South on the 395 Lake Tahoe to LA

Mono-June-Mammoth Lakes, Manzanar, the Alabama Hills and various amazing landmarks.


Leaving California at the north end of Lake Tahoe I took a very short detour once in Nevada to have a roll through Carson City knowing I’d get the cheap gas and in hopes of seeing the capitol building. Thumbs up on both goals.

After I drove away I thought I should have parked and had a stroll. But it was Hot, so there’s that. wiki: “The city is in a high desert river valley approximately 4,802 feet with cold winters and hot summers.” Truly true.


First stop, Mono Lake, from a view point off the highway.

It never hurts to try your Senior Lifetime Pass!

WIKI: “Mono Lake is a saline soda lake in Mono County, California, formed at least 760,000 years ago as a terminal lake in an endorheic basin. The lack of an outlet causes high levels of salts to accumulate in the lake and make its water alkaline.

“The desert lake has an unusually productive ecosystem based on brine shrimp, which thrive in its waters, and provides critical habitat for two million annual migratory birds that feed on the shrimp and alkali flies.  Historically, the native Kutzadika’a people ate the alkali flies’ pupae, which live in the shallow waters around the edge of the lake.

“When the city of Los Angeles diverted water from the freshwater streams flowing into the lake, it lowered the lake level, which imperiled the migratory birds. The Mono Lake Committee formed in response and won a legal battle that forced Los Angeles to partially replenish the lake level.”


I couldn’t get the good picture, I’m there at noon, I’m sweltering, and oooh the stink and the flies…

This is a good discussion of the Tufa Towers.

And here’s a little excerpt: “All tufa at Mono Lake forms underwater. Beneath Mono Lake, calcium-rich freshwater springs seep up from the lake bottom and mix with lake water rich in carbonates (think baking soda). As the calcium comes in contact with the carbonates in the lake, a chemical reaction occurs, resulting in calcium carbonate, or limestone. The calcium carbonate precipitates (settles out of solution as a solid) around the spring, and over the course of decades to centuries, a tufa tower will grow. Tufa towers can grow to heights of over 30 feet underwater.”

It was at this point, after an hour in the blazing baking burning blinding sun, when I couldn’t complete the walk because of the heat, (YAY I turned back in time!) that I decided to absolutely drink more water. The gang at Lake Tahoe, each one separately and often together urged me to drink more water. Drink More Water. Fine.

Not my pictures: Grant Lake with a small cabin complex and accessible beaches; June Lake that I remember as a beautiful and peaceful alpine retreat was none of those things; one of the Mammoth Lakes that I never found.


I left the Mammoth area around noon having spent the morning trying to get through the Lake Tahoe pictures and then decided on a visit to Manzanar.

Both Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams spent many months at war-time Manzanar making photographs with very different outcomes. They both worked under strict regulations, no photos of barbed wire or guard towers or military police or anything negative really. Lange was first and from what I read much more gritty and also censored whereas Adams’ work was widely criticized for being simple propaganda.

I got all these off the internet of course, and here is an article I found particularly interesting about “How the Photography of Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams Told the Story of Japanese American Internment”.

This photo’s caption from the link above:

“Dorothea Lange, “Manzanar, California, Dust storm at this War Relocation Authority center where evacuees of Japanese ancestry are spending the duration” (July 3, 1942). The area was subject to extreme seasonal temperatures, with dust a constant presence due to the high winds. Incarcerees often awoke mornings covered in a layer of it. (photographed by Dorothea Lange for the WRA, courtesy the National Archives [Archives Identifier 539961])”


Having several times visited the very extensive exhibitions at the Japanese American National Museum in downtown LA I wasn’t particularly anxious for more Manzanar but actually I’m glad I went.

The visitor’s center was closed but the driving-around tour was open and you could get out along the way. It was standing there that was so physically overwhelming much like the photo above – so hot with a furious hot dusty wind and I got a more visceral feeling for the enormous scale of the place (only 5th in population size of the 10 internment camps).

It looks mostly like this now, with a very few buildings, mostly desert and signs about what was there during the war.

Instead of trying for the Alabama Hills this afternoon I decided to check into my motel in Lone Pine and find a nice big western dinner, full service, wine, lots of courses.

And I did. And these walls? There were more!


The last leg of the trip, before home sweet home tonight. But first I want to take a spin through the Bureau of Land Management recreation area called The Alabama Hills, but first before that, I missed the turn off and ended up at the Mount Whitney trailhead!

UpUPUP. I knew at about 7,000 feet that I had made a mistake but why not follow it through to the 8,600 feet trailhead. I left the motel at 5:30am (that’s right, HEAT) so when I got up there it was still early enough to see Hearty Youth packed up for the assent to 14,500 feet.

On the way down I found the turnoff and spent some time admiring the formations of the Alabama Hills.

“The Alabama Hills are a formation of rounded rocks and eroded hills set between the jagged peaks of the Sierra Nevada and the geologically complex Inyo Mountains. Both geologic features were shaped by the same uplifting occurring 100 million years ago. Visitors enjoy touring film sites, photography, rock climbing, exploring natural arches, and viewing the swaths of wildflowers that bloom every spring. Horseback riding and mountain biking are popular activities.”

And after 5 stops to pee (remember? Drink More Water?) I was Home Sweet Home!

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