Claire McEwen, hopeful romantic.

Eastern Sierra New Year

I spent a happy New Year surrounded by the setting for my books.

plank fence, sagebrush snow

My family and I rented a house near Mono Lake.

Mono lake view

About an hour drive north of the house is the town of Bridgeport, which is the inspiration for my fictional town of Benson, California.

Bridgeport photo

I loved stopping by the old county courthouse. I borrowed it for Benson. In Convincing the Rancher, my heroine meets the hero for the first time within its old stone walls. In Return to Marker Ranch, my hero and heroine have a rather disastrous date that ends on the sidewalk in front of it.

Mono Court House

We made a quick and chilly stop by the barn that I photographed a few years ago for my publicity materials. It looks a little different in winter!

Me at my website photo site

And we spent some time in the area south of Bridgeport that I always picture when I imagine the ranches in my stories.

snowy mountain rising from plains

barn in snow

I was thrilled to be in the area. It was amazing to walk the lonely desert roads in winter.

cottonwood canyon road

And to look out from the patio at the Sierra Nevada rising right out of the Mono Basin.

view from wild rose w: porch

Mono lake and mountains

It was profound to share with my family all of the beauty that I visit in my imagination every day. We followed a boardwalk to the shores of Mono Lake to see the tufas.

boardwalk to mono lake shore

Mono lake tufa

We climbed one of the Mono craters and marveled at the tough trees and plants growing right out of the volcanic rock.

Trees and mono lake view

lit up tree

We headed up June Mountain for some snowboarding. It was chilly – temperatures in the low teens – but my son and I got some practice on the bunny slopes before we fled inside for some cocoa. I have a snowboarding scene in the third book of my Sierra Legacy series, so it was fun and research at the same time! And yes, that’s me in the photo, upright on a snowboard!

me snowboarding June Lake

And not so upright…

Me and WB June Lake

We loved all the small details of the region. A cow skull on a weathered wood fence.

skull and fence

Sierra views over a stacked stone wall.

stone wall, sagebrush and mountains

Sagebrush under snow.

Sagebrush in the snow

sagebrush in field

And me wandering blissfully through it, pondering story ideas, with a wee nip of fine scotch in hand. It was New Years, after all!

Me celebrating eastern sierra

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