June 25, 2007: It’s go time again for Mikie and me. We were planning to
leave this morning, heading for Mammoth Lakes on the eastern side of
the Sierra. Mikie came over early yesterday to play with the boys
next door, but they were gone. Since I was 95% ready to go, I
suggested we finish getting ready and spend the night at my
daughter’s place in Oakhurst.
calling to make sure they would be home, we had a quick lunch,
finished loading and hooking up the trailer, and headed up the hill,
about a 50 mile drive. They live on five acres in the country off
Road 620, across from the
Bass Lake Roa), with other homes around them but none very close. The road above
their house ends with a big circle about a quarter mile walk from
the house. There are driveways to unsold lots there, but no one has
started building, so we parked the trailer there, arriving about 7
immediately headed to the house to see Aunt Jenny and Uncle Rod,
while I got the trailer into the position I wanted. When Mikie got to
where he could see their house, he noticed they were looking at
something in their driveway.
is it,” he asked.
snake,” Jennifer answered.
immediately took off running, since he is fascinated by
snakes. Apparently the snake was fascinated by Mikie, because it was
still there when I arrived, five minutes behind him, although it had
moved down into the grass.
a gopher snake, about four feet long. Mike picked up a stick and
lifted the snake part way up with it, and still the snake stayed.
Finally he got up enough nerve to try to pick it up – and one
touch was all took for this seemingly lethargic reptile to put on a
burst of speed and disappear into a clump of poison oak.
a good day for seeing animals – on the way in from the main road
we had seen five small rabbits, and when I went back up to the
trailer to get something, I saw a buck.
a good time visiting Rod & Jen, and had a late barbecued chicken
supper, then headed off for bed in the trailer.
left home I had noticed that the refrigerator warning light had come
on, indicating a problem. It works on electric power when we're
plugged in, and automatically switches to propane if there
is no electricity. I reset it and
we took off, but when we went to bed I noticed it was not working,
and even after several resets, it would not stay on. I turned it
off, and spent the first hour of what should have been sleep time
worrying about it.
morning I turned it on and it stayed on OK, but I borrowed a couple
of ice chests from Jennifer just in case. It worked flawlessly the
rest of the trip.
an early start, about , and headed up highway 41 towards Yosemite. Our route took us into
Yosemite Valley then out via the
Tioga Pass Road that leaves the park at 9,000 feet. We dropped down 2,000 feet in
ten miles to US 395, then headed south about 40 miles to
Mammoth Lakes, three miles west of 395.
fairly cool overnight in Oakhurst, and very cool up in the higher
elevations of Yosemite. We stopped at Olmstead Point, where there is a good view of the
eastern side of Half Dome, as well as Cloud’s Rest and the
Canyon. We ate lunch there and walked around; saw a couple of lizards, and
Mikie managed to touch one.
quite warm when we arrived at our camp site at about 1:30. We got set up, and Mikie and I played catch, which he will do
endlessly if there is someone to play with. He got a bat and whiffle
ball at the RV park store, and I pitched to him several times. He
also went swimming while I tried to check my Email. I was able to
connect to their wireless network, but had a hard time connecting to the
Internet. I was successful for a while, then got knocked off again.
that, I went to the visitor center across the street and got some
information on some of the places we want to visit. Now we’ve
finished supper, played a final game of catch, and are inside for
the night at 8 p.m.
It has been in the low 70s here in the daytime, and low 40s at
26: Today we went to Bodie, the infamous ghost town northeast of Lee
Vining. In the late 1800s it was a gold mining town with 10,000
people. I think it was occupied till some time in the mid 20th
century, but with just a handful of residents. There are many old
houses and a few commercial buildings that are still standing, all
unpainted and weathered to a beautiful color. There is one house you
can go into, and you can look in windows and see what was left
behind in most of them. The old saloon had a slot machine and a
roulette wheel, along with various bottles. There is also a museum
where you can buy T-shirts, books and a few other items.
