Thursday, June 2
Southern California is in the grip of a heat wave. The past two nights I’ve gone to bed in shorts with all windows open and still felt warm, not to mention what the days have been like. Record high temperatures are expected this weekend.
That settles it, time to go.
Heat like this isn’t conducive to working or sight-seeing. There’s still things I want to see in the Alabama Hills area but that’s alright, this way I’ll have stuff to write about next time I come through!
A haze lies over Owens Valley north of Lone Pine, there isn’t a cloud in the sky. Bertha’s thermometer is already reading 82 degrees and it isn’t even 10 yet. The snow in the Sierra is visibly diminished from when I arrived just over a week ago.
395 winds along the valley floor, smooth and constant through the scrub and occasional planted field. Every now and then a road breaks off to the west, advertising a campground or fishing. One road heading east has a Forest Service sign for a Bristlecone Pine forest. Maybe it wouldn’t be too far to come back this way for a day trip once I’ve dropped Cas off at my destination.
When an area of trees break up the tans and gray-greens of the desert, you know you’re coming to a town. Independence is the first, then Big Pine and Keough. Abruptly, I find myself going through a bustling downtown area, buildings stand shoulder to shoulder. This would be Bishop, the only city in Inyo county. From what I see it’s a cute place.
North and west of Bishop, the climbing begins. Bishop is at 4,150 feet, Toms Place 24 miles away is at 7,090 feet. Bertha dutifully tows Cas upward into an open forest of juniper and pine.
At exit 252 I get off onto South Landing Road, and Google Maps lands me into a bit of trouble – directing me on what looks to be a back road and shortcut but is actually a series of driveways and private property. I reach a dead-end where one of these driveways is blocked by the owner’s car and am thinking I’ll need to find a way to turn around on the narrow one-lane track but the owner is outside doing yard-work and has sympathy for my plight. He sees my South Dakota plates and tells me he’s from North Dakota, and we have a nice conversation, at the end of which he graciously moves his car so I can exit onto a public road.
My destination isn’t far beyond that, Crowley Lake Campground. I’ll tell you all about it, but first, let me describe the proper way to get here. If you’re coming from the south and take exit 252, stay on South Landing Road until it meets up with Crowley Lake Drive. Don’t try to cut across on what is labeled as Willow Brook Road.
Crowley Lake Campground is BLM managed and $5 a night. All sites do have distant water views of Lake Crowley to the north, but 395 and power lines running between does diminish the beauty somewhat. The Sierra mountains are close to the south and the White mountains are visible far to the northeast. There is no shade to be found here, but the scrub is greener and denser than near Lone Pine, probably owing to the higher elevation.
The dump station is at the entrance and costs $5, there are 48 sites of varying lengths, 4 pit toilets, and 2 water spiggots. Dumpsters are near the host site.
The ten sites on the outer side of the western loop are pull-throughs that can accommodate any size rig, but they are quite close together. Generally the sites on the inside of the loop are small and best for car and tent camping, a couple can fit smaller RVs.
I choose site 32 where my back window will look on the mountains, I think sites 30-38 are my favorite for that reason. The sun descends in the west and a stiff breeze brings cooler air with it. Ahhhh. If I’m going to have to endure record high temps, I’d rather have it be 85 degrees here than 95 farther south!
Friday, June 3
As far as morning views go, this one certainly isn’t bad.
While I type away on the computer several campground denizens stop by for a visit. A rabbit is the first to show, while the sun is still low on the horizon. It disappears as the morning progresses and likely won’t appear again until evening. Two chipmunks chase each other through the brush, and as the ground warms lizards come out of hiding to sun themselves. A ground squirrel eyes the trailer while seated on a post, chewing on something gripped in it’s paws.
After lunch, the itch to explore takes hold. I continue west about a mile on Crowley Lake Drive and come to McGee Creek, which boasts a lodge, bakery, and RV park. McGee Creek Road follows the water uphill into the mountains. Sure, why not?
Before long, I’m looking down on Lake Crowley. The creek tumbles below, lined with tall pine.
The tops of RVs appear over a ridge, I’ve found another campground. McGee Campground is managed by the Forest Service and $21 a night. Pads are paved and there are shelters over the picnic tables. Some sites are large enough for big rigs.
It’s dry camping with the same amenities as Crowley Lake, but the nearby creek and trees (and distance from 395) do make it more attractive I suppose. Several of the sites are reserved for the coming weekend.
Farther on, the road becomes gravel. I know there must be something down here yet because I’m seeing the occasional car come past. Between the brush, clumps of yellow, purple, and red flowers hide, spots of color that pop occasionally from the green.
A paved parking lot is at the end of the road, along with a pit toilet, a table and charcoal grill, and signage for the John Muir Wilderness. This is McGee Creek Trailhead, a door into the backcountry of the Sierra. The squiggles of trails covering the map are extensive. Someday, I need to get backpacking gear.
Not having prepared for a hike, I don’t wander more than a couple yards down the trail. I do take a peek at the creek, which is flowing strong and fast over an uneven bed. I won’t be wading in to cool off here. Wind rustles through the leaves, the air is refreshing and clean in the way that only mountain air can be. The thought crosses my mind once again, oft repeated since I started RVing: I’m glad I came.
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