Tag Archives: California

Jersey Goes West Pt. 8 – Mammoth Lakes and Devil’s Postpile

After our visit to Manzanar, it was getting a little late and we were ready for dinner.  We found this restaurant in Bishop.  It was a nice “home-cooking” type restaurant.  I had fried chicken and the hubby had meatloaf.  Both meals were huge portions and quite tasty!IMG_7384

It was close to 10 pm when we arrived at Mammoth Lakes.  We planned to go to Devil’s Postpile National Monument in the morning and wanted to stay as close as possible, so I chose to make reservations at the Mammoth Mountain Inn. They have pretty affordable rates during the non-ski season.

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We were given an upstairs room in a wing near the main lodge and were told to take any food or smelly items out of the car and into our room as the bears had been quite active lately.

Going from -200+ feet below sea level to 10,000 feet above sea level in a few hours has its issues!  I remember telling my husband that I was out of breath just from brushing my teeth.  The other thing that I totally didn’t expect, was that our clothes in the luggage were soaking wet!  For the life of me, I couldn’t not figure out why our clothes were wet when the luggage was dry.  Then it finally dawned on me, that it was so hot in the desert that our clothes heated up and then cooled so quickly that water condensed on them within the luggage.  We had clothes hung up all over trying to dry them out!

Unfortunately, we were only staying in this beautiful place one night.  We fell exhaustively into bed.

The next morning we had breakfast in the main lodge.  The food and service were wonderful!  After breakfast, we needed to find the ticket office to buy passes to ride the shuttle bus to Devil’s Postpile National Monument.  During the busy season, no cars are allowed up the road to the monument unless you are going early in the morning or late in the evening.  The road is narrow and they try to limit traffic going to the monument.  They sell tickets near the sporting areas at the inn.  I took a few shots while trying to find the tickets.  More than once, my husband said, “We are coming back here and staying for more than one night!”.  He did not want to leave!

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The day was a bit smoky from the wildfires in Sequoia and Yosemite.

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We finally found a little stand that was selling excursions and asked about shuttle bus tickets.  Turns out, that yesterday was the last day for the shuttle bus, so we were free to drive up to the monument!  With that, we said goodbye to Mammoth Mountain Inn and hello to Inyo National Forest.

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Devils Postpile National Monument is located within Inyo National Forest.  When driving, there is an entrance fee.  I think it was $10.  The shuttle is a bit more expensive.  The drive was a little scary as there aren’t many guardrails and the road is narrow.  Downhill drivers are supposed to give uphill drivers the right-of-way and there are some turnouts for photos and to allow faster drivers to pass.  I am a chicken when it comes to mountain roads so hubby did the driving.

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It was a short walk to the postpile from the parking area.  On the way, we passed this beautiful meadow with the San Joaquin River running through itDevils Postpile_Inyo_7448

Devil’s Postpile is located a short easy walk (about 0.4 miles) from the parking area.

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This awesome geologic structure was once a lake of basaltic lava.  As the lava cooled it formed these jointed columns. What was left was a mountain of cooled basaltic columns.  These columns were hidden until glaciers eroded the face of the mountain and left the impressive columns exposed.  If you visit Devil’s Postpile, make sure you climb to the top!  It is a short 15 minute uphill hike and well worth the effort.  Nature is amazing!  The top looks like honeycomb of stone.  It looks like someone laid paving stones here.

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If we are ever able to visit again, I would like to take the longer hike to Rainbow Falls but it was longer than we were prepared to take today. We wanted to make it to Yosemite in time to see a few things before nightfall.

A couple parting shots as we hiked back to the parking area…

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After leaving, we stopped back in Mammoth Lakes for lunch. I am sure the locals had fun watching this Easterner trying to open a bear-proof trashcan.  I was a pro by the time we left Yosemite!

Stay tuned for our few days in Yosemite!

 

 

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Jersey Goes West Pt. 7 – Manzanar

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We were back on the road and headed west on 190 to the exit of Death Valley and into the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas.  It is a beautiful drive, but for us “flatlanders”  it was a little nerve-wracking! The views were spectacular, the guardrails barely there, and people flying around switchback turns that made us a just a hair uncomfortable.  We had to get used to it though as it was just the beginning of the mountainous portion of our trip!

Once on 395 North, it is a relatively short drive to the town of Lone Pine and and then Manzanar National Historic Site.

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Unfortunately, we arrived after 5 pm, so we were unable to tour the museum and other exhibits.  There is a self-guided driving tour that is available after hours with a map of sites and short descriptions.

