US 395 runs north-south along the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains. One of the bigger towns along this famously scenic route is Bishop. Known as a destination for rock climbers and hikers, it’s also home to a nice mix of historic bakeries and restaurants, some interesting shops, and Mule Days.

“WTH is Mule Days?!” you ask? Good. We didn’t know either.

In fact, my initial plan had been to spend 3 full weeks in Bishop, with weeks 1 and 2 at the county fairgrounds and week 3 at a private campground up the street. However, when I tried to make the fairgrounds reservation online, the entire second week was unavailable. Since I was booking our reservation months ahead of our stay, I figured there must be a mistake, so I called and the lady was like, “Oh, Mule Days starts two weeks later.”

…as if I had any idea what the hell she was talking about.

What the hell is a Mule Show? And why does it have a mom?

I booked the one week and then called the private campground up the street to see if we could stay with them for weeks 2 and 3. The employee there was able to squeeze us into a spot for week 2, but said there was no way she would have a spot for week 3. Mule Days, you know.

To which I said: “What. The. Hell. Is. Mule. Days????????”

Come to find out, Mule Days is THE event of the year in this region. For one week surrounding Memorial Day, life in this tiny town of 3,700 stops as some 30,000 visitors descend on the fairgrounds to celebrate the all important mule.

Why all the mule mania? Because mules were crucial for mining Borax in eastern California during the 19th century. In fact, if you visit Death Valley National Park, which is just 150 miles southeast of Bishop, you can learn all about the Borax mining that was done inside the park. And all that Borax was going a whole lot of nowhere absent some sort of animal transport – there were no railroads or highways yet, so the only way to get all that valuable soon-to-be laundry detergent to industry and market was to enlist the assistance of a bunch of trusty mules.  And to answer your question, a mule is the product of a female horse and a male donkey. They are known for being sure footed, tough, and resilient – perfect for moving heavy objects in brutal conditions.

So, Mule Days is a celebration of Mules and their impact on these tiny towns in eastern California.

As for the event itself, it’s basically a rodeo, but focused on mules. There are all kinds of mule events. There’s a mule parade – the largest mule parade in the world! – mule shows, workshops about mules, and competitions between mules. There are mule packing, driving, roping, racing and riding events. Finally, there’s my personal favorite, an event called the “pack scramble” in which various mule packing teams – which are made up of 5 mules and 3 horses – are all set free in a ring where they all intermix with other teams. The owners then have to put their team together again, get them all tied up and loaded down with their packs and then take them on a 1/4 mile track without dropping anything or coming untied. Whichever team finishes first, wins.

It’s mule-demonium!

Sadly, we didn’t actually get to see any of this because we were at a campground 60 miles south because… Mule Days. But I had to look it up because I was curious. And if you’re curious too, here’s a youtube video all about it.

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Trees

One of the things we love about California is its incredible biodiversity. In just one state, we’ve seen the tallest trees in the world (the coast Redwoods), the largest trees in the world (the Sequoias), and, in the White Mountains that run along 395, we observed the oldest trees in the world – the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Trees.

While Bristlecone Pines can be found in several high altitude locations (9800 to 11,000 feet) between California and Utah, the world’s largest concentration of them is located just east of 395 in a forest managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

Many of the trees found in this area are more than 4,000 years old.

Ancient bristlecone pine trees

These gnarled, twisted, colorful trees often look like they’re barely clinging to life, but it is their ability to send nutrients just where they need to go, in the most extreme environments imaginable, that make them so special. The trees have a very short growing season and the air and soil conditions make them grow very slowly over time. As one part of the tree dies, other parts continue to grow. While they don’t get particularly tall, they do grow wider, and as they face the unrelenting assault from the wind and snow, they continue to twist as they cling to the sides of the mountain.

We walked the four mile Methuselah Trail which treks through a forest of these unique trees while also providing beautiful views of salt flats and mountains near Death Valley.

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The Little Lakes Trail

The Sierra Nevada Mountains are an embarrassment of riches when it comes to scenic trails. There are simply too many good ones to choose from. Luckily, my friend, Laurel, made the decision easy when she described the Little Lakes Trail as “the quintessential Sierra Nevada Hike” and the trail to tackle if you only have time for one. Given her ringing endorsement, I put away the trail guides and we headed up into the mountains for this 8 mile trek. Given its starting altitude of 10,000 feet, we took our time and paused occasionally to catch our breaths, but the stunning scenery more than made up for all the wheezing.

