Yosemite, Mammoth and Death Valley

Report courtesy of Sarah

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Day 4, Saturday 
Distance Driven: 280 miles
Hotel: Furnace Creek Ranch
City: Death Valley

The Plan

In order to make this day happen we’ve got to be up really early.  We can drive or take the bus from in front of the hotel to the main lodge.  The lifts open at 8:30am and I think the views are great in the morning.  We’ll take the gondola to the top and stop off for some great panoramic shots.  Mammoth offers the ride for $16.  I wonder if they would like me take my skis?  From here we head to Bishop to check out Galen Rowell’s Mountain Light Gallery.  Galen and his wife were killed over a year ago in an airplane accident.  Since that time I have really grown to appreciate his work.  I hope my mother is as captivated by what she sees.  Perhaps this will help her to understand why I love the outdoors so much.  Next we will stop at Schat’s Bakery for lunch.  The Original Sheepherder Bread was introduced to the Owens Valley during the California Gold Rush by immigrant Basque sheepherders who missed the bread of their homeland. They shaped loaves of their traditional bread by hand, used stone ovens for baking, and produced the first sheepherder bread. Even today they shape the loaves by hand and bake in the finest European Stone Hearth Ovens.  I’ve never tasted their bread, but I’m sure I won’t be disappointed.  Next we’ll head to Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest.  These trees were ancient even in medieval times. The oldest recorded living things on earth, some have been dated back to more than 4,500 years.  Bristlecone pines grow in the White Mountains at elevations over 9,000 ft. It's hard to imagine anything living in this harsh, wind-swept environment, but that is part of the reason these trees flourish.  From Bishop it will take one hour to reach the Bristlecone pines.  Near the visitor center is a Sierra View vista, which if I remember right, has observation tubes which identify the Sierra peaks.  I believe I stopped here when I climbed White Mtn. in April of 2002.  Our next stop will be the Manzanar Museum, which has its grand opening the weekend before our arrival.  The office wasn’t sure if they would have guided tours that weekend or not, so I need to call them back next week, 760-878-2194 ext. 10.  I also don’t know their hours of operation!  Two months after Pearl Harbor was bombed, President Roosevelt signed an Executive Order calling for all those of Japanese ancestry to be placed into relocation camps. Manzanar was one of those relocation centers, built initially as a temporary center it became the first permanent relocation center in the United States.  The 10,000 internees sought to establish some semblance of normal life and beautified the barracks with gardens and ponds, and tendered the orchards remnants which still remain today.  Our next stop will be the Whitney Portal.  We will climb up to 8,600 ft for another view of the Owens Valley.  The Portal Store also serves sandwiches, and such for dinner.  There should be a lot of activity on a Saturday.  The quota season officially starts at the beginning of May.  This means it is more difficult to get a permit to hike in the restricted area.  This part of the trip is optional and can be eliminated if we are behind schedule.  Out final stop for the evening will be Death Valley.  It shouldn’t be much over 100 degrees when we get there at 7pm.  We can stop near Stovepipe Wells and see the dunes  and the 20 Mule Team Borax site.  If we’re really energetic we could drive down to Badwater.  By the end of this day I would like to had a cold beer out on our patio and watch the sun set over the valley.

Directions to Bristlecone Pine Forest:
Take US Hwy 395 south to Big Pine and turn east onto State Hwy 168 just north of Big Pine.  Follow Hwy 168 east 13 miles to White Mountain Road.  Turn left (north) and drive 10 miles to the Schulman Grove Visitor Center.  The Bristlecone pines can be viewed from the parking area of the visitor center and along three nature trails.


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