Off to the Sierra
Friday, September 23
Motel 6 Sunrise
Friday, September 23 dawns clear and warm in Las Vegas. After a simple breakfast at our usual Cocos restaurant right outside the Motel 6, we prepare for the first real day of our vacation.
In the spirit of mixing things up a bit, we decided to spend our 2-day initial window of time doing something distinctly non-desert-y. Alpine peaks fit that bill, and so we headed north-west, across the Mohave desert, headed for California's Sierra Nevada mountains. It may at first glance seem to be a location very far from Las Vegas, but in fact the eastern crest of the Sierra is only about a four to five-hour drive away -- not at all that far given how often we travel such distances on weekends for peaks back in the northeast.
The Sierra Nevada are a very high and rugged range of mountains in central California. There are countless beautiful scenic and challenging peaks here, many over 14,000 feet high. I had been in the Sierra Nevada a few times many years ago, and I felt it was time to pay the area another visit.
The drive west along US-95 through Beatty, then west through the Palmetto and White Mountains was expansive, and at times very scenic. I discovered some excellent twisty bits along highway 168 in the White Mountains of California -- and, simultaneously, the fact that Arn is quite susceptible to motion sickness. By the time we saw the high dramatic crest of the Eastern Sierra in front of us and descended into the broad, deep Owens Valley, he was... pleased.
Across Deep Springs Valley
Across Deep Springs Valley
Twisties in Payson Canyon
Our plan was to head up into the Sierra as soon as we could, but first, we needed to head into a town and pick up some camp supplies (most importantly, stove fuel). So, we detoured north for twenty minutes to the town of Bishop, California. Bishop is the largest town in the long trench of Owens Valley, and is a center of recreation and outdoor activity. There are several good outdoor stores here. We visited Wilson's Eastside Sports on the main drag.
It was around lunch time while we were in Bishop, so it was only logical to head for a bit to eat. Graham and Alanna, visitors to this area owing to its excellent nearby bouldering, had recommended a homespun dutch bakery. The place, called Schat's Bakkery, is quite a large and elaborate place. It is apparently known far and wide in these regions, and specializes in various types of breads and sweets - but it also has custom-made gourmet sandwiches and other treats.
We chowed down on some excellent sandwiches outside on the patio (in the shade, since it was a quite hot 36C / 97F). All in all, quite a special place. The only thing that turned me off were the multitude of 'no pictures allowed' signs in the interior. Yes, they have every right to post what they want in their own private establishment. But, I don't have to like it (and I took a quick unobtrusive snap in any case).
Finished with Bishop and stocked with necessary supplies, we headed south out of Bishop, bound for our rendez-vous with the High Sierra. We were headed for Onion Valley -- one of many deep drainages heading east from the eastern crest of the Sierra Nevada. I had had three different Sierra trip outings in mind before setting out on our trip, and in the end the trip idea based in the Onion Valley seemed best suited to the amount of time we had and our skill level.
At the small town of Independence along highwy 395, we turned off onto the Onion Valley Road and began a very twisty 5,000 foot ascent to a dead-end at 9,000 feet. We located a spot at the Onion Valley Campground, finding a nice quiet site with a nice view of craggy Independence peak rising in the background.
Switchback-y Onion Valley Road