Scenery along the Little Lakes Trail in the Eastern Sierras

Mountains, pine trees, and a lake on the Little Lakes Trail

Snow capped mountains and lake on the Little Lakes Trail

Mountains, pine trees, and a lake on the Little Lakes Trail

Mountains, pine trees, and a lake on the Little Lakes Trail

Thor had a field day. He swam in every lake, explored every creek, exuberantly powered up the snow covered trails, and never missed an opportunity for some joyful zoomies.

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It was an epic day to be a dog.

Alabama Hills

The Alabama Hills are a range of hills and rock formations that are located on the eastern slope of the Sierras near the town of of Lone Pine. This region is particularly famous because it’s been used as the setting for hundreds of movies. Numerous classic westerns were filmed here – so many that there’s a museum dedicated to them – and you can find maps showing specific filming locations:

Hollywood still uses the area today to approximate all kinds of environments. For example, when you need to create the deserts of war torn Afghanistan but don’t want to send your high priced actors into the middle of an actual war zone:

(I’m pretty sure they didn’t blow up the Alabama Hills, though.)

During cooler months, RVers flock here and camp for free. There are plenty of trails winding through the boulders with impressive views of the mountains.

Hiking trail through Alabama Hills

Since it was pretty toasty during our visit, we just headed over one afternoon to walk the .6 mile Mobius Arch Loop Trail which winds through the rock formations and provides access to a couple natural arches.

Kevin walking toward boulders in Alabama Hills

It’s a super easy trail with plenty of markers – except for where someone walked off with a couple of them and we suddenly found ourselves unsure if we were still on the trail. I hadn’t bothered to download a map because it’s a half mile trail. I mean, come on. We also hadn’t bothered to bring any water and I was wearing flip flops. So for a split second, I thought, “Great. The blogger who relentlessly mocks people for hiking while unprepared is gonna die of dehydration in the desert a half mile from her car while wearing flip flops. Perfect.”

Fortunately, we found the trail again and my demise will not forever be a punchline, but seriously folks: flip flops and hiking do not mix.

Anyway, here’s the namesake Mobius Arch:

Kevin sitting inside the Mobius Arch

Looking through it, you can see Mount Whitney, which is the tallest mountain in the lower 48.

Mount Whitney viewed through the Mobius Arch

And, interestingly enough, just a hundred miles southeast of this spot is Badwater Basin at Death Valley National Park – the lowest point in North America. Neat!

Manzanar National Historic Site

For decades before World War II, Anti-Asian sentiment had been on the rise in the western U.S. Soon after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, FDR signed an executive order allowing for the removal of “any or all persons” from the west coast. The U.S. Army applied that order to every person of Japanese ancestry – a number which ended up being 120,000 Japanese, 70,000 of whom were full U.S. citizens.

Americans of Japanese ancestry were rounded up from cities and towns, forcing them to abandon their homes, their businesses, and their communities, and sent to one of 10 military style camps across the country. About 10,000 of them were sent to the camp at Manzanar, located just up the road from the Alabama Hills.

The camp was made up of 36 blocks of residential barracks. Each building was 20 x 100 feet, segmented inside into 20 x 25 foot apartments, each of which was inhabited by families up to 8 people. While there were vertical partitions between the apartments, there were no individual ceilings, so there was no privacy. Bathrooms were communal with no partitions for toilets or showers. Each residential block had a communal mess hall, a laundry, and a recreation hall.

Recreation of barracks at Manzanar National Historic Site

There were hundreds of these barracks laid out in neat rows:

Map of Manzanar Relocation Camp

The camp also had a school, an auditorium, a cemetery, a post office, churches, a hospital, an orphanage, and various staff and administrative buildings. Shops, barbers, salons, shoe repair shops, and the like were operated by the internees. Several residents also designed community gardens to make life more palatable.

The entire facility was surrounded by barbed wire fencing and 8 watchtowers manned by armed guards:

Wooden guard tower at Manzanar

Remember that thing in the Fifth Amendment about “Due process”? You know – “No person…shall be denied life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” Yeah, that didn’t happen. And when 23 year old Fred Korematsu sued and said “Hey – they’re trying to toss me in jail for no reason and they didn’t even do the thing with the due process!”, the U.S. Supreme Court shrugged and said: “Meh, it’s fine.”

(Narrator: “It was not fine.”)

