We headed north the first week in October for our annual high-altitude MTB experience and to observe Mother Nature’s beautiful panorama of leaves undergoing their fall color change. The trusty Subaru Outback, a veteran of many excursions like this over the last ten or so years, gobbled up the miles like the Geico gecko at a cricket farm. No tunes this trip; instead we listened as Michael Connelly’s protagonist,the Hieronymus Bosch, chased scofflaws involved in murder and drug heists.
Any drive that travels through Bishop, California has a mandate that we stop at Erick Schat’s Bakery for Sheepherder Bread, pastries and one of their amazing sandwiches. Accordingly, the Outback, like a well-trained mount, dutifully pulled into the parking lot and we procured the comestibles after standing in line for a half day or so.
On other occasions, Bishop might be a base camp for visiting the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest 25 miles to the east, to view these magnificent trees, the oldest living things on the planet, or to plan an assault of White Mountain where the nation’s highest bike-accessible trail ends at 14,252 feet, weather and conditions permitting.
Back on the road a couple of pounds heavier, we headed for my favorite campground across from Tom’s Place on Rock Creek Drive, about 25 miles further along Route 395. We set up camp, but the Outback ended up doing double duty as an RV since overnight temperatures in the mid-twenties were too frigid for tent camping after years of SoCal weather turned me into a wimp. We used this as a base when exploring Little Lakes Valley, Inyo Craters, Devil’s Postpile and the paved bike trail around Mammoth Lakes Basin.
On our return, we stopped at The Mobius Arch outside of Lone Pine. This is accessed by turning west on Whitney Portal Road from Route 395, driving 2.7 miles then turning right (northeast) on Movie Flat Road and veering right about 1.7 miles down the road. You can ride or hike the 0.5 mile trail to this spectacular granite formation. You’ll discover there are many other places to ride in the adjacent Alabama Hills. Perhaps, if you listen carefully, you’ll perceive the sounds of hoof beats as Tom Mix chased rustlers in the 1920’s, Clint Eastwood as Joe Kidd more recently, or recognize scenes from the more than 150 horse operas made there since the days of silent movies or the scores of TV programs filmed there.
Don’t tell anyone, but we hiked this area, one of the most popular trails in the Eastern Sierra. Drive 10.3 miles up Rock Creek Road to the parking area. Be sure to leave early as the voluminous parking lot fills up fast. There are many trails and offshoots to explore, but we went on an out and back trip of about eight miles and enjoyed a surfeit of magnificent scenery.
View these craters, striking evidence of Mammoth’s turbulent past, about one-half mile from the trail head off the Mammoth Scenic Loop road. There is also a plethora of bike trails in this area; just select one, take off and realize you’re lost.
An incredible formation of columnar basalt and crowds to match, this is a must see. During peak season, you are required to take a shuttle to access this area, but in October you are free to drive in.
A nice paved bike path starting in downtown Mammoth gently climbs uphill to several lakes, including Horseshoe Lake, which has a fun dirt trail around it, suitable for families and beginners.
This unforgettable range known collectively as the Sawtooth Mountains, for reasons that are obvious intuitively, can be viewed from Minaret Vista above the entrance to Devil’s Postpile. The ambiance of this area can make “Two Buck Chuck” taste like Paso Robles 1858. Don’t ask me how I know since fermented libations are probably prohibited there.