town is located in a basin at 8,000 feet, with virtually no trees
anywhere, and is unbearably cold in the winter (at least for me it
would be; obviously the residents managed). It is quite isolated,
about 20 miles east of US 395, the last three miles being a rough
headed back south we stopped at Mono Lake to check out the wildlife
– tiny brine shrimp that clump together and look like a mass of
algae, brine flies that occupy the shoreline and first few feet of
water by the millions and possibly billions, and seagulls that feed on both of them. About 90% of
California’s gulls come here to nest on the lake’s many small
islands. Mikie was put off by the idea of millions of flies, but
they are quite harmless, don’t bite, and almost never land on
people. Soon he was wading past them to pick up some shrimp, which
was what interested him most. They are very tiny, no more than 1/8
stopped in Lee
Vining to do some souvenir and grocery shopping, and headed back to
camp. We’ve now had our evening bike ride, a shower, and dinner,
and are ready for inside activities, again at about 8 p.m.
27: We’ve been having excellent weather, in the low 70s in the
daytime, and high 40s last night. It got down to 47, but not till
late in the night – at 3 a.m. it was about 56. Very comfortable
we went to Devil’s Postpile, which is down in the Middle Fork of
the San Joaquin River, about 15 miles from town. It was my third
visit there. The first time, I hiked in from the west, a two-day
hike each way. The best thing about that hike, unlike every other
backpacking trip I have taken, was that at the destination point
there was a store selling cold beer. I went there again about twelve years
ago with my older grandson and a friend of his.
the area from Mammoth Lakes, you have to take a shuttle bus unless you are
camping down there. Considering the narrow, winding road, I was just
as glad to leave the driving to someone else.
Postpile itself is a volcanic basalt flow that formed cracks as it
cooled. When each crack was about ten inches long, it branched off
at a 120 degree angle, forming hexagons. The face of the formation
consists of vertical columns about 100 feet high. There is a large
talus slope of broken posts between the trail and the bottom of the
cliff. You can go up on top and walk across the rock and see the
had finished looking, we ate lunch at a picnic area, then walked on
down to the trail to a place where we could catch the shuttle back.
The ticket area also offers gondola rides, bike rentals, and a
climbing wall, plus lots of other ways to get rid of your money.
Mikie decided to try the wall, his first time for something like
that. He was hesitant, but as I expected, he did very well.
way back down to camp we stopped at an earthquake fracture, which is
a fairly deep crevice, about 100 feet long or more, and ten to
twenty feet wide. Mammoth is known as a center of many earthquakes,
including one my mother felt in Mariposa about a month ago.
5 p.m. we’re at the RV park swimming pool, where there is
theoretically Internet access. Actually you can get on the park’s
network, but they are having troubles of some kind and you can’t
get on the Internet. The people in the office are unable to do
anything about it, and don’t seem to care very much.
29: Yesterday we didn’t go far but went to a lot of places. We
started off with a stop at the Mammoth Lakes library, where I was
able to connect to the Internet and clear some of my Email. We then
drove up past the Mammoth ski resort, the jumping off point for many
activities, including the shuttle to Devil’s Postpile. We went to
Minarets Vista, where we could see the Minarets, a ridge of jagged
peaks in the Ritter Range. I’ve seen these peaks from the west and
walking south of them on my first trip to the Postpile. They are
also visible riding the shuttle bus, but the windows are closed, so it’s not suitable for
photography. I was glad to finally have a chance to take a number
of photos of this dramatic scene.
back down to the headquarters of the ski area, we rode the gondola
to the top of Mammoth Mountain. The mountain itself is not very
scenic, being cleared for skiing, but there are views all around,
including the Minarets, the San Joaquin drainage above North Fork
which we are used to seeing from the west, and many high Sierra
peaks. We ate lunch at the very expensive snack bar on top before
heading back down.
tried the climbing wall again, having a little trouble at the start,
then getting into it once again.
followed the Mammoth Lake Scenic Loop road six miles north and east
out to US 395. It goes through open ponderosa forest
; nice, but nothing spectacular. Next we drove up to Obsidian Dome,
which is really a broken wall of obsidian, with lots of large and
small pieces of this volcanic glass material forming a talus slope
at the bottom. There are pieces as big as a Volkswagen. When I was a
kid in Bootjack in rural Mariposa County, Bobby Butler and I
collected many small pieces of obsidian and one or two arrow heads
in an area back of where we lived that had been occupied by Indians.
