CALIFORNIA OUTDOORS

June Lake and Mono Lake

December 23, 2009

Another unplanned day on the road, this time, heading back North on 395 until we crossed over the Sierras, and headed back West to San Francisco.

We packed up and said goodbye to camp, and the lovely Bishop Creek, then headed to the nearby town of Bishop in search of coffee and breakfast.

We found Erick Schat’s dutch-themed (?) bakery

I recall eating at an Erick Schatt‘s about 6 or 7 years ago while snowboarding in nearby Mammoth. For some reason, the thing that stood out most about that experience was not the bread/baked goods, but that they had a fresh-squeezed orange juice machine. They had one here too.

We loaded up on sheepherder’s bread (b/c they are famous for it), and mule bread (another multi-grained combination), and purchased sandwiches from the deli for a planned picnic later on in the day.

This place was crazy-busy with all sorts of tourists, many of whom were foreign. I find this kind of funny, given the fact that this place tries to evoke a European old-world, yet Americana-kitsch quality. Of all the people at Schatt’s, I would guess that 90% were foreign. And many were loading up on a minimum of 5 loaves of bread each, most with at least 10 loaves in their overflowing baskets. Very strange, yet somewhat theme park-like. Good place to people watch while enjoying a cup of joe.

Back on the road. Original “plans” included lunch at Devil’s Postpile national monument, however, snowy conditions (even in May) meant it was closed.

Instead, we detoured to June Lake.

Until this point, June Lake remained a mystical place that we learned of from a group of retired ladies we met a year ago in Bearpaw High Sierra Camp. They raved about the June Lake loop hike. Now I know why.

It was beautiful here. And while the water was a bit chilly, people were swimming in it. Beach was a bit rocky, but still a real sandy beach.

We ate our sandwiches, played with ducks, and goofed around a bit in the water/on the rocks.

After sitting in the afternoon sun, at a higher elevation, with little protection, it felt a bit like our retinas were going to burn out of our skulls. So back in the car we went. We explored the ‘town’ of June Lake — tiny, quaint, one of every type shop or restuarant you could ever need. In the winter, I imagine there to be a Norman Rockwell quality about it. In the summer, or the beginning of summer/end of a holiday weekend, the town remained quiet and still, and borderline deserted.

Our last “real” stop on our roadtrip was Mono Lake — a place I had dreamed of visiting ever since first seeing photos of the moonscape-like terrain.

Mono Lake

The water is so salty, that you practically float. We didn’t get the chance to try it, but next time, we plan on taking an inflatable boat out there during sunset, taking some pictures, and watching the sun set. Mono Lake

One thing I didn’t realize is the decades-long battle over the water from Mono Lake. The short of it is — people from LA needed water, and some enterprising people built a pipe from Mono to LA, draining the lake of its resources. There are markers all along the trail to the lake indicating how high the water once was, and how quickly it took to drain the lake of hundreds of feet of water. I’m not sure where things stand now. I know people died over this fight for water. But I don’t know if the issue has been totally resolved. You can read more about it here.

We continued along 395, stopping for gas (and a few pictures) in Bridgeport.

Bridgeport, CA

If you had showed me these photos prior to visiting, I would have never guessed they were taken in California. It felt so remote on the other side of the Sierras.

Bridgeport, CA

Not long after, we crossed through the Sierras via Rte 88, one of the most stunning drives I have ever made in California.

Route 88

If the world ever came to an end, this seems like one of those places where you’d still be able to find people. It’s still remote, and still pristine, untouched by too many people–a rarity in California.

Route 88

We drove by so many historical markers, camp sites, remote historic cabins for rent (we have to come back), hot springs, and ski resorts. We didn’t get a chance to stop anywhere else, but we made mental notes for future trips.

Not long after this trip, the governor of California announced the closing of many of the state parks. The news of that rattled me somewhat, and I uncharacteristically signed many a petition and actually became a reasonably aware voter for once. I mention this because I couldn’t, and can’t, imagine California without access to its parks. It’s unthinkable to me. Maybe it’s because I’m selfish — I have still so much I have left to see — but the other part of me kept thinking — what if I never get the chance to swim in Mono Lake at sunset?

SEE
Mono Lake: 13 miles east of Yosemite National Park and east of the Sierras, just off US 395 between Lee Vining and Bridgeport.

SLEEP
June Lake Campground: ($17/night. Flush toilets. Off 395, follow signs to June Lake on 158. There are several campgrounds around the lake, and if you are making the June Lake Loop hike. When you first spot the lake, there are several campgrounds nearby the beach — these are not recommended due to the fact that there are no trees, and a blazing hot sun. If you keep driving, you’ll pass several campgrounds and RV parks. June Lake Campground has several somewhat closely spaced sites, many of which have individual private boat ramps.)

EAT
Erick Schat’s: (763 N. Main Street, Bishop California. $5-$10. The pastries were ok, but the deli was amazing. Do as the Europeans you will encounter do: buy several loaves of their zillions of types of bread, and make a picnic of it.)

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