By DENNIS WYATT
209 staff reporter
BISHOP — Rare are tourism slogans that catch the true essence of a destination.
One of those exceptions is Bishop that prides itself as a “small town with a big back yard.”
Bishop is in the heart of “The Other California” that lies in the shadow of the imposing Eastern Sierra.
The biggest community with 3,841 residents along Highway 395 at the 4,150-foot elevation in Inyo and Mono counties has the small-town urban amenities such as restaurants, motels, specialty stores, classic sporting goods stories, a movie theater, and interesting touches such as an extensive indoor-outdoor Old West-railroad-mining museum, shops such as a combo yogurt shop and wine bar and even a small-scale Indian casino to complement arguably access to the wildest variety of outdoor activity in California.
The list of outdoor pursuits are virtually limitless as you head in almost any direction from Bishop —hiking, fishing, camping, backpacking, bouldering, hunting, horseback riding, rock climbing, road cycling, mountain biking, ATV and four-wheel drive treks, wildlife viewing and more. There is even an 18-hole golf course.
Bishop is at the epicenter of a region that offers some of the must unique geological and natural features in California and even the world.
*DEATH VALLEY: Summer or even early fall isn’t the ideal time to go to Death Valley unless you’re hiking Telescope Peak (11,043 feet) or familiar enough with the trails terrain to night hike and are conformable with ground temperatures of 90 degrees at 1 a.m. That said European tourists this time of year make it impossible to book a room at the two hotels that are open as they like to be able to brag they were in Death Valley when the air temperature at one of the coolest spots on the valley floor was 120 degrees. That said late fall to early spring is a great time to visit the lowest spot in the Western Hemisphere as well as explore the unique geology and enjoy the wildlife.
*MT. WHITNEY: It’s the tallest peak in the 48 Lower States at 14,496 feet and you can hike all the way to the top although a few people opt to follow climbing routes. It does require an access permit this time of year. And while the lottery was held in the spring, you can inquire about open spots at the US Forest Service office in Lone Pine.
*LONG VALLEY CALDERA: California’s largest active volcano (it’s a caldera) stretches from the base of Mammoth Mountain to Glass Mountain and Mono Lake.
*PALISADES GLACIER: The largest southernmost glacier in the Sierra is visible from Highway 395 in Big Pine. It is even more impressive if you take the long haul hike to a 12,000-foot plus high ridge above Sam Mack Meadows at 11,040 feet to peer at the formation, any closer and solid rock climbing skills are needed. And while the round trip hike to that point can be brutal given the glacier rock debris above Mack Meadows, simply doing an all-day trek to pristine Mack Meadows and passing a series of aqua blue glacier lakes on the easy up is worth the effort.
*ANCIENT BRISTLECONE PINES: The White Mountains east of Big Pine harbor the oldest living organisms on earth — the bristlecone pines. The Forest Service maintains two groves. One is reachable by a paved road and the other — where the oldest bristlecone pine that is closing in on 5,000 years stands — requires a 12 mile trek down a dirt road.
*MONO LAKE: The remnants of a prehistoric lake along Highway 120 is significantly saltier than the ocean and has stunning tufa towers hutting out of the water that are essentially limestone formations.
While my thing is hiking, it should be noted anglers will tell you that the region is unparalleled for fishing whether its trout visible in crystal clear Sierra lakes above the start of endless eastern Sierra canyons that feed dozens upon dozens of creeks or down on the Owens Valley floor at well-stocked places such as Crowley Lake.
And some of the Eastern Sierra’s most stunning lakes with incredible views you can drive up to such as Convict Lake south of Bishop and northwest of Mammoth Lakes.
Bishop Canyon west of Bishop arguably has the best concentration of high Sierra hiking trails outside of the Yosemite high county and definitely has more stunning lakes that are accessible during day hikes than anywhere else in the Sierra. It also has two “drive up lakes” courtesy of the Los Angeles Water and Power Department. You don’t have to hike to enjoy the trails as pack trains ferry guests and supplies up canyons and over passes.
Mammoth Lakes — a summer and winter sports playground that is a touch of Squaw Valley and arguably more striking – is just 42 minutes from Bishop. It has unpatrolled nightlife — at least for the Eastern Sierra region.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org