Ambling around Bishop and Lone Pine

Current location: Furnace Creek Ranch, Death Valley, California; Current temperature: 101 degrees F Hi 102F Lo 70F
We are at the Furnace Creek Ranch RV Park hiding in the MoHo shelter with the air going full blast.  It isn’t very cool in here, but it is a good place to be at the moment, and lots better than outside.  The swimming pool is great as well.
desert peach in the SierrasWednesday morning May 1 in Bishop, CA
It is great to wake up in the morning after a good night’s sleep to know we have absolutely nowhere to be at any time at all.  We are hanging out in Bishop, a town we have traveled through often, but never really stopped to visit.  We knew that a few things were on the list, including a visit to a famous bakery and a drive into the mountains.  The rest of the day would be fleshed out after we checked out the lovely visitor center directly across the street from the previously mentioned bakery.
Day 4 Bishop_013DSC_0015The visitor center didn’t open until ten, and since it was only 9:30 we had no choice but to spend time in Schat’s Bakkery.  Awww…too bad.  even though the place was established in 1904, it is clear that now it caters to the tremendous tourist industry that plies the road between LA and Reno.  There is no way a tiny town of under 4,000 people could begin to support a bakery of this size and quality.  They are famous for their sheepherder bread, but the rest of the choices are fun as well.  We had a great pastry and sipped perfect coffees while we watched the tourists come and go with their big bags of bread and pastries.  I left with a bag of bread as well.
Day 4 a day in BishopMo parked at the visitor center, adjacent to the city park, with a large sign once again proclaiming “No Dogs”.  We keep seeing these signs in most of the small city parks along this route and it is a bit discouraging.  Mo waited in the car while I picked the brains of a very informative young woman, a local resident for her entire life.  She told us about some of the places to go, but more important she knew the history of the little Rovada Village that we had seen yesterday afternoon.  It was built by the owners of the Tungsten Mine up Pine Canyon, now closed because even though it was the largest tungsten mine in the US, it is cheaper to mine tungsten in China.  The village is a leftover, and consists of old, somewhat poorly kept rentals.  The young woman lived there until very recently, and didn’t think it was nearly as charming as it appeared to us yesterday as we drove through.  On our list today: drive the canyon to the tungsten mine.
great Bishop Dog ParkFirst things first, however.  We needed an Abby place, and just around the corner from the visitor center and city park we found a wonderful dog park.  There were even toys lying around, lots of doggie bags, grass and trees for shade.  Another young woman there with her dog told us that the locals all take their dogs on the road on either side of the canal, just 1/4 mile east of the park, where there are old cow wallows that are perfect for doggie swims.  Hmmm.  Maybe not today, but good to know.
galen-rowell-0By the time Abby had played to her heart’s content, it was time for the opening of the Mountain Light gallery down on Main Street.  No one except maybe Ansel Adams has photographed the Sierran light the way that Galen Rowell did.  His images are breathtaking, and the gallery was incredibly beautiful.  I have wanted his book, Mountain Light, since forever, and a 25th anniversary edition was right there in front of me.  Yes, I bought it.  Galen and his wife were killed sadly in small plane crash right here at the Bishop airport in 2002, but his legacy lives on, not only for the Sierra, but for all the other magical mountains in the world that he climbed and photographed.  I stayed in the gallery a long time while Mo waited patiently with Abby in the car and read brochures about more things to do in the area.
Round ValleyMid day we went back to the campground to enjoy the beautiful sunshine and rustling breezes before wandering off in the  opposite direction north of town to find Pine Canyon and the tungsten mine.  Bishop has a long history in cattle and mining, and the valley was once magnificent with the waters of the Owens River.  Now that river has been diverted for the thirsty developers in Los Angeles, and the valley looks nothing like it did before the 1920’s when the LA water district bought up all the water rights.  Our helpful history woman at the info center told us that Round Valley, on a narrow road west of 395, still was naturally sub irrigated, and looked like it did when her family ranched there 4 generations previous. 
