Once back in the USA we spent a couple of days in El Centro to restock! Then we were back on the road again!
First stop was Ridgecrest for 3 nights. It was my goal to travel home along highway 395 in California. Usually this route is still experiencing winter when we begin our trek north but as we were able to head home a little later this year the ice and snow were gone!
Ridgecrest is just off highway 395, a little west of Death Valley. For our first day trip from there we decided to head east towards Death Valley as I had heard of Ballarat Ghost Town in that area. I love ghost towns and will seek them out!
Ballarat served mining camps from 1897 to 1917, but all that remains now is a few ruins.
and a few old cars!
There is a caretaker on the property so we visited with him for a bit. He said the Ballarat area really comes to life on warm spring and fall weekends, it is a very popular spot for ATV’s and off roading and camping…..and partying! He said Easter weekend is a very busy time with sometimes hundreds of people showing up….short of physical harm he said, anything goes! (note to self…don’t think we will be camping here! lol!)
Also in this area are the Trona Pinnacles. They are also known as Tufa pinnacles and were formed under water 10,000 to 100,000 years ago in the now dry Searles Lake bed.
The pinnacles are mostly made of calcium carbonate, same as the calcium in our bones and in baking soda!
Over thirty film projects a year are shot among the tufa pinnacles! From movies to TV shows to commercials, you may recognize this unusual landscape!
The next day we decided to head in the opposite direction, southwest to the Red Rock Canyons state park. The park is located where the southernmost tip of the Sierra Nevada converge with the El Paso Range.
During the early 1870s, the colorful rock formations in the park served as landmarks for 20-mule team freight wagons from Death Valley, that stopped for water.
We were very lucky to get there as the wildflowers were beginning to bloom! As with everywhere else it seems, they too had a wet winter and the spring bloom loved it!
It seems like the geology changes around every corner here, from the beautiful orange colored rock faces, to tall spires and slot canyons!
I found this one formation very interesting, it looked like a big mushroom!
Time to continue north on Highway 395, next stop is Bishop, Ca for a week. I fell in love with Bishop and felt I could easily live there! I don’t say that about too many places as I really do love where I live in Kamloops, but Bishop called to me! You are surrounded by majestic mountains!
With peaks like Mt Tom at 13,652 ft, Mt Abbot at 13,715 ft and Red Slate Mtn at 13,163 ft to the west in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and Blanco Mtn at 11,278 ft and White Mtn at 14,246 ft to the east in the White Mountains between California and Nevada it is awe inspiring! Nestled between these 2 fabulous mountain ranges is the Owens Valley.
Mt Whitney, the tallest peak in the contiguous United States at 14, 491 ft, is just south of Bishop.
We had a week of beautiful spring weather and a map in front of us, what could be better! Some of the areas I wanted to see were not accessible yet due to snow but we were able to get to many of them.
Day one was to retrace our path to a small town we drove through on our way north, Lone Pine, population of approximately 2000. On the way we stopped to see the Mt Whitney Fish Hatchery, in Independence, about 3/4’s of the way from Bishop to Lone Pine.
It was built in 1916 from 3500 tons of granite! It is one of the most beautiful fish hatcheries in the USA!
The stones were not cut but sorted and sized , the walls are 2 to 3 feet thick! It was designed to match the mountains and to last forever!
When construction was completed in 1917, it was the largest and best equipped hatchery in California and could produce 2,000,000 fish fry per year.
In July of 2007 a large wildfire burned upstream to the west of the Hatchery. As a result, a year later, on July 12, 2008, a heavy thunderstorm caused a massive mudslide in the fire-scarred Oak Creek watershed that swept downstream, severely damaging the ponds and water supplies of the hatchery, as well as two employee housing units. The main building escaped major damage.
The Friends of the Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery organized restoration work that allowed the interpretive center and display pond to re-open on May 30, 2009. However, the future of full-scale hatchery production is uncertain.
One of the main attractions in Lone Pine is the Movie Museum. The Alabama Hills are in Lone Pines back yard and have been the setting for over 400 movies beginning with silent films to today’s block busters!
Before this blog gets too long I will end it here! Next up: Alabama Hills!
Until next time!