Leaving Lone Pine, Keith pulled over to the curb so Kathy could take a photograph of the movie museum. As shown below, Keith pulled over a little too far. Fortunately, the damage appears to be just cosmetic.
As we drove north, we snapped a passing pix of the reconstructed Manzanar watch tower, and of a satellite dish pointed straight up. Was this dish in an idled position, or are we in touch with ET? Only Art Bell knows for sure.
Manzanar Watch tower
North of the Owens Valley, Rt. 395 ascends in altitude and the temperature declines sharply. By the time we got to Lee Vining the 7000 ft. altitude was affecting both of us. On arrival at the campground, which just opened April 1, we were greeted by the official spring welcoming committee.
Lee Vining is in the Mono Basin Scenic Area, at the easternmost entrance to Yosemite National Park. During the summer season the town is bustling with tourist activity, but at this time of year the it is mainly deserted.
Where it Happens in Lee Vining
Because if the areas relative remoteness, gas prices are higher than further south in the Owens valley. Keith pumped $98 to top off the tank. We had enough in the tank to get us to Nevada, where gas is almost a dollar cheaper, but Keith tries to travel on the top half of the tank when in remote places.
More California Sticker Shock
On Saturday we set out to explore the area. Our first destination was Tioga Pass, which is the eastern entrance Yosemite National Park. However, the road was closed and we were only able to go about 4 miles. We were told that this road typically isn’t open until June.
Second on our morning agenda was Mono Lake. Nestled in the eastern ramparts of the high Sierras, Mono Lake exhibits three distinguishing characteristics. First, it is very scenic.
Second, Mono Lake is a mere shadow of it’s former self. A victim of “water wars”, which go back as far as the 1860’s, Mono Lake shrank dramatically in the second half of the twentieth century as the eastern Sierra watershed was diverted to feed Los Angeles. Recent court actions have started to reverse this diversion.
The third unusual feature of Mono Lake is tufa (not to be confused with tofu). Tufa is calcium carbonate precipitated from solution around underwater springs, as calcium contained in the spring water combines with carbon dioxide in the water. Because the solubility of this mineral is low, it precipitates in stalactite-like formations as soon as it is created. This process occurs exclusively underwater. However, as the lake has been drained in recent decades, the tufa formations have been exposed to view.
During the Cold War the navy used part of Mono Lake to test new weapons. Today there is a plaque commemorating the site.
We had lunch at the only restaurant that was open in Lee Vining. Nicely’s was not so nice and a big disappointment, with very mediocre food and California prices to go along with it; $30 for very mediocre food. We rate it 2COWS at best.
The ride north from Lee Vining is, in our humble opinion, the most spectacular piece of 395 between Lone Pine and Carson City. The view south from Conway Summit Pass (8128 ft.) includes a spectacular vista of the snow-clad eastern Sierra ramparts, with Mono Lake sitting at the mountain’s feet. Further north, the road descends through a rugged canyon cut by a vigorous mountain stream. At the mouth of this canyon is the almost bucolic Antelope Valley.
It now is Monday, the 7th, and we are camped for a week at the Gold Dust Casino “resort” on the outskirts of Carson City. We plan to tour the area during the week. On Saturday, Kathy flies east to Massachusetts for a grandchild fix. Stay tuned.