Friday, August 28, 2015
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Highway 395 Kicks it Into High Gear - The Northern Owens Valley
It's been 275 miles on the road, probably time to think about somewhere to lay our head. That would be the heart and soul of the Owens Valley, Bishop, California.
With a population of just under 4,000, Bishop is the big city of Owens Valley. It's here that you'll find the major services...stores, hospital, casino, fairgrounds, and lodging. You can get clean, comfortable rooms starting at around $60 at the peak season of summer, up to the $140 dollar rooms at the Best Western Creekside Inn, the prettiest and most expensive place in town.
It's your choice but we'll not spend too much here...Bishop is unpretentious and uncomplicated. We'll keep it simple and cheap.
In Bishop, travelers stock up for the trip ahead. Sporting good stores cater to fishermen and hunters who flock to the local lakes and forests. It's said that you can walk across Crowley Lake, just north of town, by stepping from boat to boat on opening day of trout season. Campers get groceries and road trippers top off the tanks and drain the bladders for the road ahead.
While many just stop for a minute and continue on, Bishop rewards those who linger a little longer.
Schatz Bakery is the busiest place in town where you can get varieties of bread and baked goods that range from mediocre to delicious. Grab a lunch to go and cross the street to the pretty city park where you can picnic on the banks of the creek, watching ducklings trying to keep up with mom.
You can get cheap gas and gamble for awhile at the Indian casino at the north end of town.
As we leave Bishop on highway 395, we also say goodbye to the Owens Valley. 42 miles north, although it seems much closer, we come the next big attraction...and I mean BIG.
Local DWP hydrographer Dave McCoy set up a number of rope tows to facilitate his love of skiing in the winter. In 1942, he finally found a good, snowy spot and persuaded the forest service to give him a permit to open a ski area. Mammoth Mountain was born.
The name is apt, the mountain is huge and easily accommodates the thousands of skiers and snowboarders that crowd the town of Mammoth Lakes on winter weekends.
Snow can come down hard here...it's not uncommon to drive the streets of this town in winter with walls of snow ten feet high on either side.
Skiing ranges from the easy bunny slopes to the truly scary and expert slopes of the 11,000 foot cornice.
It's not cheap to ski here. As of this writing, an adult full day lift ticket is $89. Rooms average around $200 a night in season, although we once found a small basement room for around $90. The closer to the lifts, the more expensive they get...easily topping $500 a night for a room next to a lift.
For that price, you will get one of the world's great skiing experiences. Mammoth also operates an adaptive ski program run by Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra that runs around $150 for a full day of skiing and instruction, click on that link for more information.
Back on 395, heading north, we leave all traces of desert behind as we travel through the snowy Alpine forests of the Sierra, Mammoth, and June Lake. Where we're going is not the sunny California that everybody is thinking of.
We'll be swinging through the Siberia of the west coast in the next leg of this trip.
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