After our recent trip to Vegas, I am thinking of provoking the Covid-19 demons with another road trip. It’s fun to travel, and my predilection for wanderlust has been seriously subdued by the pandemic.
I don’t think I can get Martine interested in another desert destination—even though she liked the Vegas trip—but there are other less arid possibilities like Catalina, San Diego, Santa Barbara, or the Santa Ynez Valley and Solvang. I’ll just have to put my thinking cap on.
Actually, there is one desert trip that Martine likes, which we have taken twice: Up U.S. 395 along the Eastern Sierras and the Owens Valley. To see what a rich target this is, check out this California Through My Lens website.
As each breath I take fills my lung with ash from the Getty Fire, which is just a few miles north of my front door, I look back to the unexpected highlight of last week’s trip to the Eastern Sierras. I am referring to the Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery in Independence, California. Built in 1916, the hatchery was run by the California Department of Fish and Game until 1996, when the State found they couldn’t afford its upkeep. It was then that a nonprofit organization called the Friends of Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery was formed to run the former hatchery as a museum, with an interpretive center and gift shop.
The real highlight are the grounds, which include a pond well stocked with rainbow trout and visiting ducks. A small number of fish (mostly trout) are still hatched there as part of the museum.
Martine fell in love with the gift shop, which included two items of special interest to her: some attractive and reasonably-priced quilts made by a woman in Bakersfield and a bucket filled with packets of fish food. We purchased one of the quilts, and several packets of fish food.
It turns out that the ducks were more aggressive about begging for the fish food than the trout. That was all right with Martine, as she enjoyed feeding the ducks more, while I thought of them as shameless beggars.
We actually visited the Fish Hatchery on both Thursday and Friday last week. It was a beautiful and peaceful place.
A wildfire in July 2007 burned 55,000 acres west of the hatchery. Then, a year later that same month, a heavy thunderstorm caused a mudslide that damaged part of the hatchery as well as two of the employee residences. I am delighted that the Friends of the Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery managed to clear the damage and re-open the facility.
If you find yourself on Highway 395 and desire a couple of peaceful hours in a beautiful locale, I highly recommend a visit to the hatchery. And say alone to the ducks and trout for me.
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.