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Three Nerds and a Big Honkin' Truck
1,200 Miles in Four Days
by Mark Helmlinger

Mono Lake, California
South shore of Mono Lake and tufa deposits

After viewing the tufa deposits, we took CSR-120 east and saw some amazing landscape on the other side of Mono Craters. There's quite a forest back there, growing out of gray pumice ash. We made our way over to 395 via Indian Summit Road (1S06) and Logging Camp Road (1S05), a dirt road that runs from south of Mono Mills back to US-395. It was soft in some spots. We reached US-395 at Glass Flow Road which goes up Glass Creek. We followed that road west to the Obsidian Dome pumice deposits. Care must be taken while climbing. The rocks are very sharp, and cell phones don't work!

 

We then went to the Hot Creek Geologic Site in an attempt to see an underwater fumarole "up close and personal" with a mask and snorkel. Hot Creek, which is near the Mammoth Lakes Airport past Hot Creek fish hatchery, lives up to its name. It's a very unstable and unpredictable area. The fumarole was covered by creek sediments this year and not as dramatic as it was in 2004. The site is a little crowded on weekends but still worth a visit. Take a dip with care -- the hot waters swirl around a bit and sometimes need to be dodged. Be advised that volcanic activity in the region is inevitable and could either shut it all down or pump up the action -- especially the poisonous gases. (Additional information about Hot Creek is online here.)

 

We proceeded south down US-395 to just south of Sherwin Summit to another well-placed pullout. I call it the "Range of Light" scenic point overlook. It has a similar view of the Sierras as the famous Ansel Adams photo. It's also close to the end of the Bishop Tuff Formation, a huge flow of hot ash frozen in action. We tried to make it to Bishop in time for really yummy chili cheese bread, but got there too late for Schat's Bakery, another recommended culinary experience.

We were getting road weary and decided to start looking for a campsite. I like Keough's Hot Springs, but the pool was closed for the night. We wound up driving down a dirt road and parking in a wooded box canyon tucked up against the foothills just south of Keough's Hot Springs.

 

Next morning, we blasted south on US-395. We passed through Independence, site of one of California's strongest and deadliest earthquakes. Then we zipped by Manzanar, known for its role as a Japanese internment camp during World War II. It hasn't opened as a park yet, but it's being fixed up nicely. I remember when it was an abandoned and nearly forgotten place. Lone Pine is a cute town and forced to remain so because of water rights. However, there is an effort to increase tourism. Up in the foothills to the west is a location immortalized in many classic Western films: Movie Flat in the Alabama Hills. Here are some stories from that era.

Next: Owens Lake & Death Valley>

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Mark Helmlinger
August 7, 2005

 


 

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