Now that we have you caught up on our lives the past 5 months, let’s get ready to travel!!
We began our trip to the Dakotas with a short jaunt up the 395 in California to Ridgecrest, California and home to Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS), China Lake. There is a very nice campground on base that we are lucky enough to use which we did during our 3-day stay. NAWS China Lake has 19,600 square miles of restricted and controlled air space and encompasses 38% of the Navy’s landholdings world- wide!! It was established in 1942 between the Navy and Cal Tech for the testing and evaluation of rockets as well as other aviation ordnance. We visited the museum on base, which showcased the history of defense technology developed by scientists at China Lake along with the planes that carried these items, very fascinating.
We also visited the Maturango Museum which highlights the natural and cultural history of the Upper Mojave Desert then we headed to the Rand mining district, a collection of the ruins of gold and silver mining towns to include the town of Randsburg, which is still a viable community. Randsburg showcased perfectly that wherever the miners settled, restaurants, banks, banks, stores, saloons and maybe even a brothel or two followed. We hope to come back here one day for their western days….
Another day was spent driving to the Trona Pinnacles, which are one of the most unusual geologic wonders in the California Desert. These calcium carbonate formations rise from the bed of the Seales Dry Lake basin and some are as high as 140 feet. They are very ominous looking and have served as the backdrop for hundreds of movies, commercials and TV shows such as Planet of the Apes and Lost in Space.
After our stay at NAWS Station China Lake, we headed north on 395 to a small BLM campground north of Independence, where we met up with our friends, Cindy and Tim. The 395 is a gorgeous blue highway that is situated between the Sierra Nevada Mountain range to the west and the Panamint Mountains to the east. The highest peak in California, Mt. Whitney at 14,494 feet was visible during most of our 135-mile trip. During our stay at Gooddale Creek, we visited two fish hatcheries, one that dated back to 1916. The Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery is no longer a working hatchery but is now used as an event and education center. The building looks like it belongs the Swiss Alps, extremely beautiful and well built.
Our next stop was French Camp near Tom’s Place, approximately 24 miles north of Bishop, CA. Cindy, Tim, Cindy’s brother and her best friend are very familiar with the area so we had the best tour guides! We hiked along the Rock Creek to Mosquito Flats and finally to Mack Lake, some of the hike was through snow. We were treated to beautiful scenery along the way. As we chatted with fellow hikers we learned that this winters snowfall was the most in 20 years.
Another day we took a day trip to Mammoth Lakes where they anticipate that some ski slopes will be open until August!! Another day trip was through the Caldera Valley, which was formed from a volcanic explosion over 800,000 years ago. The Owens River was raging throughout the valley and the meadows were a vivid green with beautiful wildflowers everywhere. One of the most interesting stops on this day trip was Benton Hot Springs, a town that saw its heyday from 1862-1869 as a supply center for nearby mines. The creek from the hot springs that runs through the town is still pumping out water that ranges from 100-135 degrees. The cars, machinery and tools that were strewn throughout the town fascinated our group and we spent an hour just wandering and discovering.
We can’t thank Cindy, Tim, Ralph and Christine for all the great meals, laughs and for being the best tour guides EVER!! They showed us the America we love to discover; off the beaten path and the unusual.