Our original plan for our trip was to hike the Mount Whitney Trail to Lone Pine Lake, but I learned the night before a fire which was caused by lightening strike had closed Whitney Portal Road at Hogsback and there was no access to the Whitney Portal Trailhead. Upon arrival, we stopped at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitors Center to talk to the rangers, pick up some additional maps and decide on our best "plan b" options which we gathered the night before. I had several ideas in mind, one of them being a nice, long day hike to Cottonwood Lakes which was then recommended to us by the rangers. So Cottonwood Lakes it would be! We already had the maps for that, so I picked up a visitor's guide and a whole slew of other maps for future trips and we were on our way to do a little sightseeing before the next day's trek. Our first stop was the Alabama Hills where the rock outcrops frame incredible views of Mount Whitney. From here we could see the Georges Fire burning, and the smoke was pluming towards the north so the air quality seemed to be okay at our location. I took some photos and then we headed off to check out the trailhead for where we'd be hiking the next day. From Whitney Portal Road before the closure, we turned onto Horseshoe Meadow Road which is an adventure unto itself. The paved road switchbacks up the mountain 6,000 feet from Lone Pine's desert floor, all the way to an elevation of 10,000 feet with its terminus at Horseshoe Meadow. We drove around to scope out the area, make note of where our trailhead would be and then stopped off at the day use area to have a picnic lunch before heading back to check into our hotel. It was later in the afternoon by now and we could see the gray clouds forming and hear the soft sound of rolling thunder off in the distance. The threat of storms are very common in summer. If there's one thing I know about mountains at this high an elevation, they make their own weather so you have to be prepared for anything and know when to descend. It was very peaceful up there as we listened to the soft booms that were farther off in the distance. I pulled the maps out of the car to check out the terrain so we could get an idea of what to expect along our destination the next day. Later that evening after stopping in Lone Pine for a bite to eat, we head back to the Alabama Hills for a quick little stroll to Mobius Arch, a natural arch that is formed in the rocks. A lot of people like to take photos through the arch because it frames Lone Pine Peak quite nicely. I didn't make take the classic shot at the arch since there was another photographer there who had his equipment set up and I didn't want to disturb him. Instead I walked just around the side of Mobius and found Lathe Arch and took my shot there. As the sun was setting we could see the embers from the fire burning. It was a lovely sunset, but we needed to get back to the hotel so we would be well rested for our hike to Cottonwood Lakes the next day.