Our summer road trip focused on the 395 highway along the Eastern Sierra’s mountain range in the Inyo & Mono County. We found camp late Friday night at a primitive camp spot along Hogback Creek.
Nothing around us but the bright stars and the dark sky in the sierra’s. We love to get as close as possible to our first destination the night before. This gives us a full day to explore leaving all the major traveling the night before.
Our first stop along the the 395 tour was Bodie Ghost Town. To get to Bodie you will follow the 395 north to Bridgeport. Once you pass Lee Vining you will come to highway 270 in about 18.5 miles. Turn right and follow the road until it ends. The road is paved for 10 miles then the rest of the 3 miles is a well maintained dirt road that all vehicles could follow.
Bodie began in 1859 with the discovery of gold but didn’t get popular until 1879 with over 10,000 people and 22 operating mines. Bodie lasted until the 1950’s with the last small mining operation closing down. In 1962 California adopted Bodie as a state park and began preserve the town as a “Arrested Decay” meaning they will keep the buildings as they are when they took over the town in 1962.
Today there are 100 of the original buildings still standing. The cost is $5 per adults and $3 for children. It is located 8000 feet in elevation. At the time we visited they had closed all personal tours due to Covid but you were able to still tour the town on your own with a self guided tour.
There was so much to see as we toured each house and shop. All the items that were left in the stores and homes were still there giving us a glanced into the history of the town.
Our second stop for the day was Travertine Hot Springs. The Hot Springs are located between Bodie and Bridgeport. Once you get back onto the 395 from Bodie head north towards Bridgeport for 6.2 miles until you get to Jack Sawyer Road turn right and follow for a short distance until it turns to Y. Follow the Y to the left onto the dirt road. You will follow this for 1 mile until you end up at the Travertine Hot Springs parking lot.
Travertine Hot Springs are one of many geothermal hot springs in the Eastern Sierra’s. There are a few pools right off the parking lot that were crowded. But if you venture past the pools and around the corner you can find a few more pools that you can have all to yourself including a cold water pools.
On our way back down the 395 heading south we stopped at Mono Cone in Lee Vining for one of their delisoucs ice cream cones which is right next down to the Mono County Historical Museum. They have a lot of exhibits outside including the Upside Down House. This is a perfect place to walk around while you enjoy your mono cone.
We can’t be in the Sierra’s without fishing one of their many lakes. Close to Lee Vining along the June Lake loop is Silver Lake. We stopped here to fish for a few hours before heading to our final stop of the day.
Our final spot of the day was The Crowley Lake columns. The columns are located on the south end of the lake on a secluded beach. The Columns are not easy to get to, you either have to get there by boat or you have to drive a dirt road that will need four wheel drive and high clearance with a hike down a cliff at the end of the dirt road. But it is worth it.
The columns, that stand about 20 feet tall, were believed to be formed when cold water became steam that mixed with the ash as a volcano exploded over 760,000 years ago.
Our camp spot for the night was the Alabama hills. The Alabama hills is located right outside of Lone Pine. It is an area at the base of the mountains that is popular by the unique landscape of rounded rocks and eroded hills. It is also popular for the many movies & tv shows that we filmed there like Iron Man, tremors, Star Trek and Man of Steel. It has become even more popular with popular pictures posted on Instagram. Camping here became very diffecult trying to find a spot at night. I would highly suggest camping outside of this area or finding a spot during daylight.
We got up bright and early and started our drive home along the way we pulled off the highway to see the Cottonwood Creek Charcoal Kilns. As we pulled off the road we were surprised to see the wild horses of the sierra’s. We stopped to watch them but as we stopped they began to head towards us. They finally reach the truck and started to circle it. We think they were looking for food but we didn’t feed them. Once they finally released us we headed down the dirt road to the Kilns
The Cottonwood Creek Charcoal Kilns were built in the 1870’s to produce charcoal for the ore smelters for the Cerro Gordo Mines. The charcoal with be sent across the Owens Lake to the mines on steamboats. Today the kilns are crumbling, Owens Lake is dry and Cerro Gordo is a ghost town. Check out Living in a Ghost Town Living Channel the restoration of Cerro Gordo.
We hit Red Rock Canyon State Park on our route home taking us off the 395 for a short bit. The beautiful red rocks leave me longing for a trip to Utah.
Our last stop on our 395 tour takes us along a 7 mile dirt road in the El Paso Mountains of the Northern Mojave Desert. Our stop is only accessible with a four wheel drive. Once at the top of the hill you come to an old beat up homestead. Continue to follow the road around the homestead and around the hill and you will come to the entrance of the Burro Schmidt Tunnel.
William Henry Schmidt began digging this tunnel in 1900 so that he had a safe trail for his burros to move his ore to the smelter. He dug the tunnel through solid granite using only a pick, a shovel, and a four point hammer in the beginning then for the rest of the tunnel he used dynamite with short fuses injuring himself often. The tunnel is a 1/2 mile long, it is 6 feet tall and 10 feet wide. It is estimated that he moved 5800 tons of rock with just a wheelbarrow. He finally finished his tunnel in 1938, 38 years later. He moved after the tunnel was finished never using it to move his ore through the tunnel he worked so hard to build. His old homestead is still standing with exposed walls and broken windows mimcing many abandoned cabins in the majove desert.