The Eastern Sierra Rocks!

We are into the 3rd day of our latest adventure, traveling how we like to--stopping wherever and whenever we want, not in a hurry, prepared to be surprised and amazed. This was a trip that Lisa planned (Julie usually takes the lead) and we learned that it's best to plan trips together.

As we were heading to find a campground yesterday after a long day, Julie was navigating and decided to read aloud the AAA Campbook entry, which noted this inconvenient little factoid: 6,000 feet! (And it's March and was cold at 3700 feet where we were... brrrr.) So, after we finished laughing, doing a U-turn, and agreeing that joint planning is a good idea, we found a delicious little county park that had just a handful of campers (tent and RV) along a wonderful slim little lake (created by an 8.0 earthquake in 1872), with the most amazing birds.

Used last night as an opportunity to test our house batteries. When we parked for the evening, they were fully charged from driving all day at 13.9. We used very little electricity (1/2 hour of running generator, though, to power microwave to defrost and cook things) to run a little iPod over the house speakers, a few lights for a friendly game of gin rummy, and some Navy showers this AM. After 17 hours, the battery was at the level folks say to not let it fall below (12.54). We actually noted every appliance and times run (didn't calculate amp hours; that hurts my brain). So, we have not-so-great batteries, which we sort of knew, but have now "scientifically" confirmed. Justification for those solar panels we'd like to get.

Decided to stick around Lone Pine today and see the sights, which are actually rather amazing: Manzanar National Historic Site and the Lone Pine Movie History Museum (hundreds of westerns have been filmed here AND my favorite movie of last year Iron Man was filmed here, with the dry Eastern Sierra standing in for Afghanistan). Photos will follow. The Manzanar site is really just an interpretive center and then a drive around the ruins of the facility, but it's eerily moving. Reminded us of feeling the "ghosts" of the wagon train pioneers at Scottsbluff, NE. The interpretive center is extraordinarily well-done--an unflinching look at the national mistake that was forced internment (according to no less than Ronald Reagan), with some thought-provoking pieces about current Constitutional issues.

Tomorrow will bring the excitement of Death Valley--the temp was supposed to still be cool from the cold front that moved through, but it's heated back up to 90s, so we'll see how that goes (primitive camping only).

And now for the photos:

The Tehachapi Loop
According to the historical plaque, this is one of the 7 wonders of railroading--a circular loop to help trains climb this steep grade. A train of 85 cars will have its caboose right above the engine at one point. As we were trying to figure out how this all worked, a carful of trainspotters arrived and helped us understand why this is such a big deal. Apparently, this train line, built by Chinese immigrants in the late 1800s, was what helped LA grow quickly. 36 trains come through a day; unfortunately, we didn't see one.

I just love old signs.

Red Rock Canyon State Park

The desert was in full bloom--we counted 9 different kinds of wildflowers and were delighted to stand next to this amazing little hummingbird for what seemed like an eternity. What does he eat when there are no flowers blooming, or does he fly away somewhere? We saw lizards and stink bugs and butterflies, too. The desert was happenin'.

Here's the busy hummer:

And the groovy rock formations:

And a Joshua Tree at the northern end of its range:

Most of the wildflowers were white-cream-pale yellow-bright yellow, but this patch refused to blend in:

After our nature walk/hike--Lisa, Nick, and the Navion and the yellow "brick" road.

The view down US 395

Diaz Lake State Park at Sunset

Facing east toward the lake and the mountains we have to cross to enter Death Valley

Facing west across empty campground toward Sierra and Mt. Whitney (not shown here)

Manzanar National Historic Monument

Over 10,000 Japanese and Japanese American citizens were interned here from 1942 to 1945--a windswept, arid, dusty stretch of land far from the West Coast. These people kept their spirits up by publishing their own newspaper, tending gorgeous Japanese style gardens that they created from nothing, building themselves an auditorium/community center (the only building left standing), and even serving the war effort by making camouflage netting (citizens only, not the first-generation Japanese, if you can imagine). Very moving place. I have read so many children's books about this place as part of my old job. It's a whole different thing to be there.

The cemetary and the grave of a child. The ranger told us that busloads of tourists from Japan (and around the U.S.) come to the site and leave coins as offerings.

Julie patiently waits for Lisa, who is engaged in a spirited discussion with the ranger. (Nick and I had to get out of the incessant wind.)

The barbed wire

Downtown Lone Pine
We went to a most marvelous movie history museum today and poked around this charming little town, population 1300 or so. What a history it has. We somehow missed driving on "Movie Road" today, so we decided to get up tomorrow at sunrise to go shoot some pix. This area has had literally hundreds of westerns filmed here, from silent movies with Fatty Arbuckle to Lone Ranger to John Wayne. The mountain backdrop has stood in for India, Afghanistan, Europe.

But I like the signs ;-)

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