Rovana village built by the mining companyWe drove through Rovada again with different eyes.  Yesterday we came through the town trying to find our campground, but that was just a little mistake.  Today it was on purpose.  Pine Canyon was beautiful, with huge glacial boulders strewn on the canyon floor and the steep crest of the eastern Sierra directly above us.  The natural stream has been diverted by the mining company, and according to our local resident, there is something in the soil, left over from mining, that interferes with growing veggies to any decent size. 
found a place where she could get in at least a little bitWe looked for a place to let Abby go swimming, and took some bumpy hidden old dirt paths that looked like they went to the river.  Once down there, we found some perfect spots, except they were completely taken over by large groups of campers.  Not RV types, but more like the kind of campers who might be living there permanently.  So much for a swim, Abby.  Near the diversion gate we did finally find a little place where she could at least get her feet wet, but the water was much too fast to let her get even knee deep.
desert peach on the east side of the SierrasThroughout the canyon we saw desert peach in full bloom.  Somehow I knew nothing of this common eastern Sierra shrub, in the prunus family, that has a bitter small fruit and blooms all over the hillsides in spring.  It stands out because it is so rare to get desert flowers that are this shade of pink.
Home in the afternoon to chicken quesadillas at our picnic table with cards and wine and more beautiful breezes.  I loved this little wayside park and am so glad that we decided to stay here more than just overnight.
Thursday morning we knew our travels to Death Valley would be less than 150 miles so we decided it was a good day to see some of the sites along Highway 395 we never seem to have time for.  Sabrina Canyon was first on the list, but after missing the turn in Bishop we ended up driving out to Keogh Hot Springs Campground and Resort.  A drive around was enough, and  I don’t think we really need to think about staying here.  The pool is developed from the spring and the place didn’t look very clean.  I would much rather have a natural spring or a really clean pool, no in between for me, I guess.
the cemetery at ManzanarA few more miles south and we passed the small town of Big Pine and then arrived at Manzanar.  This was our day to actually stop and go to the visitor center and drive the grounds.  The story is daunting, and the visitor center is filled with eloquent words and evocative photos and exhibits.
Day 4 D Valley_009DSC_0070There were ten “relocation centers” for American citizens who happened to be Japanese, and the largest of them was near where we live now in Tulelake.  Can you imagine having to suddenly leave your home and business with only what you could carry?  The homes and businesses were almost completely gone years later when the people were allowed to return after the war. Much to think about as we viewed the center and drove the now empty sites. 
Continuing south to our beloved Alabama Hills, we finally made the stop at the Film Museum in Lone Pine. The Hills are a primo boondocking site, and lots of RV folks have written about them, but once again, the museum was something we just hadn’t made time for in the past.  We parked in the nearly empty huge parking lot, in the shade of some big cottonwoods, and paid our 5. entrance fee to see the museum.
Day 5 Manzanar and into Death ValleyThe short movie about the area was fascinating.  As we went in and Mo saw all the huge movie posters, she was skeptical that there were really THAT many movies made in this area.  But there were.  Literally hundreds of them, especially in the heyday of the B westerns and then the TV era that was so dominated by western series.  My first radio memory was The Lone Ranger, and then TV brought old black and white films of Hopalong Cassidy, the Cisco Kid, and so many more.  It would be fun to have a list of all the movies made in the hills, but I didn’t actually see that anywhere amid the displays of posters and old cars and gun belts and sequined outfits that belonged to Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.  An era long gone, I am afraid.  It was a fun stop, but the only photos I took were of the murals on the outside walls.descent into the valley
The afternoon was waning and it was time to head east from Lone Pine on Highway 136 toward Death Valley.  Tonight, Stovepipe Wells and hopefully a site with hookups.  Reservations are not taken after April 30 at this park, but a phone call assured us that only 1 or 2 of the 14 available hookup sites were taken. 
We are ready for a few days in the beautiful valley of death, or as the Paiute’s and Shoshone’s called it, the Valley of Life.

