April 4, 2016

The Hills, The Valley and The Desert

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be 
to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. 
T.S. Eliot

The Alabama Hills offer so much beauty within it's diversity of landscape, yet we have come to know it as but a small waypoint within the archaic and mystical Owens Valley...and one of the brilliant jewels of the Highway 395 necklace.

One day we hiked up to the Eye of Alabama arch. The views were once again awe-inspiring. Standing there inhaling all this magnificence, you have no choice but to be here now...and then wish I was there. 

Before leaving the Hills for visit to Manzanar National Historic Site, we drove up Whitney Portal Road a short distance to check out Lone Pine Campground. No reason to drive past the campground as the road up to Whitney Portal was closed for the season. A small, delightful campground right on pristine Lone Pine Creek would make this another wonderful choice to camp in the off season. Pretty soothing to the soul listening to the music of a rippling stream. The Whitney Portal National Recreation Trail also begins at the west end of the park.This trail connects the campground with Whitney Portal...only 4 miles away and a 2,720 foot elevation gain. We "ran out of time" to attempt the entire hike...but did manage to find a few pull outs to embrace some beautiful views west and east. 

To the west you have the snow capped peaks of the Eastern Sierras and Mount Whitney. And to the east you can see the southern tip of the White Mountains, the home to the oldest trees in the world, the Bristlecone Pines. And these aren't just hills, as the highest point in the range is 14,252 feet (compared to Mount Whitney, the highest summit in the contiguous United States at 14,505 feet).

In 1942 the U.S. turned the abandoned townsite of Manzanar, CA into a camp that would confine over 10,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants. The photo of lone the guard tower is all one needs to see to fathom the travesty of these War Relocation Centers. And shocking, to say the least, about two thirds of all Japanese Americans interned at Manzanar were American citizens by birth. The rest were aliens, many of whom had lived in the United States for decades, but who, by law were denied citizenship. We have chosen to use sepia photos to represent the sadness, pain and anger we felt while on this self guided tour. In today's failure of future political leadership, the wind carries the same racial prejudice and fear hysteria that provided the catalyst toward this historic embarrassment.

Since my childhood I must have passed the road up to the Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery 1,000 times. Never stopped...too much in a hurry to relax. The construction of the historic building is pretty cool. The walls of the building were constructed using 3,500 tons of native granite and the walls are 2-3 feet thick. Although the hatchery closed in 1996, there is an interpretive center located in the building and a display pond on site with many "alluring" rainbow trout darting through the depths. Definitely a fisherman's rainbow.

We again returned to Death Valley (see our post in Cambria Wanderings), which is the driest place in the United States, has the lowest point in North America and is officially the hottest place on earth. But none of those facts mattered this visit...we headed to the park to witness a rare wildflower "super- bloom." Flowers can be found in Death Valley pretty much every year, even when the conditions are far from ideal. But Death Valley hasn't seen a bloom like this one since 2005. Imke got to marvel at seas of Desert Gold, clusters of of Notch-leaf Phacelia and her favorite...the Desert Five-spot. Now flowers normally don't rattle my chain, but the color spots within this desert were pretty spectacular. And based on the huge number of "groupies" parked on the roads and walking the desert with their cameras...this was truly a very special event. What was even more amazing to me was to discover that the seeds of desert wildflowers can lie dormant for years during times of drought waiting for the right amount of rain to come. Then...BAM...grow, bloom and seed before it all dries up again. Nature is so awesome! But our biggest takeaway this day was to be reminded that synchronicity is alive and well. Just out of the blue, we literally walked into Gone With The Dogs...third time's a charm, bound to happen when great minds think alike.

Sydney on the trail wondering where is her Papi. Well Papi was getting the Fox ready for it was finally time to move on to the next adventure...

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