The Korematsu decision commonly vies with several other boneheaded rulings for the title of “Most Asinine Supreme Court Decision of All Time,” and has been roundly rejected by subsequent courts and the larger federal government. In fact, as recently as 2018, Chief Justice Roberts noted in an opinion that the Korematsu decision was dumb as shit and a complete embarrassment.

OK, he didn’t actually say that.

What he said was:

“The forcible relocation of U. S. citizens to concentration camps, solely and explicitly on the basis of race, is objectively unlawful and outside the scope of Presidential authority… Korematsu was gravely wrong the day it was decided, has been overruled in the court of history, and—to be clear—“has no place in law under the Constitution.”

In other words, dumb as shit and a complete embarrassment.

All of which would be cold comfort for the thousands of American citizens who lost years of their lives, their homes, possessions, and businesses to this shameful, racist policy.

Even more horrifying, 135 of them died while incarcerated at the camp.

Cemetery monument at Manzanar National Historic Site
The camp’s cemetery where several bodies remain buried (many others were moved by their families after the camp closed).

Terrible.

(And don’t forget, Manzanar was one of ten camps nationwide. Approximately 1,800 Japanese Americans died in these facilities.)

After the war, the government tore down the camps. Various groups worked to ensure the events would not be forgotten and, eventually, Manzanar was protected by the federal government as a National Historic Site.

There is an auto tour, where visitors can drive around and see the remnants of the buildings (mostly just foundations) as well as a couple re-creations, and read panels about the facilities and life in the camp.

Informational panel at Manzanar National Historic Site

Sign showing where hospital complex had been located.

There’s also a visitor’s center that supposedly has a lot of interesting information.

Exterior of Manzanar Visitor's Center

Frustratingly, during our May visit, the visitor’s center was closed. While we understood that Covid was causing many complications for NPS, we had just visited Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks and noted their gift shops were open and operating normally. There were plenty of other visitors at Manzanar when we were there and I am sure many of them would have liked to check out the visitor’s center just like we did, but alas, it was not to be. So, we shook our heads, grumbled about ‘misplaced priorities,’ and headed out.

Wrap Up

The region surrounding 395 offers a huge array of appealing activities. From trails to film locations to ghost towns to historic sites, you could easily spend months exploring this area and never get bored. We enjoyed checking out some of the restaurants, breweries, and parks in Bishop…

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but even a simple drive up the road offered more than enough eye candy to keep us happy.

Next up:

Eastbound and down, loaded up and truckin…

_____________________________________________________________________

Where we stayed:

Eastern Sierra Tri-County Fairgrounds, Bishop, California

Highlands RV Park, Bishop, California

Boulder Creek RV Resort, Lone Pine, California

46 COMMENTS

  1. 🤣😂 I’m so glad you were not a “flip flop fatality” (for any Big Bang Theory fans out there!). Those bristle pine trees are unreal. If I lived near Schat’s Bakery I would be 500 pounds!!! Great pics as always!

    • Thanks, Jen! I honestly don’t know how anyone living within 20 miles of that bakery ISN’T 500 pounds. Between the breads and the desserts, their motto should be “Your ass is goin on a diet soon.” 🙂

  2. Methuselah’s older brother was discovered a few years ago. the age of the Bristlecone just cannot be determined by looking at them.
    Awesome description of Mule Days, too funny1 We’ve never been, nor have any real desire to put up with the crowds. We did do Independence Day in Independence a couple. The little town closes down 395 for a parade and party.
    The Alabama Hills are so fantastic, but are getting too well known. I still carry the Tremors map whenever we travel that direction. But many of the roads are not RV friendly.
    boulder Creek is Fran’s favorite RV stop, but I can usually talk her into Fossil Falls if it’s a quick overnight.

    • I was just reading about how scientists have figured out which trees are oldest and how they keep that information guarded because they’re afraid of vandals. It’s really too bad it has to be that way, but such is life. I’ve heard a lot of comments about how the Alabama Hills are getting too crowded, but I can see why. It’s so cool to have this incredible free camping with plenty of sites, a bit of cell service, and with access to a town so close by. I just hope people are responsible when visiting. It would be a shame if it closed like some of the other BLM/NF sites have recently.

