Alabama Hills, Bishop California, Bouldering, Bristlecone Pine Forest, Buttermilks, California, Hot Springs, John Muir Wilderness, Manzanar
Hey there folks, just a quick note ~~ as you no doubt have noticed there’s been a lot of time between our posts. We were out of internet range a bit, and then we stopped off in New Mexico to visit my sister and Ed’s cousins, then on to Austin Texas and NOLA visiting more friends and family. Long time short 🙂 we have been back in Maryland since mid June after a surprise 5 day visit to Providence Hospital in Mobile, AL and a fast run back home to our own doc’s and hospital. Ed’s the problem child this time with diverticulitis and an abscess but he’s doing fine and everything is going to be great after a lot more antibiotics and a surgery. We do however have to postpone our travels until about the end of September. After this post and probably one more about our adventures we hope you’ll wait patiently until we get back to regular blogging about what’s over the next hill!!
I’ll tell you right up front, every place in this rather long blog post (which dates back to early May) should be on your MVL (must visit list)
Located in the northern end of the Owens Valley in the eastern midsection of California, is the town of Bishop. Small and delightful, it would be a major contender in our short list of places to live. Nestled down between some of the highest peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the west and the White Mountains to the east (both running in the fourteen and thirteen thousand foot elevation range) everywhere we looked the view was magnificent, and with the fairly heavy snow that fell while we were there it only got prettier.
Bishop has quite a few restaurants including a famous bakery, Schat’s, another bakery Great Basin with amazing sandwiches, and Mahogany Smoked Meats more amazing sandwiches, and a fairgrounds RV park that while not pretty, is in the heart of town and not expensive. Ed was too busy enjoying his sandwich at Great Basin to take a picture…
Most of all Bishop is a hop, skip and jump from some of the prettiest country anywhere and is a climbing Mecca to boot. We kept extending our stay and will absolutely be back for another visit.
Ever since we started out back in November 2014 we seem to take weather with us, snow, rain, and/or wind. To California’s great delight we brought snow this time and the mountains really got dumped on. Just before the weather really started to come in we went down HWY 395 to Big Pine and up RT 168E to the road up to Schulman Grove in the Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains at just over 10,000 feet elevation. Ancient Bristlecone Pines can live practically forever…. the oldest is over 5,000 years old! The tree only grows in isolated groups at high elevation in a couple of places out west. They thrive in extremely dry, lousy soil, high wind and cold which also gives them a very short growing season. They can survive even when part of the tree is dead, which helps give them a most unique appearance.
Unfortunately the really, really old ones are about 12 miles out a road our RV could not possibly do and my planned hike into the forest was curtailed by very menacing clouds moving in fast, however someday we’ll be back.
Next day we headed out RT 168W (Line Rd.) to the Buttermilks. The landscape of these ginormous glacial erratic boulders is just incredibly cool and I had fun pretending I actually knew what I was doing 🙂 . Our rock climbing kids Kevin and Za were very jealous we got to this world class bouldering Mecca before them. Even if you don’t want to try your hand at climbing the rocks are wonderful to see both for their size and the patterns in them.
The following day we headed south down 395 to the Manzanar National Historic Site near ironically enough, the town of Independence. The incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII was one of Americas lowest points and this site is the best preserved of the 10 internment camps that were located around the country. The day we were there the wind was just howling as it so often does in this area and it certainly added to the embarrassment Ed and I felt as we spent a couple of hours reading the many exhibits in the center and then touring the grounds. Not a pleasant visit but important to remind ourselves that we must never forget acts of shame done in blind fear and ignorance.
After this somber start of the day we headed on down 395 towards Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills. Another landscape of wonderfully formed granite, Alabama Hills has been one of Hollywood’s favorite locations clear back to the 1920’s. We had a lovely little hike and promised ourselves next time we’d stop at the movie history museum in town.
The following day the on again off again winter weather really showed up. It was 36* in the morning and we hunkered down as it rained, snowed and blew all day. The mountains the next morning were covered in deep snow and it was just beautiful. We headed out HWY 6E to RT 120 and then Benton Crossing Rd. A lovely drive with patchy snow on big rolling hills, and the mountains as backdrop we headed for the main attraction at the far end, hot springs.
There are quite a few in the valley and most of these in this area are public and free. The one we stopped at, Hill Top, comes out of the ground at 136*, but it’s picked up by a pipe that has a diversion valve in it so one can open it and allow the water to run freely over the ground cooling it before it gets to the “tub” where the temp is about 104*. Never being one to really like hot tubs, I went exploring while Ed had a lovely dip and chat with a couple of other folks there.
The next day, our last in Bishop, was crisp and clear and we headed north up 395 to Tom’s Place and the Rock Creek Forest Service Road up into the Sierra’s, We drove until the snow was covering the narrow road and pulled off to continue on foot. About a mile and a quarter further up the road is the Mosquito Flats Trail-head parking lot and several trails into the John Muir Wilderness. We headed out the Morgan Pass trail into the Little Lakes Valley. The air at over 10,000 feet is a bit thin, and the hike to get there was a bit long in that thin air, BUT, the only thing missing on this glorious Mother’s Day was the physical presence of our two boys….and the girls they love…but because we know how much they’d love this place we felt them with us and it was magical…and I might have cried a little bit.