the Bridgeport area were gorgeous with green grass, flowers, and bordered with snowy peaks. Once on Hwy 395, I continued to Mono Lake, and then crossed over to Benton Hot Springs.

Klytaemnestra would occult a bright 8.9 magnitude star in the early evening, and then Alma would occult an even brighter 8.3 magnitude star from a wide south-to-north path just east of Bishop in the pre-dawn sky. I planned to try Klytaemnestra from near the centerline, north of Bishop in the alluvial cones below 14,000 ft Boundary Peak. But after wandering over several dirt roads, I couldn't find a campspot I liked, and I decided instead to go to Grandview Campground in the White Mountains and set up just once for both events. It was a bit of a risk; this location was just inside the southern limit of Klytaemnestra, and just inside the western limit of Alma. A shift in the wrong direction by just a little and I'd see a miss.

Alas, afternoon thunderstorms left a cloudy sky which failed to clear until 1am. This wiped out the Klytaemnestra event. It cleared in time for the Alma event, but a shift led to a miss. Disappointing, but my scenary was so spectacular that I have fond memories nonetheless. And, I learned a lot about future camp site possibilities.

The marine's mountain warfare center, driving down from Sonora Pass

Iris and snow-capped Sierras

The Bridgeport Valley, heading towards...

...Twin Lakes

Looking north, at Conway Summit above Mono Lake

Benton Hot Springs is the green oasis below, and my "plan A" Klytaemnestra site is on the alluvial fan below distant Boundary Peak

My campsite at Grandview campground in the White Mountains, below the Ancient Bristle Cone Pine Reserve

On the way down from Grandview

On the way home, I stopped at Hot Creek near Mammoth. The following summer, this delicious place was a feature location for Astro 30.