  3. 395 is our favourite route south, especially because it always starts with a few nights in Bend and lots of beer tasting 🙂

    I have seen the Bristlecone Pines, and taken lots of pictures of them, but I had no idea of their history … that was interesting to learn. And Alabama Hills is always a stop for a few nights so it was interesting that you said you can still camp there for free. We had heard that they were going to stop people from camping there because of all the damage and garbage inconsiderate campers leave behind.

    The only thing I think you missed was the natural hot springs north of Bishop. We had a great time there and enjoyed a bottle of wine in a private hot spring pool watching the sun set.

    • The hot springs sound awesome! I saw a couple signs about one of them, but we just never made it. Somehow we never quite have enough time in these places. That’s why it’s so cool that you can use 395 as a route when traveling between your winter and summer locations. You can really spend the time to explore all these areas. (And starting with beer in Bend is always a good choice!)

      To my knowledge, Alabama Hills is still open to disbursed camping and we saw several RVs during our visit, so I’m pretty sure it’s still available. However, I could definitely see it being the type of place that gets closed. With so many new RV, many of whom are looking to take advantage of free options in beautiful places, it is ripe for overuse and abuse. I hope that doesn’t happen.

  4. In (the?) Alabama Hills, what’s it like to pick an area to camp for free? Do you have to drive deeper and deeper into the area to find a spot not yet taken? Do you unhitch and recon in the truck or just drive in and hope? (Asking for ME, as I add this to our to-visit list.)

    • Hey,

      So we didn’t boondock here or really scout it out, but my understanding is it’s ALWAYS the right thing to do to unhook your tow car and drive around to find a good spot before taking your RV down unknown roads (you can check out Google’s satellite view before you visit to get a sense of the roads and routes which will also help). From what I’ve seen, there are a lot of spaces in the Alabama Hills, but it’s also pretty busy, so you should keep in mind what time of year you’re visiting (cooler months will be busier than warmer months – but don’t come in the summer or you’ll die), try to arrive on a less busy day (Sunday or Monday rather than Thursday or Friday), and have a couple back up options in mind. There are a TON of reviews about the Alabama Hills on Campendium. I would read through those for more tips and guidance. https://www.campendium.com/alabama-hills-recreation-area

  5. You have seriously never heard of Mule Days?!?! Where are you from Mars? Actually, we have never heard it either. Too bad you were not able to find a site in that area, it sounds like it would have been a great time!

    • Holy crap! When I was writing this, I was thinking “the only people who are gonna know what this craziness is all about are Jim and Barb….and they’re gonna think I’m a total loser for not having any idea.” This makes me feel so much better. Look at me, teaching you guys about rural farm life in America! HA!!

  6. Wow, even a month or two there probably wouldn’t be enough. If it weren’t for the crowds, mule days would be neat to see. Love the shot of the mountain through the arch! Despite the temps looks like you had great weather. Thor sure made the most of it!

    • I’m telling you, we could have spent months there. There is just so much. Like the comment above mentioned, there are hot springs, plus ski resorts, cute towns, the Western entrance to Yosemite, and about 8 million incredible hikes. It’s a really awesome route! I hope you guys visit it at some point. You’d love it.

  7. I was really interested to read about your visit to Manzanar. We had hoped to visit Minidoka in Idaho when we were in the area in 2018 but there had not yet been appropriations to build the example barracks, visitor center, etc. The blog tour at Manzanar fills that void for me. It’s so important that the less-than-stellar episodes of our history are preserved and commemorated so people can appreciate how far we have come as a country. We are not there yet, but it’s good to see evidence that we continue to move closer to the aspirational ideas of our founding documents.

    The 395 trip has been on our to-do list for a while and I can’t wait to experience the Alabama Hills, the bristlecones, and of course all things mule.

    • I didn’t even know that other camps had been preserved. I assumed Manzanar was the only one. That’s really interesting. I agree with you 100% that it’s so important to make sure people remember these events. I think that’s why we were so frustrated that the visitor’s center was closed. Half the country (if not more) doesn’t even know these things happened and here you have a perfect opportunity to share the story, and NPS doesn’t prioritize it. Aggravating.

      You guys could definitely stay busy on 395. The biggest obstacle is just weather. Winter is long and fire season can really screw things up, but if you can thread that needle, you’ll have a ball!

  8. If you’re from California, particularly Southern California, you know well “Mule Days”, a celebration of the mule. I say this because Mammoth, just north of Bishop, is THE go-to place to ski. Sometimes as late as June and July, if you can believe THAT. So, if your timing is off, you might pass thru Bishop during the event. Actually, we like Bishop and have stayed there a lot over the years.