The obsidian here seemed to be less pure than what we found,
although it was known back then that the western Sierra Indians
traded for obsidian from those who lived on the eastern side.
Mammoth Lakes behind this morning and headed south on 395 to Big
Pine, a town of about 1,500. Along the way we were driving through
the Owens Valley and sections of it known as Round Valley and Long
Valley. We also dropped down from 9,000 feet to 4,000, with an
increase in temperatures from the 70s to the 90s.
setting up in a small RV park at the junction of state highway 168
and US 395, we went up 168 and turned north into the White Mountains to
see the ancient Bristlecone Pines. The drive goes up from 4,000 to
10,000 feet, with a nice change of weather to the low 70s. After
stopping in the visitor center, we took a one-mile loop trail that
goes through some of the old trees, which range up to 4,600 years in
age, the oldest living things on earth. The larger trees are about 30 feet tall, with multiple trunks. Where they have lost bark,
they are beautifully weathered by the elements. The most gnarled and
seemingly damaged trees are actually the most healthy. Exposure of
the wood causes the tree to produce very dense, highly resinous wood
that resists fire, insects and other enemies. Along the trail there
is a view across to some small glaciers on the eastern Sierra slope,
the southernmost glaciers in the world.
back to camp about 3:30, giving us time for a nap, some baseball, and working on this
journal. In the evening we went into town for dinner (chicken and
fries), played some more baseball, and are now ready to settle in
for the night.
We left Big Pine a little after 9 a.m.
yesterday (Saturday) morning, intending to take two days to get
Walker Pass and highway 178 over the Sierra through
clear that Mikie was anxious to get home, and I did not have any
burning desire to take an extra day, so I started calculating how
long it would take to just go a slightly quicker route over
Tehachapi Pass through
Bakersfield. It looked like we could get home by around
6 p.m., so we made this our last day.
continued south on US 395 from Big Pine, going through
Independence and Lone Pine, and a couple of other smaller towns. Along the way we
had great views of the eastern Sierra escarpment. Somewhere along
the way, east of Lone Pine, we were undoubtedly looking at
Whitney, the highest point in the continental U.S. (Whitney used to
be the nation’s highest, but when Alaska became a state, it was
demoted to about number 15.)
jogs to the southeast, and we took
California 14, which goes southwest through Mojave and Lancaster toward
Los Angeles, meeting
California 58 near Mojave.
Mammoth Lakes south to the junction of 14 and 58 our route was one I had never
traveled before, but once on 58, I was on very familiar territory,
having gone over it at least once a year since I retired in 2002.
stopped in Tehachapi for gas and lunch, then continued over 58 and
up California 99 to
Fresno, arriving a little after 6 p.m.
The weather was warm but not horrible, about 95 degrees. The
horrible weather is coming at the end of the week, with 110
predicted. Maybe I’ll head back to
--Dick Estel, July 2007
Half Dome from Olmstead Point
Tenaya Canyon looking west
Mikie at Mono Lake
The Methodist Church
One of Bodie's finer homes
The Bodie School House
The weathered wood is a big attraction
More weathered boards
A few buildings have
flattened tin cans as added outer insulation
1927 Dodge Graham truck
Sheep along the road to Bodie
Front view of the Postpile
Posts and big talus pile
Mikie and a big broken post
Hexagonal formation on top
10,000 years before Mikie,
glacier scraped across this spot
The formation is accented by
willows and evergreens
A smaller postpile, about a half
mile from the big one
The Ritter Range - Minarets,
Ritter & Banner Peak
Another view of the Minarets
Weathered dead trees at Minarets
Dick on top of Mammoth Mountain, with
the Minarets in the background
Eastern Sierra from Bishop
The bristly, resin-dripping cone
of the bristlecone pine