Manzanar was a “relocation center” or interment camp for Japanese Americans (US citizens) and resident Japanese aliens during World War II. Nearly 120,000 people were relocated to 10 camps throughout the United States and forced to live here until World War II was over. Two-thirds of those people were US citizens by birth.  Without notice or due process, the government gave anyone of Japanese ancestry, days to dispose of possessions and property.  Houses and businesses had to be rented, abandoned or sold at a significant loss.  They were put on buses and traveled for hours without having any idea where they were going.   11,000 people were processed through Manzanar and lived in 504 crowded barracks.  The camp was surrounded by barbed wire, had 8 guard towers with search lights and was patrolled by military police.  For more history on the people visit the NPS site People of Manzanar.

Manzanar is the most well-preserved of these camps. It was made a national historic site and serves as an important reminder of a dark part of US history and the fragility of American civil liberties. Every American needs to know that there were interment camps on our soil that imprisoned our citizens.  I am not sure that many know that.

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Most of the sites within the park are just foundations or cleared sites  where buildings used to stand.  They have recreated some buildings and a few of the better built facilities still exist.  There are some remnants of life at Manzanar such as orchard trees and rock gardens that have been preserved.

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The evening had become smoky due to the wildfires burning in Sequoia National Park.  We visited the Manzanar cemetery.  150 people died while at Manzanar but most were sent to hometown cemeteries or were cremated to be sent back with relatives after they were released from the camp.  14 people, mostly men without families and infants, were buried here.  Only six remain here as family members had the others removed and reburied elsewhere.  It is a sadly beautiful,serene place and definitely a good place for reflection.

There was even a pet cemetery where people had left origami birds in remembrance and respect of pets lost.

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Daylight was fading and it was time to say a quiet goodbye.

IMG_7381We drove past the last guard tower as we left.

Visit the NPS site on Manzanar to learn more.

Next up: The trials and tribulations of going from 282 feet below sea level to 10,000 feet above sea level in a few hours!  Welcome to Mammoth Lakes!

 

Jersey Goes West Pt. 7 -Death Valley

Yes, we braved Death Valley in the summer and lived to tell about it!  One thing I search for before we left was information on touring Death Valley in the summer.  I wasn’t sure that we should even attempt it, but after reading that people actually do visit in the summer, we decided to go.  I am really glad we did!  We heeded safety warnings, brought plenty of water, did not do any long hikes and stayed within sight distance of the car. We only had a partial day to spend at the park so it was a really quick tour and we only hit some of the highlights.

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We started out at Harmony Borax Works.  The famous 20-mule teams were used for the difficult task of hauling the borax out of Death Valley to market.  The Harmony Borax Works played an important part of the history of Death Valley and the settlement of the Furnace Creek area.

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Next was a short stop at the Furnace Creek Visitor’s Center.  Check out that temperature!  It was about 11 am.  It is definitely a dry heat!  Make sure you drink plenty of water.  With the dry heat, you do not sweat and may not realize that you are becoming dehydrated until it is too late.

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On to Badwater Basin and the salt flats!IMG_7267

Badwater Basin was as far as we went in the southern section of the park. We turned back toward Furnace Creek and stopped at Devil’s Golf Course.  Crystallized salt was deposited here by ancient oceans and then shaped by wind and rain leaving a sharp, ragged landscape that was said a place where only the devil could play golf!

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Next stop on our whirlwind Death Valley tour was the Artist’s Palette Loop Drive. The colors on this drive are spectacular.  Pictures just don’t do it justice.  It was early afternoon when we drove the loop.  It is supposed to be even more scenic in the late afternoon or early evening sun.

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We began to slowly make our way west towards the western exit of the park.  Before reaching Stovepipe Wells Village, we stopped at Mesquite Sand Dunes.  This place (according to literature at the visitor’s center) is one of the most dangerous places in the park.  The dunes look much closer than they actually are and most of the deaths in the park have been because people try to hike to the dunes in hot weather and become dehydrated and disoriented. We stayed close to the car and admired from a distance since the temperature had reached close to 120 degrees.

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Our last stop in Death Valley was at Stovepipe Wells Village for some refreshments.  We needed to be in Mammoth Lake that night so we couldn’t stick around too long.

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I really enjoyed Death Valley despite the heat.  I hope to plan a trip back one day, hopefully in February or March when the wildflowers are blooming.  There are so many more places to explore and I hate that we had to make it a super fast trip through, only skimming the surface of what the area has to offer.  It is possible to tour Death Valley in the summer, not optimal conditions, but it is possible!  Take A LOT of water with you and heed the “Turn Off Air Conditioning” warning signs when leaving the valley.  As you climb, the car can easily become overheated.  We had no problems, but did turn off the AC and had the windows open.

Coming up next….a stop at Manzanar, the Japanese Relocation Center that was in operation during World War II.