Friday, May 14, 2021

2021-6 June Lake Loop, Bodie Ghost Town, California




Bishop California
June Lake Loop, hwy 158
Bodie Mining Ghost Town

Campground: Silver Lake National Forest Campground: $12.50 Gov senior discount rate. No hookups but fresh water available. Sites and roads are paved. Bear storage boxes at each site.

Silver Lake National Forest Campground
with waterfall views

Campground: Topaz Lodge, Rv park and Casino, Nevada. $30 full hookups, 3 levels overlooking lake.

Coupons for discounts at restaurant, casino.

Topaz Lodge, restaurant, my view

Now I kind of left you hanging in Bishop California in the last report, and I feel kind of bad, because I didn’t stay long enough to explore this fine town. It’s one I would definitely make a destination stop next time especially since I have so many places I’m trying to get to this time around.

Silver Lake, along June Lake Loop

That being said, on the travel maps I’ve been checking out, I just had to explore the June Lake Loop, hwy 158. It travels close to some pretty impressive mountain ranges and a series of Alpine Lakes, one of which I’m staying at, Silver Lake NF. It’s actually on the smallest lake, but by gosh, Carson peak overlooks the lake and I have views of waterfalls right out my front door. Little snow remains on the mountain peaks as they had another devastatingly dry winter.

June Lake

June Lake, has a white sandy beach too

RV Note: after leaving Silver Lake, continuing on along the June Lake loop I discovered that Grant Lake has a large hard packed sand/gravel beach for boondocking. Only a few Rv’s using the site. Some looked like they might have stayed in the upper parking area.

Grant Lake, would def. camp along the shore here.
didn't find it on any of the camping apps

Not having reservations, I was able to secure a campsite for one night, and could easily stay longer by switching to the next available site. Zippy sure makes it easier to do that as the setup is, well just closing the slide, driving to the next camp spot, backing in, and opening the side again. Since I’m fully self contained, I don’t need to do any hookups of electric, water, sewer etc.

Bodie Ghost Town

Thanks to my good friends Sandy and Sandy, who told me about Bodie Ghost Town a couple of years ago while I conducted the Travel Club at Desert Trails. Well Sandy, I finally made another one on my Bucket List. After my detour to June Lake Loop, which I surely wish I could have spent more time at, I headed out to Bodie.

The excitement kept building as I headed north on hwy 395, turning off on the 10 mile drive, once again ascending the road up to an elevation of close to 10,000 feet. A relatively gentle increase in elevation, the last three miles being a dirt road. They had been working on it the past week and it was exceptionally well graded. Views overlooking the valley below and snow capped Sierra Nevada Mountain range. Lordy, have I been blessed with some of the most spectacular scenery lately.

The drive to Bodie Ghost Town was as exciting 
as visiting the ghost town

Bodie is a State historic Park. It originally was 7 to 8,000 people strong. 1877-1881 were it’s biggest years. Only 5% of the building remain, but still an impressive amount when viewed upon entering the park. Bodey discovered Gold here in 1859. And died in a blizzard a few months later. 10 years after the 1849 California gold rush. 30 mines and 10 stamp mills. Oh and 60 saloons, along with “cribs” and opium dens. The town quickly declined along with the riches from the mines completely ending in 1942. Now most of the buildings are closed to the public. One can only see the insides through the windows. Sure would be nice if the rangers and staff could clean the windows for all of up peepers. A booklet is available $3. Worth getting as is about the only way you’ll get any information on the buildings, people and living conditions during the mining era.

It definitely takes a couple hours to tour all the streets lined with the buildings remaining. Fresh air, plenty of space to enjoy walking around. Views to ooh and awhhh over.

Before leaving this bucket list experience, I must mention again my journey along hwy 395, following the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains on one side and the White mountains on the other. It has truly been one of my best travel routes over the years and I look forward to enjoying it again on down the road. Many of the dispersed camp sites have been packed. And local officials have been trying to figure out how to handle that. You see with most of the commercial, State and local campgrounds closed in California due to Covid last year, many folks discovered the eastern side of the Sierras with it’s dispersed camping and have pretty much inundated the area. Once found, I have a feeling it will no longer be the sleepy side of the mountain range.

As an example, I stayed just outside of Bridgeport Ca on BLM land. The dirt roads were not in the greatest condition, but by early evening more and more campers were trying to find a spot for the night. Many having to back up back down the road, as there was no place to turn around once a site was occupied. I even had a car go down and up the side of a hill, only used by ATV’s. It was quite the site to see the car make a couple attempts to climb a 45 degree hill on up and over, right next to my camping spot. Like watching an action video game in 3D.

