On the very first day, while crossing the higher reaches of the mountains on a narrow, winding road, I came around a bend just at the moment a brown bear cub dashed across (safely!):
I pulled off the road to see if another cub or a mama bear would follow, but no. Instead, there were other treasures in the forest right there, including a White-headed Woodpecker--my first sighting ever!
In the fall season, the Sierras are zig-zagged by yellow ribbons: the golden leaves of aspen trees that line streams and rivers where they course down the mountains and through the foothills. People come from afar to view them, just like they do for "leaf season" in the northeastern U.S.
The Visitor Center at Mono Lake, just outside the teeny town of Lee Vining, teaches about them in its outdoor "garden" which birds enjoy as well:
The White Mountains are home to some of the oldest trees on earth: Bristlecone Pines. The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is reached by a winding, narrow road east of the town of Big Pine. I have often said "I must go there some day." This trip, I did. Here is the view from a trail near the top of the White Mountains, looking east:
What a stunning, odd, moving experience to see this unique forest, home to deeply charismatic tree individuals, many of whom are more than a thousand years old!
At the visitor center (closed for the season), chipmunks and ground squirrels rush up to you, hoping for treats, which obviously people cannot resist offering... I have never seen such rotund rodents! I walked some miles from the visitor center along a steep trail at elevations of 10,000-11,000 feet, which few people did, so there was silence, peace, stunning views, raucous flocks of Clark's Nutcrackers harvesting pine nuts from the treetops, plus other high-elevation critters.
The final stop on the trip was Lone Pine Campground, which turned out to be a great place to watch birds and make notes of campsite "neighbors":
In some areas I met tremendous Foxtail Pine trees, and beautiful, shy, non-native Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis):
... and enjoyed the company of other critters and indulged in more tree studying.