Got this missive from a San Jose reader hoping to summit Mount Whitney on Labor Day weekend:

I am hoping to hike Mt. Whitney on Sun, Aug 31, 2008 but do not have a permit. Given that is the Labor Day weekend should I pretty much give up on the idea? It will be a good 400+ mile drive from San Jose. I keep caling the ranger station every day to see if anyone has cancelled but it does not look like anything will happen until a couple of days before the actual date.

As a keen-eyed master of the obvious, I suggested asking the folks at the Whitney Portal Store message board, and checking out their page for scoring a Whitney permit. If you’ve heading there permitless, you have to show up at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitors Center at Lone Pine by 11 a.m. the day before and see if any permits are available. If they aren’t, come back at 2 p.m. to get any that might become available because of cancellations.

I advised the writer that the chances of scoring a permit for Aug. 31 seemed somewhere below zero and minus-50 (though luck could always smile), but not to despair: after all, if you’re in Lone Pine surrounded by spectacular mountains with three days to kill, it’s not like Whitney is the only choice on the table. Frankly, the crowds at Whitney would be cause enough to try somewhere else.

So, where would you go if you were in the Eastern Sierra on a holiday weekend and didn’t have to be back in the South Bay till Monday night?

(The writer also posted at the Whitney Portal board … let’s see if any replies show up.)

This is interesting: There were leftover day-hiking permits on Labor Day and Fourth of July weekends this year.

Also interesting: Everything you need to know if you’re a Whitney first timer.