Rv note: Bridgeport is one of the most expensive places to stop for food and fuel. I paid $20.27 + tip for a sandwich, sweet potato fried and soda. Diesel fuel is currently $5.45 a gallon here. My next stop for fuel cost me $3.68 per gallon.

More Photos:

June Lake and Bodie Ghost Town, California

2021-5 Lone Pine, Alabama Hills California




California here I come.
Lone Pine
Alabama Hills

Needles California, Colorado River

Campground: Fender’s River Road Resort, Needles California. $19.00 PPA half off rate. Full hookups. Site overlooks the Colorado River. Wonderful views. Boaters speed up river, then often float back on the fast moving river.

 Fender’s River Road Resort, 
nice river front patio

Colorado River view from my campsite, cool

Campground: Arabian Rv Oasis, Boron California. $18.00 PPA half off rate. Full hookups. Older park, most sites are pull-thru for two campers.

No pictures

Campground: Diaz Lake Campground, county park, Lone Pine CA. $14.00 water, dump station available. Picnic tables, lake, mountain views. Some shade and open spaces. Little used county park.

Just outside of Lone Pine Calif. what a pleasant stop

county part, Diaz Lake

Caution: weekends can be filled, park permits fishermen, day-trippers and ATV traffic in the campground. Still lots of campsites available. otherwise I'd rate this a top 9 or 10

Campground: Alabama Hills BLM. Free. Lots of dispersed camping, a couple designated campgrounds as well. Awesome location where many western movies were filmed. Except for sites directly off of the main dirt road, going any further in, next to the rock formations was hazardous for my camper. With low clearance, I managed to scrape the underside from going over a couple of rocks along the way. Caution to other campers with rigs having low clearance.

Note to self:  park/camp only on spots
directly off main road, lots of rocks, ruts beyond

Deciding on a camping spot:

Of course there are numerous places to boondock or disperse camp for free. But my basic concept is to find a reasonably priced campground with electric if the temperature is going to be in the high 90’s or 100 degrees. So Until I hit higher elevations, I’ll have to try and find sites with electric. Call me spoiled. <grin>

Old National Trail hwy/ Route 66

Extra effort required to tour 
Route 66 in California

almost no traffic on route 66
as there are multiple road blocks, Calif.

After enjoying a few days in Needles California, I attempted to take a portion of Route 66 off of I-40 heading further into California. Come to find out, multiple sections of the old route 66, also called Old National Trail hwy for this section of 66. I did finally get onto a portion of route 66 near Amboy. The town of 5 residence and the historic Roy's Motel and Cafe was my destination. Planning on having a great breakfast. Not. They only have a small gift shop, sodas and snack. But I did meet the resident retired Forest Ranger, Fireman, Policeman and volunteer postman. He told me a guy bought the entire town on E-Bay about 10 years ago for around $450K. With most of the old route 66 being blocked at multiple sections, their business is virtually dead.

The old Motels main office is still in pristine condition and looks like a piece of history frozen in time. Unfortunately, the cabins though nicely painted white on the exterior all have missing windows and doors. The interiors are still in pretty good condition not having succumbed vandalism and graffiti.

quite a character, doesn't believe the Covid stuff,
too overblown, doesn't believe in taxing the wealthy, etc.

Frozen in time, waiting for Calif roads to 
repair route 66 so traffic can flow on by again

hotel, restaurant closed,
snacks, sodas, t-shirts available

Motel lobby, a shrine to the original owners

restoration frozen until route 66 reopens

The area is noted for its salt mines and further on down the road are lava fields. Imagine that.

Into Lone Pine California

Hwy 395, following this well maintained two lane and occasionally 4 lane road between Death Valley and the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains, I’m heading to Lone Pine. A location that has been on my radar and bucket list for years. Well here I am.

The drive was comfortable, though I did pull off to the side a couple of times as vehicles and trucks were in much more of a hurry than I was. Lots of pull-off areas to accommodate. The bare mountains in soft shades of tans, creams and the second range containing the higher Sierra Nevada Range peaking from behind the first row of mountains. Lava fields and earthquake ridges can bee seen along with rugged valley views.

Diaz Lake, the mountain range can change 
colors a hundred times throughout the day

As I got close to Lone Pine, I noticed Diaz Lake Campground. After a quick stop at a Forest Visitor center, I decided to circle back a few miles to Diaz and stay here over the weekend. My goal is to camp and explore the Alabama Hills area, but weekends can be crowded. Diaz is a first come first served campground, but they do accept Reserve America reservations. I wouldn’t bother with reservations as the park is very lightly used. What a joy to have water views up here in the high desert.