Long Beach and Cape Disappointment

Thursday February 23rd

north coast_272trail to the beach from our parkExcept for the 3 mile move from Fort Stevens to Camp Rilea, I think today may have been one of the shortest drives from one site to another that we have experienced.  In just 21.7 very short miles from Warrenton, north on 101, crossing the beautiful green bridge at Astoria, and winding along the north shore of the Columbia River, we entered the little town of Long Beach, Washington.  Oh.  Sales taxes again!  We are so very spoiled in Oregon since there is no sales tax.

Along the way there are several sites that are part of the Lewis and Clark National and State Historic Parks, but we wanted to first find a home and settle in before we took our time exploring the peninsula.  The sun was a weak, watery orb as we stopped again at the local Visitor Information Center. 

Long Beach Mapnorth coast_274The night before we had looked up all the Passport America and CampClub USA parks in the vicinity, and with more than 70 advertised RV parks in the area, we found just three that were club members.  Of course, some parks understand the switch between CampClub and Passport, but others do not.  We decided on a park called “Driftwood”, but I followed Laurie’s advice and checked out the reviews first.  Hmmmm.  Maybe not. 

We then decided it would be better to be a little bit north of town rather than in a crowded park filled with old trailers, dogs, and junk.  Our choice was perfect.  Pacific Holiday Sunrise Resorts was just north of town a couple of miles, but on the ocean side of the highway, very quiet and clean, spacious, and almost empty. We paid the $15. half price fee, the $1.70 state sales tax, and a $3.00 resort fee for full hookups with great cable TV. 

After a quick setup and lunch, we decided to drive north on the peninsula to explore what is touted as the World’s Longest Beach. A quick check later on the internet confirmed it is the longest US beach, and the longest drivable beach, but the hundred mile long beach in Bangladesh far outdoes the 28 miles of sand stretching north from Cape Disappointment. 

scary dogs with no owner in sightWe drove the back road closest to the water, but most of it was blocked from access by beachfront homes and no access signs.  Finally we found a small path, and parked the car to brave the winds for some beach walking with Abby.  It was really windy, and chilly, but we were determined to enjoy this beach! It was a bit disconcerting to have to move out of the way of the occasional car or truck driving along the frothy surf, but that was nothing compared to the dog scare.

Mo kept them at bay with the plastic stickSuddenly from nowhere, over a big sand dune, came two large aggressive dogs, barking and growling, hackles raised, circling Mo and Abby and threatening them.  I am terrified of these kinds of dogs when they aren’t under control, but Mo kept her head and kept telling them, “Go Home!!”.  They would listen for a minute then come back in and growl at Abby.  Mo just kept being aggressive back, her only weapon was the plastic throwing stick for Abby’s ball.  Abby seemed to be oblivious, and kept wanting to check them out.  My knees were shaking, and I stayed behind Mo the whole time, but neither of us could turn our backs on them because they would come rushing back at us.  Eventually they gave up, scared off by Mo’s alpha dog attitude and big green plastic stick. For me, however, the walk was ruined and I was ready to get back in the car for the rest of the explorations.

North Head LighthouseWe continued driving north along the peninsula, where there were many beachfront houses, most of them empty, and the whole place seemed very uninviting.  Driving to the bay side, we wandered as far north as the road allowed to Leadbetter State Park and the tiny historic town of Oysterville.  A long drive back down the bayside of the peninsula was not particularly interesting and we decided to continue south to Cape Disappointment State Park.

For me, this was the goal of the journey.  I wanted to look out over the Pacific the same way those two great explorers did back in 1805.  I wanted to see what they saw and read more about their travels at what promised to be a beautiful visitor center high above the ocean with a view of the Cape Disappointment lighthouse.  At the southern end of the peninsula, the road climbs steeply into the park, and the first side road leads to a view of the North Head lighthouse.  Both of these lights are beautiful and historic, with North Head established in 1898 and the Cape Disappointment lighthouse in 1856.

