300 mile day
Los Angeles Travel Blog› entry 1 of 8 › view all entries
September 20th, 2006 – by: portia
I left around 1:30pm from Los Angeles on the Foothills Freeway (the 210), along the San Gabriel mountains westward, it was a nice sunny day, but a little hazy, perhaps from the wildfire going on in the west.
I turned to the state route (SR) 14, the Antelope Valley Freeway, which turned east through the mountains toward the Mojave desert.
The mountains gave way to flat desert, and I arrived at the "high desert" and through the cities of Palmdale, Lancaster and Rosamond.
Pretty soon I was in the city of Mojave, the sign outside of town said "Home of Spaceship One", the first non-government manned spaceship built by the company founded by Burt Rutan here. The sign used to say "Home of Voyager", the airplane flown by his brother Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager (not related to Chuck Yeager) which set the record for non-stop around the world flight without refilling back in 1986. This is the place where many airplanes are mothballed, they are just parked out there in the airport and although I took a photo, the airplanes were too small to be as impressive as seen in person. Mojave is a good place to get gas for the car, or a quick meal for the tummy. Along the road are all the fast food restaurants you can imagine. On the left (west) side of the road is the railroad, and we often seen freight trains going by.
Outside of Mojave, the 14 winds northeast and I went through Red Rock Canyon, a state recreational area. I had stopped here before and I had taken the dogs there. Kevin used to call this the "Red dog canyon" because we had Sash the red haired Siberian Husky then. Sadly Sasha is no longer with us, but I have posted a photo of her in this canyon. This canyon has the eroding red rocks, and over the years, more have eroded and fallen off the mountain. Many years ago when we drove to Mammoth on a ski trip, a bunch of my friends borrowed my mom's Lincoln town car and the car broke down near here on the way, and they had to get help from Mojave, it wasn't fun. But on the return trip, the car broke down AGAIN here! I think about it every time I drive past here.
North of Red Rock Canyon, the road is so straight for a while, it's positively boring. But eventually I see the round top of the red cinder cone at the south end of the Owens Valley. This is the half way point, and we now have lots of volcanic features along the way. Shortly past the red cinder cone, I drive past the town of Olancha, and its "mystery factory". For the longest time, we drove past this huge factory along the highway, which has no labels, and since we did not know what kind of factory it was, we called it the "mystery factory". Eventually, someone told us it's a bottling plant for water, and now it even sports a sign saying "Crystal Geyser", I bet most of you who drink this brand of bottled water had no idea it came from here! Oh, and here was the lowest snow level I saw one year driving to Mammoth, not counting the snowfalls in Los Angeles which didn't really stay on the ground for more than a day.
I turned north onto highway 395 and keep going through Owens Valley.
Owens Valley is named after the now dried up Owens Lake, and Owens River. They are dried up because the water which used to feed them have long be diverted to the Los Angeles Aqueduct, which takes the precious water to Los Angeles. The lakebed has a tiny bit of water, and lots of pink algae. During windy days, the dust storms from the lakebed are really terrible. I heard that there is now a plan to put water back into the river and lake, as a result of some long-fought battle with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. But, there is no water there as I drove by.
The town of Lone Pine is next. Lone Pine is the nearest town to Mount Witney, the tallest point in contiental United States, at 14494 feet.
But this part of California is really not well populated, and that's why during WWII, American citizens and residents of Japanese orgins were sent here to the internment camps, Manaznar is one (of 10) such camp north of Lone Pine, and it has been turned into a Manzanar national historic site to remember this shameful part of American history. The weather was not as bad as Siberia of course, but it was plenty remote from civilzation.
More small towns follow, Independence is next, north of which is the road leading to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, where the oldest living (now 4772 years old) being "Methuselah"on earth still live on the White Mountain range. It would be a couple of hours drive on windy mountain road to get there. This is something you should spend a whole afternoon on.
Next to follow is the town of Big Pine, then I am in the much bigger town of Bishop. Just south of Bishop I saw the dishes of the Owens Valley Radio Observatory run by the University of California, the dishes are on tracks and can move around, making a much larger virtual telescope.
There are several notable places in Bishop, Erick Schat's Bakkery is definitely a must-stop destination for anyone passing through Bishop, also the beef jerky at Meadow Farms Country Smoke House at the north end of town. And for the photography and art lovers, Galen Rowell's Mountain Light Gallery. Galen Rowell was a famous outdoor and nature photographer, you probably have seen his photos even if you may not have known they were his. For example, the one of the Tibetan Potala Palace with a rainbow, or the wild horses running on the plains in Patagonia below the snowy peaks of Fitz Roy, or the two loving emperor penguis in Antarctica (which was on the cover of National Geographic magazine).
Now it's almost home stretch, but this is where we start climbing, from about 4000 feet on the Owens Valley, the car climbed now to about 8000 feet and I see the reservoir Crawley Lake, and north of that the airport at Mammoth, optimistically called Mammoth Yosemite Airport. It's true that it's only about 100 miles from here to the Yosemite valley. Kevin awaits me at the airport, and we fly back to Santa Cruz, with a beautiful sunset in front of us.
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