I have always found driving a car to be a cathartic experience. As a filmmaker, I often find myself living in my own head, trying to come up with a story arc over breakfast, discovering characters' motivations in the shower, or dreaming up scenarios at night.

But I've found that long drives help me the most; the ones where the physical journey matches the people and places in my head in scope and size.

Driving up Highway 395 from Los Angel towards the Eastern Sierras on a Friday afternoon is one such drive.... Sometimes I imagine what the Los Angeles basin looks like from the plane as I drive through it.... a giant, snaking techno-tumour of rectangular buildings, the cars stuck in traffic like individual blood cells clotted around the central thoroughfares. Whether benign or malignant, you'll have to judge for yourself.... But for now, I retreat to "greener pastures".

Slowly Jane and I leave the densely populated landscape of the LA Basin and are rewarded by rolling hills of golden grass. Our car radio can only catch one or two stations of static country music. No more hectic car rides accompanied by occasional news broadcasts, or pop music that never seems to match my mood. We are awakened by a much rarer driving experience: silence. No more noise, just a feeling of freedom.

The cool air of the Pacific is quickly forgotten; a memory dispelled by the warm gusts of wind from the sun-baked Central California Valley. Lonely yucca trees that grace the Mojave scurry by. The child in me wonders how lonely it is to live as they do.... To stand in wordless vigil on the side of the highway, watching one sunset after another, without end. Ghost towns, shacks, abandoned gas stations and railway tracks - all physical markers of dreams and hopes, communities and families won and lost, become gatekeepers to a West that is still wild in the moment of experience.

Then, all at once, out of the golden plain rises a menacing chain of craggy, towering blue peaks, shrouded in cloud and mist: The Eastern Sierras. It's raining in the valley and the peaks are heavily overcast, which can only mean one thing: If we climb high enough, we might be rewarded with a rare snowfall. In this drought-stricken state, that means something. As we drive to the starting point of the hike, night falls. The stars shine brightly, like the city lights ... or is it the other way around? I hope our friends Corey and Hong are already at the campsite, waiting for us with a warm fire and hot food. God knows we'll need it; the next few days will be all mountain in front, behind and around us.

We were right. The next morning, as we were out on the trail for a few hours, we were greeted with the first snowfall. Coming from L.A.'s annual climate, it's always a welcome change to be surprised by snowfall - until the snow turns into oversized beads of ice that pelt down on you.

The Sierras are notorious for their frequent and extreme weather changes. As we set up camp, we watched dark storm clouds forming over Cirque Peak. We were forced to hole up for the evening and woke up to the sun shining on a layer of fresh powder.

The way to the pass. A group of hikers who had just descended from the other side told us that it was hailing quite heavily on the summit. Try to recognise the hikers.... they are the little black dots at the foot of the snow-covered ridge of Mount Langley.

Hong, Corey's climbing buddy, struggled with hypoglycaemia and altitude sickness throughout. Altitude sickness can take many forms.... for Hong it was nausea and dizziness. But we all kept going. The solution: lots of water, Clif Bars and the promise of a pizza in Lone Pine.

It was already late in the afternoon - we were quickly running out of daylight and the fog was closing in as we searched for the snow-covered path. As the cairns were shrouded in mist, we could only go in the only safe direction.... upwards.

After finally finding our way to the top, we looked down into the valley basin and were rewarded with a panoramic view. For a bit of perspective, look for the two hikers and the red tent to the right of the lake in the lower right corner of the picture.

From the summit we could see that the snow had completely crusted the switchbacks leading down the 1500 foot slope. The only way down: Get on your butt, slide and enjoy the ride.

After a busy day, there's no better feeling than retiring to your home for the night. No monthly payments, no deciding between worktops, no maintenance; just your intuition and the place where you spend your most vulnerable hours. We chose the edge of Long Lake and were greeted in the morning by a reflection of the granite walls we had climbed down the night before.

Packed up and ready for a new adventure. But first things first... Pizza.

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