sweet coast guard guy training for cliff rescuesthere he goesThe trail to North Head was just a short one but the view was spectacular.  There were some cars out on the entry road and a flurry of activity that had us wondering what was happening.  The coast guard was doing some rescue training and we were at the right place at the right time to watch their amazing maneuvers on the cliffs below us.  The young man in the photo was a 6 year veteran of the coast guard and was a delight to talk to about his career.  Watching him rappel down from the copter was more fun since we had talked to him beforehand.  I know there are a couple of my blog readers who are coast guard retirees, so I thought you might like these photos.  The winds were blowing hard and I was amazed at how steady the helicopter pilot kept that bird hanging in the air during the rescue practice.

there is a trail down there along the beach if you look closelyWe continued through the park to the beautiful interpretive center where there are beautiful trails leading to viewpoints and to the lovely black and white Cape Disappointment lighthouse overlooking the confluence of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean.  In addition to our $10. state park entry fee (inside a National Park where our Golden Age Pass didn’t work), there is an additional $5. fee to go into the center.  Mo chose to look at the views while I went in and learned even more about the expedition.  This time, there were even a few stories of the journey home, another two years.  Lewis’s first comment on arriving in St. Louis was to ask if his mother was still living. Clark probably said something like “Hi Honey, I’m Home” to his long suffering wife who hadn’t seen him in four years!

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse c.1856New exhibits at the center provide interpretation of the entire route, but focused on the Corp’s of Discovery’s pioneering exploration of the Columbia River in 1805 and 1806.  The romance of this wonderful place seeped in deep enough that Mo and I bought a beautiful poster of the park highlights depicted in old fashioned post card style art to frame for our office at home.

walking to the beach on a winter afternoonWe went home to our cozy rig for a bbq salmon supper, with a nice picnic table to hold the bbq and no rain to spoil it.  We did, however, eat inside while watching the sunset. We were both pretty worn out from all the moving and traveling and dogs and cold winds so it was with great pleasure we settled in for an early evening of reading and some good television.

Friday morning we planned to travel south, moving quickly to get back to Brookings by Saturday afternoon, ahead of the predicted bad weather to come.  But first we wanted to make an attempt to find some of the murals that were touted in a brochure we had received from the visitor center.  On our first drive though Ocean Park we didn’t see a thing, but there was time to look again before we headed back south.  We drove back and forth through town, to no avail.  The places listed in the brochure were nowhere to be found, and stops in a couple of local shops were no help, with folks saying they had never heard of the murals.

04 Oregon Coast Long Beach-001I finally found a local guy raking some gravel and he told me that the Ole’s Nook Tavern had been sold several years ago and the mural painted over.  The Sentry Market was now Thriftway, and that mural had also been painted over.  Looking closer, we discovered the brochure was printed in 1995!  We later found this website that would have been more helpful when we were looking, the Walking Tour of Ocean Park. On the way back through Long Beach, Seaside, and Ilwaco, we did find a few of the listed murals, however, some in great shape and some seriously faded.  We even found one on the back side of Highway 103 that wasn’t listed in the brochure.

04 Oregon Coast Long BeachThe other cool thing to look for in Ocean Beach are houses made from old shipwrecks washed ashore.  Our newly found local friend Bob Bodine, 55 year resident of the area, told us where to go to find them.  The craziest was called the “Door House”, and it was exactly that, a house made from doors from an old shipwreck.  Bob mourned the loss of many of these historic places, saying that the new folks coming in didn’t care any more about the history of the place and many of these houses were being torn down.  I’m glad we got to see them before that happened.

We knew that more than 200 miles were between us and our Eugene destination, but were glad to take the time to ferret out a bit of local history before we left Long Beach and headed south.

NOTE: All my photos are now stored on Google/Picasa, but I think the Picasa link on the left side of this blog page gets you there.  If you are a Google Plus user you have probably seen then roll by.  Now when I upload photos from Picasa, they go directly to Google Photos and are shared via Google Plus.  I still have no idea how to share photos with folks that read the blog but aren’t necessarily on a shared list. I would have to make the album fully public to do that I think, and can only do that from Picasa.  Google Plus requires “sharing”.  Ack!!  The whole thing makes me crazy.  I also have photos from the past on SmugMug but because of bandwidth, I don’t upload everything there.

Tomorrow: The mall at Eugene, breakfast with Russ and Donna, and back to Brookings where we finally had our campfire!