California Day 8: Agua Dulce to Mammoth Lakes by Bill Pike

IMG_1615Week one was behind us.

This morning, Abby, Betsy, and I were getting ready for our drive to Mammoth Lakes. Art was heading out to work. He was planning to drive up on Wednesday afternoon.

As the day progressed, the house was scheduled for a break. Parker, Brandi, and Tyrell would be flying back to Hawaii. Ashley was returning to San Francisco where she would regroup, and then drive to Bend, Oregon for some vacation fun with friends.

A bit after 9, we were organized. We started packing up the car. We said our goodbyes, and started the drive out to California 14 north. A quick stop was made to fill up with gas, and then we were back out on the 14 looking to eventually make the connections to US 395.

In this dry, oven baked, arid land, we quickly left behind Palmdale and Lancaster. On both sides of the highway parched land was the view. Wind turbines, solar panels, a new vineyard, mothballed jet planes were familiar sights along this route.

The highway  was two lanes, then four lanes, then back to two as we continued to work north. This would be our third trip to Mammoth Lakes. Today, Abby had some new stops worked into the plan.

The width of the valley is catching my attention more this time. It is flat and wide, and the valley rolls to the foundation of the hills and mountains to the left and right. We drive for miles without passing through small outposts, and once in a while a singular, speck of a residence will be out in the distance. Talk about being lonely and desolate.

And yet, the terrain changes in subtle and not so subtle ways. Take for example our first stop for the day— Fossil Falls.

As we approach Fossil Falls, the rock formations and the color of these rocks change. Most writers note immediately two unexpected features about Fossil Falls—there are no fossils and no rushing water.IMG_1612

Fossils Falls was created by a lava flow, thus the black, charcoal color of the preserved rocks that set it off. Of course, this all happened a long, long time ago, and over that time water and wind sculpted the rocks and chasm where the falls once flowed.

The Owens River and a lake once fed the parcel of land. Also, on this same plot, unless your eyes are so taken by the lava formations, you can’t miss staring at Red Hill. This is a cinder cone volcano.

Fossil Falls is worth the stop. Everywhere I look, I’m amazed at this creation. 

Back in the car, we rumble over the washboard dirt road surface out to the main service road.

It didn’t take long before we were back on 395. Abby pushed us north heading toward Lone Pine. 

Coming into Lone Pine, the speed limit drops, and traffic crawls like a tortoise out in the desert. We park at the Museum of Western Film History. Take a short walk to the McDonalds ( Sadly, no In-N-Out in Lone Pine ) for a bit of nourishment, and then back to the museum for a tour.

Abby and Art are members of the museum, so their guests are free. Admission fee appears to be a minimum of a $5.00 donation. 

If you were like me, when I was growing up, I enjoyed watching cowboy movies and television shows with a western theme.  Many of those productions were filmed just outside of Lone Pine in the Alabama Hills. Those hills proved to be a good home for all things related to filming cowboys in their encounters with bad guys, cattle, pretty girls, and depending upon the cowboy star singing about those experiences.

The Museum of Western Film History is packed with everything related to these productions. If you had a favorite actor or actress who appeared in these movies and shows, chances are you will find a reference to these people.

A car especially rigged for filming on location in that rugged terrain is one of the first pieces to catch my eyes as we entered the museum.  Outfits, saddles, movie posters, guns, and assorted video clips really capture the people who molded and shaped the film and television production.

It is amazing to see all of the marketing and product endorsements for the cowboy star, Hopalong Cassidy. Someone was really sharp in developing his celebrity power.

The museum curator even has a small film clip of Herb Jeffries, an African American, who created a cowboy character named the Bronze Buckaroo for African American children. Jeffries was also an acclaimed singer in Duke Ellington’s band.

The rich history of Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills contributions to this business is nicely portrayed in a short film documentary. The piece skillfully captures the key players and their stories, and it is very impressive what transpired here over many, many years.

I had a tough time departing the museum as the displays really held my attention while taking me back to my childhood too.

Back in the car, we drove toward Bishop, and a stop that I had always wanted to make at the Erick Schat’s Bakery. Since 1938, the bakery has been famous for its Sheepherder Bread. We made a mid-Monday afternoon stop, and the place was packed. People were eating fresh made sandwiches, and everywhere I looked baked goods were prevalent and being purchased in abundance.IMG_1617

We helped the local economy with the items we bought. And once we arrived in Mammoth Lakes we enjoyed these baked treats throughout the week.

With our purchases properly loaded into the car, we kept pushing toward Mammoth Lakes. Pretty soon the familiar turn off appeared, and within a few minutes, Abby had us at the condo.

Once we were unloaded, we opted to shake off being in the car most of the day by taking a long walk through parts of Mammoth Lakes. IMG_1620 2

Moving these old bones around felt good, and like always the scenery was good too. When we made it back to the condo, Abby and Betsy started tossing out ideas for Tuesday. From what I heard, I sensed Tuesday was going to be busy.

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