My only issue was with day-trippers who came in to picnic/drink and play loud music and the ATV’s kicking up tons of dust. Still worth the stay, might want to avoid weekends which could bring on issues with non-campers

Dispersed camping in Alabama Hills
Note: there are 3 established campgrounds
worth checking out, especially for large rigs
for folks with low clearance rigs like mine

I had heard about this area mainly through boondockers groups, mentioning the Alabama Hills as a great boondocking area. Never dreamed it would have so much more to offer. The town and Alabama Hills being host to hundreds of movies and eventually Tv shows. The have a great movies museum worth spending some time in. Mainly Westerns, like the Lone Ranger, John Wayne movies as well as others like the Sheik of Arabie and Cecil B DeMille movies like Samson and Dahlia. And of course all the B-westerns enjoyed by young boys and girls at Saturday Matinees. I was definitely in the category growing up in Norther Michigan.

where over 400 cowboy and Indian movies filmed

finally made it to Alabama Hills
check box on bucket list

wonderful couple immigrated from Iran
love living here in California, USA

finally got a spot for the night
but road in not too good
caused minor damage to passenger side running board

Lone Pine had a massive earthquake back in 1872, a 7.4- 7.9 almost completely destroying the town and killing many residences. In June of 2020 they felt a 5.4 earthquake. I met a man at the site of a mass burial of earthquake victims on the edge of town. He told me he felt a mild earthquake just a few days ago a bit further north of Lone Pine.

Alabama Hills.

I’d planned on staying here for at least three days. It has some awesome rock formations along with being backed up by the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Mt Whitney. The tallest mt in California. Most of the dispersed sites for camping were filled. I did enjoy a great hike to some of the most notable rock formations including a couple of Arches.

see photos shown above and in More Photos.

I enjoyed a great conversation, overlooking one of the Arches, with two folks who immigrated from Iran 8 years ago and now live in the LA area. They were both very enthusiastic about the U.S. and had only good things to say about it. Especially the outdoor wonders we have to offer.

Over 400+ movies and many tv shows have been filmed in the Alabama Hills as I might have mentioned earlier. Had great weather for the hikes and I did get a pretty good spot to camp for the night. But it just wasn’t my kind of location to spend any more time in. As I have other destinations along hwy 395 to explore.

Ancient Bristle-cone Pine Forest. 

from the valley floor, up to 10,000 ft elevation

overlook, along the mountain road to the top

Continuing my route north, along a broad valley hemmed in on the west side by the Sierra Nevada mountains and on the east side by the White mountains. A gorgeous drive by itself. My next stop would be the Ancient Bristle-cone Pine Forest. Heading into the White Mountain range from about 3,000 ft up to 10,000 feet elevation I encountered the windingest, twisted, two lane road I’d ever been on. There was even a section hemmed in by the shear rock mountains creating a single lane. Not quite sure how you let the other vehicles going in the opposite direction that I was a coming through, but I made it anyway.

The higher I got, the more dramatic the views were, as the road hung to the edge of the mountain. No guard rail of course. I must admit, when not hugging the mountain side, I drove quiet deliberately on the center line. Fortunately there was very light traffic going both ways. I’m not sure how many mountain ranges, valleys far far below I saw, I surely couldn’t name but a very few.

At the top is a nice visitor center, not open, but the hiking trails and brochure were adequate to explore. Imagine, most of the elderly Bristle-cone Pines are between 3,000 and 4,000 years old. With one having been verified at being over 4,500 years old and still a living Pine. The first trail I took was to a couple of log cabins and remains of a mining operation. Can’t imagine the harsh conditions they had to endure during the mining years. All in all, a spectacular drive and hike amongst some of the oldest living things on this planet. Kind of humbling to experience.

a very young Bristle Cone Pine

mining attempts during the Calif. gold rush 

cabin built into the side of the mountain

You are probably looking at a couple
of Bristle Cone Pines at leaast
3,000 to 4,000 years old

Oh there is so much more to experience along this route, hwy 395. And to think that after 16 years on the road, I’d never experienced but a tiny little section of the hwy coming from the Nevada side. Just driving through the town of Bishop, population 3,745, I know I could have spent a bit of time exploring this vibrant town surrounded by so many places to experience the great outdoors. It has lots of shops, restaurants, a really nice city park, next to the visitors center, which unfortunately is not currently open. I also noticed that many of the small towns along this route also have small Indian Reservations, literally on the edge of each town. Bishop even has a small Casino.

Well, there’s just too much to put into one blog, so I’ll end it here and you can read part Two as soon as I’m able to write it up.

Hope all you arm chair tourist are enjoying the journey.

More photos:

Needles California

Boron to Lone Pine California

Lone Pine, Western Movie Museum

Alabama Hills, where over 400 movies were filmed

Ancient Bristle-cone Pine Forest