    • I can absolutely believe that ski season can continue into June and July. Hell, we did that hike in the mountains in late May and, as you can see, there was plenty of snow left. We actually missed a couple things we wanted to see (like Devils Postpile) because the roads were closed for snow. So yeah, I can imagine the skiing must be incredible. Bishop was definitely a fun little town!

  9. Loved your blog and the 395 brings back many memories for me. Our friends used to have a condo in Mammoth and often invited us up to visit. When we lived in Carlsbad, we would take car trips to Mammoth either for fishing in the summer or skiing in the winter. I hated that drive as it took us ~6-7 hours to get to our destination. I am not a very patient person…I just wanted to get there! But I found out about Schat’s Bakery on those trips! Yum! I always had to stop. There really are so many great places in the area. We’ve kayaked Convict Lake and Mono Lake; hiked to Rainbow Falls and Devil’s Postpile, then of course the skiing was so fun! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I loved the pic of you and Kevin, and all of them of Thor prancing around. 🙂

    • Hey Tami,

      I am very jealous that you lived so close to this area for so long. We missed a bunch of stuff simply because we were there too early in the season and things were still closed for snow. It would be awesome to live close enough that you could visit multiple times throughout the year and see everything there is to see. We noticed several businesses in and around Bishop with the Schat’s name on them. Someone in that family hit a goldmine when they realized lots of people were driving through and could use a snack. Finally, I think it’s hilarious that you used to think a 6 or 7 hour drive was interminable, but now live on the road. 🙂

    • D’awwwww….I’m blushing!! Thank you! Seriously, I appreciate it. It’s great to have such nice folks along for the ride. 🙂

  10. On our display in the NGLVC, you can press a button to see the lowest point in North America, and a little light comes on in the middle of Lake Superior. Thus, the dispute rages over whether or not it counts as the lowest since it’s underwater, whereas Badwater Basin is accessible. It keeps people busy, though 😀

    I sure hope our plans to hit some of 395 in the fall of 2022 come to fruition. We’ll be the last of all our friends to see it, but I guess that just means we’ll have our visit perfectly streamlined, right? I am very glad you didn’t become a cautionary tale in your flip-flops. Dumbass. 😉

    • I dunno. I think I am firmly on Team Badwater Basin. I mean, I can take a photo of myself and prove I was there. How can anyone prove they were at some random point in the middle of an ocean-sized lake? No one. That’s who. And, as everyone clearly knows by now, if it’s not Insta-proveable, it’s not-insta-fact. Thus, Badwater Basin is declared the winner. Please notify NPS that they need to fix their map.

      I hope your 395 plans come together too. You guys will absolutely love it!

  11. 395….sigh. It became one of our favorite drives and places to wander since we first “did it” in 2012 at the suggestion of Nina and Paul. I’ve planned trips there for the past two springs and both were nixed by unforseen circumstances, but THIS year we’re just going, come hell or high water or hordes of locusts. You hit all the highlights we love. When we were last there we were able to walk along the now underwater (I think) shores and into the neat caves and columns of Lake Crowley (or Crowley Lake). We’ve never made it to Mule Days but I certainly would like to!

    thanks for taking us along with you!

    • Thanks, Sue. I hope you guys make it this year. It’s not always easy because of its location, weather, and penchant for wildfire smoke – in fact, this was our second attempt after attempt number 1 was derailed by last year’s fires. However, as you well know, it is well worth fighting through the occasional biblical hurdle to visit, if necessary. 🙂

  12. True fact, flip-flops ARE acceptable trail wear IF one starts their hike before 9am.

    Was three weeks even enough? The light coupled with the scenery, you’ve been hitting it out of the park.

    • Haha… well, if you know anything about us, then you know our ultimate conclusion must be that flip flops will never be acceptable. 🙂

      Three weeks was not enough. The hiking options alone could keep someone busy for several months. But you’ve got to be careful when you go – Several popular trails and sites weren’t even open yet because of snow (and we were there in late May). The eastern entrance of Yosemite typically opens in late June. Add in all the other cool sites to see, and I can understand why people spend so much time there or return year after year.

      And thank you – the scenery out there is just incredible. You’ll have a ball with your camera when you get there.

  13. Traveling 395 remains one of the highlights of our many years of traveling, and even though we’ve traversed it several times, we would do it again in a heartbeat! You showcased the extraordinary beauty of it in your photos. I’m so glad you guys and Thor enjoyed the Little Lakes Trail. It really is the quintessential Sierra Nevada hike.

