Posted by: sunnyharvy | April 3, 2015

More Adventure Along Route 395

Inyo County touts itself as “The Other Side of California” and I can’t think of a better, or more accurate marketing slogan. Wish I had come up it! This “other side” is different in many ways than those west of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. For one thing, it’s much more affordable. From campsites to mansions, real estate costs a fraction of what it does closer to the coast. Of course the scenery is very different since much of the acreage is desert – both low and high varieties. Plus, the people seem much more relaxed and friendly.

Route 395 is the primary north-south highway east of the mountains. Most driving this route are on it to get somewhere else, but there are a lot of reasons to stop and smell the wildflowers. I showed you a couple in my previous post, here are a few more.

In 1942, the United States government ordered more than 110,000 men, women, and children to leave their homes and detained them in remote, military-style camps. Manzanar War Relocation Center was one of ten camps where Japanese American citizens and resident Japanese aliens were interned during World War II. Manzanar interned over 10,000 people behind barbed wire with no due process of law. Some internees found it ironic that the nearest town, six miles to the north, is named Independence.


Guard tower.

Here we learned how resourceful the internees were in making their confinement feel like a community. They steadfastly attempted to make the best of a bad situation. They established churches, temples, and boys and girls clubs. They developed sports, music, dance, and other recreational programs; built gardens and ponds; and published a newspaper, the Manzanar Free Press.


 Any combination of eight individuals was allotted a 20-by-25-foot room in a barrack such as the one above. An oil stove, a single hanging light bulb, cots, blankets, and mattresses filled with straw were the only furnishings provided.


Each block consisted of 14 barracks, shared men’s and women’s toilets and showers, a laundry room, and a mess hall. Learn more here.


The Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery was built in 1915 and is a great stop for anyone who appreciates history and how the Easter Sierra helped to become one of America’s greatest outdoor sporting areas. Nice place to have a picnic too.

I’ve been curious about the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest for some time, but never imagined we’d be able to visit on this trip since the road to it rarely opens before mid-May. I got very excited when Ranger Tim at the Interagency Visitor Center in Lone Pine told us the road had opened a few days prior to our arrival! Once again we benefited from California’s lack of snow.


The route is known for its pristine scenery and grand vistas of the White and Sierra mountains. The road is well paved, but narrow and very twisty with sheer drop-offs.  Definitely a road to take it easy on.  We must be determined to cure Al’s acrophobia, right? The rare Bristlecone Pine forest is at the end of the paved portion of the road, where we found tourists forming snowballs with what little snow was left on the ground. 



The trees of the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest are the oldest recorded living things on earth. A millennium older than the Giant Sequoia trees in the nearby Sierra, many are well over 2,000 years old and at least one has been dated at over 5,000! These trees were young and growing at the time stone axes were being used in Europe and the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) was being built.


Bristlecone pines (Pinus longaeva & aristata) grow at elevations of 9,000 to over 11,000 feet. The oldest trees grow on outcrops of dolomite, an alkaline calcareous, low nutrient soil. Only on the alkaline dolomite will you find pure, relatively dense stands of bristlecone pine.



I think they look a little like they are dancing.




Hiking the Discovery Trail.


After his extensive analysis of collected samples that verified the age of these trees, Edmund Schulman wrote: “The capacity of these trees to live so fantastically long may, when we come to understand it fully, perhaps serve as a guidepost on the road to understanding of longevity in general.” Learn more here.


Getting up close and personal with the old wood.


These two seem to be in a very tight embrace.


Ice cracked red dolomite.


That evening we camped a few miles down the hill at Grandview Campground. The late night temperature dropped into the 20’s, but our comforter and haRVy’s diesel heater kept us warm.


Here’s a sign we’d like to see at more campgrounds (Donation $5 per night). This was the first we’d observed. It would be great to pay what you feel a campsite is worth, as many are drastically overpriced.


And here’s a sign (at same campground) we would rather NOT see too often.

Quote I liked from a Yelp review: Hunched-over, with gnarly and crooked limbs and peeling bark, the Bristlecone Pines of the California White Mountains look like the little old ladies of the plant kingdom. Despite their distinction as the oldest living things on earth, they are osteoporosis-free, and as hard as the dolomite rock they grow in. Knock on wood, and you might just bruise your knuckles.


  1. Have read first hand accounts of Manzanar – fascinating. No tours when we went that way.

  2. So glad you got to see them; there was too much snow when we went through in December.

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