California Dreamin’-Part 2
January 27, 2019
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So here we go, the morning of our third full day in Cali. It’s a beautiful morning, no rain in site and an easy drive up the 405 out of the city and toward route 14 and The Owens Valley. As you climb up out of the LA Basin and into Red Rock Canyon, it’s really quite stunning to turn around and look back as the lush landscape below fades away into rocky layers of hills and buttes with sage brush and a desert like landscape. The Sierra Mountains rise on your left and there isn’t a whole lot of traffic on a Monday morning in mid September and we are blessed to be able to enjoy the ride and not feel rushed along.
Our first stop after we blend onto 395 N and enter the Owens Valley is Lone Pine and home of Mount Whitney. Lone Pine is your typical small town, with all the basic necessities but not a bustling town in the least. We were able to find a Subway sandwich shop and grabbed a few subs for lunch and headed back down the road toward the Eastern Sierra Interagency visitor center, about a mile back the way we came. This really is a great little spot to stop and learn about the area and the surrounding mountains and landscape. It’s not big but tells a great story and has a nice little gift shop loaded with books on the area. One thing to note however, if you plan to take a break with your lunch as we did, is there is the most fantastic view of Mt Whitney from the front of the building. We happened to hit it on a perfect blue sky day and I only wish that we had better cameras to try to capture the shear beauty of this place. You can sit at one of several picnic tables and just take in the view, or from the inside of the visitors center there is seating in front of a wall of window that looks out at the mountain.
After lunch we went back into town and turned left onto Tuttle Road. While a little of a side step, if you have the time (maybe an hour) I would recommend traveling along this little winding road into the Alabama Hills. These very cool rock formations and hills offer some great photo opps. especially with Mt Whitney as the back drop. From what we understand they used to film Star Trek shows here for the look of an alien planet. Pretty cool!
I would be remiss if I left out a wonderful chance encounter that we had while driving through here. We came upon an older man and woman along the side of the road. She was sitting reading a book and watching her husband, as He was painting the gorgeous scenery around him. We found a shady spot to pull off and got out to say hello. It turns out that the gentleman was a professional successful painter named Bruce Day and his wife Caroline. You can check out his website here: https://brucesday.com/ . They were the most wonderful couple, very engaging and full of stories of their times traveling around painting. I only wish we could afford one of his paintings as they were just gorgeous, but a bit out of our budget. I hope someone that reads this is able to support them and make a purchase, you won’t be sorry. And if you happen to see them along the ride, be sure to stop and say hello.
As we drove back out to 395 we headed toward Mammoth. The scenery along the drive continues to not disappoint. A bit further up and just before you get to Mammoth there is a wonderful side trip to take to see Convict Lake. This is just another wow photo opp stop. This pristine little lake in the middle of nowhere has a walking trail around it and places to stop and picnic. There are public restrooms, but be cautious of the natural predator wildlife in the area if you decide to venture off alone.
We got into Mammoth late in the evening and were short on daylight so we hurried up and just made it in to get a view of The Devils Postpile National Monument. You drive down from mammoth on the winding road barely wide enough for two cars and a bit nerve wracking if you aren’t into heights, which I am not. Again, keep an eye out for wildlife, as we came across a coyote along the road and several deer. We parked in the lot at the bottom and hiked in about a half mile or so to this natural rock formation. I would recommend taking a moment here to read up on this rare landmark, its very interesting: https://www.nps.gov/depo/learn/nature/geology.htm .
After many pictures, we drove back up into the town of Mammoth. Mammoth is your typical ski town with plenty of bars and restaurants, with many of them centered around this town square shopping area. There is plenty of parking and worth the stroll. Most people of course know Mammoth for its great skiing in the winter season, but there is a lot to see and do in the area during the other seasons as well.
The next morning we headed back out and drove north toward Mono Lake to begin our day in Yosemite National Park. It’s worth the drive to head past the road to Yosemite and drive up the road past Mono Lake. There is a steep climb in the road that winds along the mountain ridge and you can pull off for a few great pictures. Again, just a few minutes out of the way but worth the trip.
I’ll stop here, because Yosemite deserves a post all it’s own. Stay tuned…