    Sorry, I couldn’t help laughing about you hiking in flip flops. I mean seriously, who would think you could get into trouble strolling along a half-mile trail? But who knew that some miscreant would steal the trail markers? Anyway, I’m glad you didn’t make headlines.

    We will travel 395 again, and this time, we will for sure make it to Manzanar and Bodie. Those have always been on our list for a future visit, but we never made it because they were an hour or so from where we were camping and seemed like a long way to travel. Now, of course, we’re 3000 miles away, LOL.

    • Laurel – I’m so thankful for yours and others’ blogs for saving me so much time on this route. I honestly wouldn’t have known where to start absent reading all these sites. Your post about the Little Lakes Trail was incredibly helpful and I was thrilled to see it open (90% of the way) during our visit. It really was the perfect trek. So, thank you again.

      It’s funny how travel distances are all relative, huh? That two hour drive probably doesn’t seem like much at all anymore, but thinking about having to spend two hours in the car, each way, when you just spent twice that amount of time moving the RV from one campground to another can seem like insanity. I totally get it. I do hope you guys eventually make it back that way, though, and visit Bodie and Manzanar. They are both worth the time.

  14. I love bristlecones! There are a few of them here in Colorado as well.

    This sounds like it was a really interesting few days. I love the scenery of the high mountain lakes and learned a lot of history reading your summary of Manzanar. What a diverse region.

    Your Mule Days saga reminds me of the time my family and I were driving through Pullman Washington and stumbled upon a large parade that was kicking off the Lentil Festival. The things different towns celebrate can be quite amusing!

    • Haha…. that is hilarious! I can only imagine the lentil themed events, activities, and lectures. Perhaps they elect a “Lentil Queen”? Have a lentil eating contest? Offer guest lectures about the history of lentil advocacy in the U.S.??? The options are truly endless. 🙂

  15. OK Laura, I LOVE that you wore flip-flops on a hike. When I tore my achilles while running in flip flops, the doctor told me NEVER to wear flip flops again. Yeah right. I wear flip flops everywhere. But if the hike or walk is over 1 mile, I will change into my ‘hiking’ flip flops. Oh so much better. The photos you took of the Little Lakes Trial are amazingly beautiful. Thanks for sharing those. Someday we are going to spend some quality time in the Alabama Hills area. But you now have me wondering about Mule Days and how we can change our schedule to be at such an important event. Actually, it does sound fun. We are in Mackinaw City and yesterday we spend the evening at Cheboygan Brewing Company. Not only was the beer fantastic, we love just saying Cheboygan. The more beer we drank, the more we enjoyed saying Cheboygan. It doesn’t take much to entertain ourselves. Please keep these wonderful posts coming!!!!! Stay safe out there! Jim

    • LOL. I can totally see you guys cracking yourself up as you try to say “Cheboygan” while slightly buzzed. HA! As for flip flops, I too have a set of hiking sandals – Tevas – which are totally fine for walking. They actually have support and grip and never leave me worse for wear, but yeah, plain ole flip flops? Not good. For anything. (But I still love them.:) ) I hope you get to spend some time exploring the area and if you do make it to Mule Days, I know you’ll have a blast. You just gotta embrace the crazy and go with it. You’d love it!

  16. Even before our Betsy days that part of Sierra Nevada has always been our favorite route and all of those visits even with Betsy happened in the fall. So looking at your beautiful springtime photos gave me another perspective especially that trail you followed. Alabama hills was our first initiation into boondocking in 2012 and we enjoyed it for there were only a few RVs hidden behind those rocks. Alas it is now popular and it was apparent when we revisited in 2019!
    Another similar Japanese encampment and relocation center that is worth a visit is at the Heart Mountain in Wyoming, it is also a National Historic Landmark, and the VC could be open by the time you visit WY 🙂

    • Interesting and good to know. I didn’t realize the other camps had been preserved as National Historic Sites. That’s really comforting to hear as it makes it that much more likely people will learn about this chapter of American history. The Alabama Hills are beautiful and unique and, sadly, more popular than ever. Your experiences visiting there in 2012 and 2019 just provide more evidence that you guys did the full time RV thing at the perfect time. Your timing simply could not have been better.

