Owens Valley - Randsburg
February 7-9, 2007
Last Tuesday my sister Kristine drove up from Long Beach where she had been
visiting with friends for a few days after flying out from Boston. We met in Fresno
where she came with me to my wedding dress fitting. Then we went shopping at
Gottshalks where they had about 1/2 of the 2nd floor filled with racks of clothes at
80% off. Kristine ended up buying two dresses and a bunch of shirts for a grand
total of $57! One dress she may wear at my wedding and it's silk and was originally
priced at $185. Talk about a steal!
We then drove home to Springville and she and Todd and I went to El Nuevo for
dinner. On Wednesday morning we went out to the ranch where we're having the
wedding so I could show Kristine around. Then we headed into Porterville where I
needed to pick up my wedding ring. We also went to the bakery where we're having
our cake made and we had a couple of doughnuts. Then we headed south to
Bakersfield with a stop at the mall for a little bit of shopping and lunch. Then we
were finally off on our Owens Valley Road Trip!
We headed east via Hwy 178 and Walker's Pass to Owens Valley. Owens Valley, for
those of you who haven't been there, is on the eastern side of California. It is bound
by high mountains to the east and to the west. On the west is the formidable block
of the Sierra Nevada which tops out at Mt. Whitney at 14,494'. On the east are the
Inyo or White Mountains which are also impressively high and top out at White
Mountain Peak 14,242'. Because the valley is only at 3-5,000' in elevation, that
means there is a 9-11,000' vertical relief on both sides. Owens Valley to some is
thus known as the Deepest Valley in America.
Kristine and I spent a large part of our childhood in the Valley and she is now writing
a book about the Owens Valley and its water wars with Los Angeles. There's a lot of
fascinating history to learn, but in a nutshell... back in the early 1900's Los Angeles
illegally bought up land in the valley in order to acquire the water rights. Then they
built an aqueduct to carry it all to LA. As a result of this the valley has remained
relatively undeveloped. Before the aqueduct it was a promising agricultural area and
probably would've supported many more people; now it's simply a beautiful rural place
to go visit and it offers camping, hiking, fishing, and the like. Click here for more on
the Owens Valley Water Wars.
We crossed Walker's Pass at sundown then made our way north to Lone Pine. Here
we stayed at the famous Dow Villa Hotel. This hotel was built in the early 1920's as
a place for movie actors and directors to stay. Nearby, the Alabama Hills were the
set for many westerns being filmed back then and over the years more than 300
movies have been filmed there. Famous guests such as John Wayne and Gene Autry
stayed there. Click here for a little more on the history of the Dow Villa.
That night we ate at the Mt. Whitney restaurant, the same one that we ate at with
Joe after Cris and I hiked to the top of Mt. Langley. They make great sandwiches
and shakes! In the morning we ate at the Alabama Hills Cafe which is newly
renovated. The scramble I had was excellent :)
|Kristine meets our cat Blackie
|The Scenery at Walker's Pass
|The Sky above Spanish Needle
|Sometimes it looks like that backdrop is just painted
Mt. Langley is on the flat topped mountain on the left, next to it on
the right are the jagged peaks of Corcoran and LeConte. The tallest
peak from appearance is Lone Pine Peak, but the tallest is actually
Mt. Whitney which is framed between the two sets of poles
After breakfast on Thursday we headed east into the Alabama Hills. These hills are
made of the same rock as the bulk of the Sierra Nevada - granite. But the granite
eroded differently, shaped by freezing and thawing water, rain, and wind - unlike the
Sierra which was mainly shaped by glaciers. The rocks here have a rounded
appearance, much like the rocks of Joshua Tree National Park. And like Joshua Tree,
this is a popular area for rock climbers, but also movie buffs and those that simply
enjoy the scenery and off-road driving and hiking.
First we hiked to Mobius Arch, perhaps the most famous of the Alabama Hills
naturally formed rock arches, and one that I had seen before. This arch frames Mt.
Whitney perfectly, or if you look at a slightly different angle, Lone Pine Peak. On the
day we were out there, though, smoke from a prescribed burn obstructed the view of
Whitney. But it was still a nice hike. It is just a short 1/4 mile from the road down
an unmarked trail. For directions you can email me or stop at the visitor center in
Lone Pine and ask.
Then we tried to find a second arch, a new one for both me and Kristine. The
directions I had were a little off but after trying 3 times we finally found the
correct place to park and start hiking from. This arch is about a mile hike down an
unmarked trail then cross-country up a steep hillside. It wasn't too hard to get too,
though, and it was a fun hike. Again, you can email me for directions or ask at the VC.
We also drove up the Whitney Portal Road towards the fire. I didn't think that
environment would have the need for a prescribed burn, but I guess the Pinyon Pine in
the area would benefit.
|My Subaru looks lost, lol
|See the Heart Shaped Arch?
|Ever see a kissing rock? lol
|Mt. Whitney through the smoke
|The water in the Aqueduct flows south towards LA
|Aberdeen is a small community near Independence. It is near
here where the Owen's River was diverted into the LA Aqueduct.
We tried to access the dam/diversion but it's behind a locked
gate. Here is a photo of it that I found on the internet. Until
recently all the water was diverted with none left to flow through
the remaining 62 miles of river to Owen's Lake. But as the result
of a lawsuit LA is now rewatering the lower Owen's River. We set
off to find where this is occurring...
|We crossed the aqueduct and headed east towards the river. But
we got a little lost and asked these cows for directions... they
weren't much help! But soon afterwards we found LADWP workers
and asked them and they knew exactly where it was, for they were
working on the rewatering project. I didn't take a picture of them,
for they weren't quite as cute as the baby and mommy cows.
|Hmmmm... we must be getting close!
|Yeah! We found it! Just imagine, there hasn't been
water here for over 90 years...
|Patches of the ground have been burned to eradicate salt cedar
|I think I'll go back and float down what I can of the newly restored river
on my kayak... Want to join me??
|Shadows on the White Mountains
|Trout jumping for joy after being fed at the Blackrock
Springs Fish Hatchery near Aberdeen