Dash for Elevation

On our way out of Mammoth, we took a couple of quick detours, first just above town to Lake Mary, and then north to Mono Lake.

No, this is not a joke or Photoshopped. We paid $5.09 a gallon for gas in Mammoth. Most of the rest of California seems to be between $4.59 and $4.79/gal. We saw as high as $5.14/gal.

Lake Mary, above Mammoth Lakes.

We then headed south on Highway 395. As we expected, it quickly warmed up, and we found ourselves just wanting to get through the heat and to our destination for the evening, which would again be at elevation. For several weeks now, this has been our routine: find a spot to camp at high elevation, ride through the lower roads to it in 95 degree temperatures, then arrive at a nice climate for the night.

We stopped at the historic site of Manzanar, which was a Japanese relocation facility during World War II. Unfortunately, they were closed (open Friday through Monday only), but a couple of the reconstructed buildings/exhibits were open as was the rest of the outdoor area. Only the large auditorium building remains from the original camp, but there are signposts indicating where each of the other buildings stood, and what it was.

Manzanar Internment Camp, 1943 (AP Photo)

A bit of the history of Manzanar, from the sign in front of the administration building/visitor center.

Walking through the buildings had a little bit of the same feel as walking through some of the German concentration camps. I’m sure the treatment was different, but it still felt like we were intruding on something very wrong that happened. I felt like some of the stories in the exhibits (some based on newspaper accounts from the 1940s) seemed to put a “happy face” on the lives of the people there. It seemed quite biased and skewed to me. Taking about how much some of the inhabitants enjoyed the “mountain views” seemed crazy. This place is extremely isolated in the high desert; it does have a view of the mountains, but it is not in a forested or nice area. Referring to the “laughter and music” coming from the auditorium likewise didn’t feel right; there may have been nights like that, but overall these people were taken from a much better life and put in a guarded concentration camp in the desert, against their will. Like the German camps, it’s good to preserve this history in the hope that it never happens again. But don’t sugar-coat it.

South of Manzanar, we turned up Nine Mile Creek Road, and headed for Kennedy Meadows. It was 97 degrees at the bottom, but 72 when we arrived at Troy Meadow Campground.

Our camp at Troy Meadows, elevation 7,800′. For those who aren’t campers or may be unfamiliar, the large steel box in the center of the photo is a “Bear Box”. It has a special latch that a bear can’t get its paw into to open the door. You store all of your food and other stuff that might attract bears in this box. Or, if you really don’t like bears, perhaps you sleep in it. Just kidding….don’t sleep in it; there’s no inside latch. Don’t ask me how I know…

The campground was only about 20% full, and nearly everyone there had a dirt bike. It’s a bit hard for me to believe that with all the time I spent riding off-road in Southern California, and having ridden at Kennedy Meadows, I never bothered to drive past the General Store in this direction. There are multiple campgrounds here with single-track trails leading right out of them. You can ride your dirt bike right out of your campsite onto dozens if not hundreds of miles of great trail.

2 thoughts on “Dash for Elevation

    • HaHa! She’s already figured out where I keep the bear spray, so her plan is to grab it, stuff a chocolate bar in my sleeping bag, and run. 🙂

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