We started off Saturday with eggs and coffee at the campsite, then headed for Manzanar. We go there every time we’re in the Owens Valley, and we’d seen a notice in the paper that there would be a speaker at 11:30. Unfortunately, the speaker’s car was having trouble so he didn’t make it. We chatted with a ranger and headed for the other thing we’d read about, an open house at the CARMA Radio Telescope Array. We had it in our minds that we were heading for these things that are visible from the 395, so when the directions weren’t well marked (one dubious looking sign that read CARMA 11 miles that could have been pointing up the 168 or off onto the side road that lead to this beast) we lost our nerve when the odometer said we’d gone more than 13 miles and the elevation was 6,000 feet.
We drove around on the valley floor between these huge dishes and got very close to a couple of them, but it was clear we weren’t in the right spot. Sigh. If the Tahoe in the foreground doesn’t give you an idea of the scale, look for the two men on the platform to the left of the bottom of the U-shaped piece.
Luckily, we didn’t have our hearts set on seeing the telescope. It was just one of those opportunities we thought we’d take.
View of the much bigger than usual Eastern Sierra snowpack from about 5,000 feet on 168.
The drive took us close to Bishop, so we went there to pick up a couple of things. We stopped at Erick Schat’s Bakkery where apparently it is necessary to post signs to keep the grown ups off the riding toys out front. We saw a couple of late-teenagers going down the sidewalk together…one was riding a bike and had a rope looped over his back that his friend held onto and cruised along behind him on his skateboard. This is just another example of why I should never put my camera away. They stopped and walked across the street at the light like upstanding citizens even though I was finally ready to get the shot.
The best thing about the day, other than sitting at the campsite in the evening, was a conversation I overheard at the hiking gear store in Lone Pine. Mount Whitney Portal Road leads from the center of town to the trailhead to climb Mt. Whitney, which is the highest mounting in the lower 48 states. One of the interesting things about spending time here, for me, is encountering people who have just come down from the mountain or from spending an extended time on the Pacific Coast Trail.
A young couple was in the shop to return their rented climbing spikes (they strap onto boots) and a young French couple was there picking up last minute supplies before heading up. (Like stuff to kill the biologicals in the mountain stream water they’d be relying on.) One of the owners asked if the experienced hikers had any advice for the French couple, and the guy explained that it was good to start hiking early because by seven a.m. the snow gets slushy and more difficult. They took three days to summit, and they got engaged at the top. “Oh, I was wondering about the tape!” the shopkeeper said, “Congratulations!” They’d used a piece of tape as a temporary engagement ring!
It must be great working in a place like that where you get to see people gearing up for and coming down from a major life event. A lot of the people I’ve seen who’ve just come down from the mountain have a look in their eyes that’s hard to explain. There’s accomplishment there, and a lot of memories of amazing vistas.