Sep 222010

This is part three of my description of the ultimate Sierra road trip, which originated in Los Angeles, visited the giant Sequoias, traversed the breadth of Yosemite National Park, and ended with a tour of the east side of the Sierra Mountains.  (See my posts covering Day 1 and Day 2 of the road trip.)

Day three of our road trip found us in Bishop, California, a town small in stature, but mighty in reputation among rock climbers and mule enthusiasts.  I’ve spent many great climbing weekends in Bishop–mostly climbing, eating, and recuperating in the local hot springs.  This time, however, I was here on a dog-friendly, family itinerary.

Mule Days: a twenty-mule team takes over Main Street, Bishop

Day 3:

  • Skip the breakfast at your motel and head to the Great Basin Bakery (my personal favorite, with east coast-style bagels and ridiculous chocolate chip vegan cookies) or Schat’s Bakery (the best sandwiches in town).  Pack a fantastic veggie (or Turkey, if that’s your thing) sandwich from Schat’s for picnic lunching.  If you’re a coffee connoisseur, the espresso at Black Sheep Espresso Bar is killer.  They also make a mean tahini-cardamom shake.  I could really spend the whole morning collecting delicious food from my favorite places in Bishop…
  • Head south if you’re in a hurry, otherwise consider a visit to local bouldering spots such as the Happy Boulders and the Buttermilk Boulders, a visit to the lakes at Aspendell (the aspen trees are a beautiful sight in the fall), or a dip in one of the many swimming holes and natural springs.
A little climbing might be in order at the Buttermilk Boulders
(West Line St. to Buttermilk Rd.)
  • Head back to Los Angeles.  But don’t worry, there’s still a lot to see on the way home!
  • On the way to Lone Pine, near Independence, keep your eyes peeled for Tule elk herds that can be spotted on the right side of the highway.  Although not native to the area, the Tule elk thrived after being transplanted in the 1930’s.  Tule elk are the smallest species of American elk.  Habitat loss and hunting reduced their number from around 500,000 to only 28.  Today, about 4,000 Tule elk reside in California.
  • At Lone Pine, take the Mt. Whitney Portal Road to “Movie Road” to tour the Alabama Hills, film location for movies ranging from Hopalong Cassidy to Iron Man.  If you have some time, drive all the way to just before the big switchback up Mt. Whitney Portal Road, take a right hand turn onto Hogback Road, which will loop you back down to Movie Road.  Take a right on Movie Road back to Whitney Portal Road.  In the spring, you can spot different wild flowers along the Portal Road as you drive up in elevation.
The strange rock formations of the Alabama Hills
(photo by T. Kornylak)
  • If it’s not too hot, take some time to explore the weird rock formations and scramble up to some rock windows.  There are also some local climbs, which we didn’t explore.
An arch makes a nice picture frame (photo by T. Kornylak)

As demonstrated by Toki and Josh
  • Tips: If you have more time, take a side trip to the Bristlecone Pine Forest, the oldest living trees on earth (plan for at least 3.5 hours, including driving time) or schedule a tour of the Mojave Airport, location of an airplane graveyard and former home of SpaceShip One.
Gnarled branches of the Bristlecone Pine,
the oldest single living organisms known on earth
  • The total drive time from Bishop to Los Angeles is usually about 4 – 4.5 hours, not including detours to see the Alabama Hills, Bristlecone Pine Forests, or other sights along the way.
We’ve got the scenery, now all we need is a horse . . .

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