November 10 – 16, 2018
We’re seeking some warmth after the damp cold in Lassen and also saying farewell to the Cascade Mountain range. Of course it’s hello to the Sierra Nevadas, so not a bad trade.
On The Way
What a difference a few hours makes. We left a shady secluded campsite at over 5,000 feet among towering firs in Northern California and drove 150-ish miles to the Nevada desert to camp at a casino. We’d been pretty cold and welcomed the sun and warmth. Of course this is high desert so the nights are even colder here and our low plunged to about 20. But the big bonus was full services, a dog park for Jackson and a surprising grassy patch.
Jackson thoroughly enjoyed his grass for two nights just over the Nevada border outside of Reno. We put a new state sticker on the camping map, too.
Lone Pine, California is right at the foot of Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48. Boulder Creek was our campground just outside of town with views on all sides.
Here we are all settled in with Mt. Whitney rising in the background. The Sierra Nevada range is very toothy at this spot and there’s a good bit of mountain above the tree line.
This turned out to be the location where we threw our best laid plans out the window. We passed right on by Yosemite National Park thinking the road would be closed at this time of year due to snow. Just like Lassen, we could have gone, but we weren’t camping close enough. Rather than make a 2.5 hour drive to get there and just scratch the surface, we decided to table that one for anther time.
Manzanar National Historic Site was right up the road and a place we’d never even heard of before. It wasn’t in the plan, but we read about it and just had to go.
This was one of ten internment camps for the Japanese during WWII. I was so ashamed to learn how we treated those people, many if not most of whom were US citizens born in this country. All their property and most of their possessions were taken away and they were held captive for over three years. We toured the museum and the grounds which included a reconstructed barracks and mess hall.
The over 10,000 residents of the camp made the best of it and built a school, this monument, and even cultivated gardens in each block. A sobering place to visit, but the exhibits were extremely well done and worth the time.
The Alabama Hills
Next up was a drive to Movie Flats, a road outside of Lone Pine, to see the Alabama Hills named for a Civil War ship. They’ve filmed everything from How The West Was Won with John Wayne, to Star Trek in this other-wordly landscape. The most recent filming was one of my favorites, Django Unchained. There aren’t any movie sets to see, but there are lots of odd shaped boulders. They’ve been described as potato-like.
The pile of potatoes is actually the same age as the pointy Sierra Nevadas in the background. They just formed from different kinds of rock that eroded away to these smoother mounds.
Moon rising over the Alabama Hills.
Our goal for the Alabama Hills hike was to find the mobius arch so we could look through it to see the peak of Mt. Whitney.
We found this arch first and I actually liked it better.
Found the mobius arch and I was able to frame Mt. Whitney as I’d seen in other photos. It was a warm day and we had to shed some layers. Just mid-70s, but warm in the sun. Then we drove the Whitney portal road about 9 miles up the mountainside to the trailhead.
At the trailhead is a frozen waterfall! I was so delighted, just like a little kid. I’ve never seen anything like it with the water rushing underneath the perfect ice layer. Speaking of layers, the coats go right back on, as well as my hat and gloves. That’s what a 4,000 foot elevation change will do for you.
We tramped around for awhile to get a look at the icicles and frozen mist from all the angles.
Looking back at the Mt. Whitney “teeth”. Time to head back down as the sun slips away and the toothy mountain shadows claim the valley.
Originally we were going to drive across Death Valley in the motorhome to get to Nevada. Then I read about the road. 9-10% grades for miles up and down and a twisting, turning hairpin road over another pass with steep dropoffs on the narrow stretches. I talked us out of that one.
We took the car for a day trip instead and we’re glad we didn’t go that way in Lucy.
Gas was $5.14 at Panamint Springs just after the first mountain pass!
We lunched at Stovepipe Wells after we stopped at this overlook. We just missed seeing the Canyon Jedi. That’s what the locals call the military jets flying through the canyon for practice.
Badwater Basin is 282 feet below sea level and the lowest point in North America. Not totally stunning views in my opinion, but you just have to go there. And you’ve heard the saying “but it’s a dry heat”? Well here’s the quote we read on the signpost about that…
“It was so hot that swallows in full flight fell to the earth dead and when I went out to read the thermometer with a wet Turkish towel on my head, it was dry before I returned”. — quote by Oscar Denton, caretaker of the ranch on the record hot day of 134 degrees, July 1913
More Badwater Basin, named after a prospector’s mule refused to drink the water. Not just being stubborn this time. A view of people strolling way out into the valley, the salty, crusty ground and that sea level marker way up above our heads on the canyon wall.
Our final stop was Dante’s View, reported to be the best view in the park. I wholeheartedly agree with that claim. It was a lot of driving, but worth it to get there.
This isn’t the place for wildlife viewing as you can guess. I think we saw two birds, maybe? And then there’s this sign. Bees perhaps? We’re not sure what that’s about, and we didn’t see any insects at all.
That’s it for Death Valley and the cute town of Lone Pine. With our new travel plans we’re headed back to Nevada the long way around.
Next Up – NOT Valley of Fire. Story to follow in the next post. See you on the way!