  17. Your stories and photos are the best proof of the diversity in this part of California. Gorgeous scenery. I even had to scratch my head and think back… does California really have 10,000ft high mountains? The summer snow shows it. And such a happy Thor! Maya would have had a blast on that 8-mile walk in nature as well. Oh, how I miss the west! We hope to be back in the fall.

    • Honestly, the more I think about it, the more I am blown away by the diversity of California. I mean, where else can you find enormous mountains, forests full of rare trees (Joshua, Bristlecone, etc.), huge deserts, rocky coastline, sandy beaches, world class skiing, volcanic landscapes, and enormous cities? It’s just an insane amount of diverse and stunning landscapes, all packed into one rather large state. We love it. Hope you get back there soon!

  18. You were on one of our all time favorite trips. We did 395 twice for a couple months and LOVED every monent. Your post brings back so many fantastic memories. The hiking all along the way is amazing. Our first time up to do the Little Lake Trail was a huge bust! We weren’t new to elevation but this day we were. We drove through two storm clouds on our way up (should have been a sign). As we arrived in the parking area we noticed people with winter coats, hats, gloves, and pants. Haha! We had on shorts and light jackets!!!! It was 35 degrees!! What idiots! It was in the 70’s in the RV park. Guess we forgot about that thing called elevation which causes the temp to drop…duh! Our second time we were MUCH better prepared and, of course, we didn’t need any extra clothing. Figures! You have me excited to return to the area. Thanks for reminding me of such wonderful memories. Hope all is going well with your jouney east.

    • Lol. While we have been surprised by elevation based temperature changes several times, we have never shown up in shorts when it was 35 degrees. Ha! That’s hilarious! This was actually one of those times we were loving the temperature differential because the desert was getting hot. But yeah, it can throw you for a loop if you’re not prepared for it. Glad to hear you love this area too!

  19. Thanks for sharing your experiences along 395…never been to that part of California. I have lived off of 395 in Kennewick Washington and have been as far south as Southern Oregon with side trips through Christmas Valley, Monument, and John Day…all really beautiful scenery.

    Bill Bailey

    • Thanks, Bill. One day, we’d love to visit the northern section you’ve explored and I hope you get to visit the southern part. It’s all breathtakingly beautiful and there are so many interesting, unique things to see along the way. What an awesome road trip!

  20. Thanks for the tour of 395, I’ve been as far as Manzanar and Lone Pine, but want to go farther up, perhaps next Spring.

    Your section on Manzanar was so well done, thank you on behalf of my childhood friends, whose parents were all interned at those camps during WWII. I grew up in Gardena, CA, back when it was half Japanese-Americans. No one breathed a word of their wartime experience then, they were so focused on blending in, and being model citizens. It wasn’t till I was in college and read about Manzanar that I realized all those parents had been teenagers in camps, and it made me rethink a lot of things.

    • Hey Annie,

      Yeah, things like that definitely give folks reason to question so much of the prevailing narrative. It is shocking the disconnect that has continuously existed between our stated ideals and what we preach to others and what has actually happened here. Always a work in progress, I guess. In any case, I’m glad that places like Manzanar exist and I hope more people will visit and learn about it. It offers many worthwhile lessons, big and small.

  21. That area looks amazing. We never visited Camp Amache in Colorado. I feel like we need to go and see one of these interment camps. So much history is not taught in the US.

    • I agree completely. It is crazy how many people don’t know about some of these events in our history and are not taught to critically think about the things they have been taught about. History absolutely has a way of repeating itself, so it’s vitally important for citizens to learn about these things to ensure they don’t happen again. I hope you guys are able to visit 395 at some point.

  22. Fascinating story about Mule days. Most of my experiences with mules entail feeding them carrots and getting upset with how people treat them in Marrakech and other places where donkeys are just seen as vehicles to carry heavy things and not sentient beings. Breaks my heart.

    On a more positive note, I love the Little Lakes Trail. So beautiful!! Looking at your map, that is quite some number of miles you guys have under your belt. I always enjoy reading your posts, your humor and hindsight. Haha. Yup the flip flop scenario…

    Peta

    • Thanks, Peta! It was definitely nice to see people celebrating a hard working animal rather than taking them for granted or abusing them. People in this area really love their mules!!

      We, too, are amazed by just how many miles we’ve traveled. We’re over 40,000 in the RV alone, and more than that with the tow car. There are just so many places to see and things to do in this country. I’m looking forward to watch your upcoming major mileage project!

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