Getting back was a bit of a nightmare - and very expensive - however I'll take you through it!
I arrived at Whitney Portal at 3pm. Its a large carpark with a Giftshop cum snack bar. I immediately had a burger and chips - which I instantly regretted - I thought I wanted it but had gotten used to less fatty foods!
If you haven't arranged a lift from here you need to hitch for one - I asked which was the best spot and stood there for about an hour with no luck and very few people leaving. I went back to the snack bar seeking further advice and was told that come 5pm everyone would start leaving. When I looked sceptical a taxi service was suggested - I was about to set this in motion when I was pointed in the direction of a young man with a beast of a pickup. It turned out he was heading off to Lone Pine and would give me a lift - Yippee! Job done. I arrived in Lone Pine at 4.30pm and checked into a Motel.
After getting cleaned up and eating a meal I asked about onward transport, the two young lads behind the desk didn't seem to have a clue and left me with the best option of getting the 08.30am bus to nearby Bishop and hiring a car point to point - to be dropped off at San Francisco (SF) airport.
The next morning I asked some 'adults' behind the desk who said my best option was to get to Mammoth Lakes (and I had missed the only direct bus today which left at 6.30am), from there you can either get a bus to Reno and flight to SF, or a flight to LA followed by a further flight to SF.
My plan to get a point to point car rental fell apart when I contacted Enterprise in Bishop - who wouldn't do this.
I got the afternoon bus to Mammoth Lakes arriving at 3.30pm - had I got the direct bus from Lone Pine I would have arrived at about 9.00am. This is when things started to go wrong - I went to Mammoth Tourist Info only to find that the daily bus to Reno Airport had left in the morning and actually was every day except Wednesday. Here am I on Tuesday afternoon anticipating a 36 hour wait for a 3 hour bus ride.
The other option was an evening flight to LA - I enquired about this but that evenings flight was already full.
Not wanting to have my progress halted I finally settled for a private shuttle to Reno Airport that evening (after first booking a flight from Reno to SF) which cost me an arm and a leg, but it did mean I got to a decent hotel in Reno and a flight that got me into SF the following afternoon.
As it happened I really enjoyed the ride and would recommend the company of Rolf Knutson, Mammoth Shuttle Service (760) 914-2678, he's married to a brit so we had some common ground.
Another piece of bad luck was that my Reno flight landed in SF about an hour before the UK flight left - I could have booked the UK flight but would lose out if I missed it - I reluctantly booked the return flight for the Thursday and had a days sightseeing in SF.
I flew out of SF at 16.55 and got back to Newcastle at 16.55 the following day - exactly 16 hours travel time.