The Devil’s Postpile

The Columnar Basalt Formation at Devil’s Postpile National Monument

The last of the three major destinations of our recent Eastern Sierra road trip was the Devil’s Postpile National Monument near Mammoth Lakes. There are a number of locations around the world where thick lava formations, in cooling, form cliff faces of hexagonal columns. Probably the most famous are the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland and the Isle of Staffa in the Scottish Hebrides.

The nearest such formation to me is the Devil’s Postpile. The Monument can be reached primarily by taking a shuttle bus from the Mammoth Mountain ski area to Stop #6, from which there is an easy half-mile hike to the cliff face. The top of the columns looks like this:

What the Columns Look Like from Up Top

We didn’t actually take the hike to the top of the columns, but only because we didn’t want to push ourselves too hard at high altitude.

The hike to the basalt columns follows the San Joaquin River through a pine and juniper forest of surpassing loveliness. In fact we liked the surroundings so much that the columnar basalt formation was almost a letdown considering the lead up to it.

I would like to return in future and extend the hike to Rainbow Falls, which is also in the Monument.

 

Eastern Sierra Road Trip

The Alabama Hills Near Lone Pine

The Eastern Sierra Road Trip is now a definite go for next week. Today, Martine managed to get a few of her healthcare scheduling issues taken care of, so I went and reserved accommodations for our trip. I just have to do a little shopping, like getting good AA alkaline batteries for my little Canon rangefinder.

Most people don’t know much about the Eastern Sierras. They’re usually familiar with the National Parks along the Western Sierras, places like Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite—but the eastern edge of the range is steeper and the base is, for the most part, desert. In fact, we will have to drive through a good chunk of the Mohave Desert between the town of Mohave and Olancha, where the interesting sights begin, right near the turnoff for Death Valley. (Mind you, we don’t intend to visit Death Valley in July: That’s the sort of thing that only German tourists do for some reason.)

If you want to get an idea of what there is to be seen along Highway 395 as it wends its way along the eastern slope of the mountains, click on the California Through My Lens website, which does a fairly good job of enumerating what is to be seen along the way.

As I mentioned elsewhere, our three main destinations are:

  • The ghost town of Bodie
  • The Devils Postpile National Monument
  • The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

I have been to Bodie, though Martine has not. Neither of of us have seen the other two places. All three are on high ground off Highway 395, somewhere around the 10,000-foot (3,000 meter) elevation mark.

The great thing about traveling through the desert is that there are always a ton of minor destinations that amuse you without eating up too much time. One such place is Pearsonville, the “Hubcap Capital of the World,” where you can find a 25-foot-tall statue of a young woman:

On the Road to Olancha

 

Owens Valley Escapade

Ghost Town of Bodie, California

Although Martine and I have been to the Owens Valley before, Martine suggested another visit to see some of the sights we have missed. To be specific, there are the following three destinations she’s never seen before:

  • The ghost town of Bodie, a town which was abandoned by its residents, especially after the mine closed in 1942. It is now a State Historical Park which will be allowed to decay naturally—but not before I’ve had another look at it.
  • The Devils Postpile National Monument, a natural feature that resembles the Giants Causeway of Northern Island with its hexagonal columns.
  • The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains, containing the oldest living things on earth: trees that are thousands of years old.

The Devils Postpile National Monument

In addition, there are a number of other sights with which we are familiar and which we may revisit:

  • The Manazanar camp for the resettlement of Americans of Japanese ancestry during the Second World War.
  • The Eastern California Museum of Inyo County
  • The Lone Pine Film History Museum and the nearby Alabama Hills where hundreds of Westerns were shot.
  • Mono Lake and its natural tufa structures
  • The Laws Railroad Museum near Bishop, California

Bristlecone Pine Tree

There is a very informative website called Highway 395 Roadtrip Stops complete with photographs, of the many features along the route.

We will probably be gone for five days sometimes in the next month or so.