MOJAVE TO JUNE LAKE
Too often in our hurried lives, we pass through countryside and towns with little more thought
than – as my nine-year-old states – How much longer? This is a far too easy state of mind into
which to lapse, especially while travelling in the west where distances are great, and the views
not fully appreciated, at least to the unprepared. This road guide was written to assist in making
your journey through one of my favorite areas of California more enjoyable and informative.
The text of this guide is written as traveled from south to north. Our starting point is the town of
Mojave on the north side of the Mojave Desert. It's not that I expect many readers actually
originated their trip from Mojave, but rather that, by now, you should have been on the road for
at least one and one-half hours, eaten breakfast, and are thoroughly bored with the not-so-
exotic desert scenery. The scenario then reads that, while making a pit stop in Mojave, in a
desperate act to ward off boredom, you leaf through these coffee-stained pages.
Your route will take you through the northern Mojave Desert; along the eastern flank of the
Sierra Nevada through the Owens Valley, the Land of Little Rain; and into the alpine valleys of
the eastern Sierra Nevada. Elevation above sea level varies from 2,756 feet at Mojave to 7,650
feet at June Lake. References are provided at the end of this trip log. A few of these collected
in advance of your trip can greatly increase your knowledge of the area and quality of
January 5, 2012
In order to provide some degree of accuracy in locating yourself on the roadway, odometer
reading are listed on the left, with a start in Mojave, opposite the Southern Pacific Railroad
Depot. Periodically, the mileage count will restart at zero to make up for differences in the
accuracy of individual units.
0 0 Mojave: I have performed considerable research on the town of Mojave and, to
date, have found no valid reason for its existence. It's a place that railroads, stage
coaches and mule teams traveled through, and then scattered in a multitude of
directions. Mojave probably exists solely because of a convergence of trails. A
rest spot, a place to change mule teams or engines before venturing on across the
desert or into the nearby mountains.
Early mining activity at Soledad Mountain and the Silver Queen Mine south of town
surely caused local population to swell, though it was probably the railroad that
had the greatest impact upon the early growth of Mojave. A number of rail lines
meet at Mojave and switching associated with this meeting along with extra engine
power required to scale the Tehachapi Pass area to the north resulted in a large
crew and support facilities.
10.3 10.3 Though this area, Highway 14 parallels the south edge of the Sierra Nevada.
These mountains have been uplifted along the Garlock Fault and separate the
vast desert of the Mojave from mountainous terrain to the north. The Garlock
Fault intersects from there eastward along the southern flank of the Tehachapi,
southern Sierra Nevada and El Paso Mountains.
12.7 1.7 A number of miles south of the highway are local isolated hills which rise above
the general plain of the desert. These hills are the neck or plug of long extinct
volcanoes that have largely eroded away and been buried in the valley alluvium. A
few of these were minerally rich, and the scene of early mining activity.
16.7 4.7 The lower elevations of the Cantil Valley has had a fairly plentiful supply of
groundwater. This led to extensive agricultural development with emphasis on
alfalfa. In the past, surplus waters ultimately drained to Koehn Lake, which is a
saline sump. With heavy pumping for irrigation, the water table has continued to
fall and has caused significant cutbacks in farming.
19.6 2.9 North of the highway is evidence of old mining activity. Low grade cinnabar, an
ore of mercury, was reportedly found in the area.
20.8 1.2 Exit for Kelso Valley and Jawbone Canyon. Improved and dirt roads in this area
provide access to the southern Sierra Nevada. The Kelso Valley Road will provide
access to Lake Isabella. A good weekend tour in the Spring when wild flowers are
January 5, 2012
21.9 1.1 Exit for Randsburg and Johannesburg. These near-ghost towns are located about
20 miles east of the intersection. Both were very important mining districts with
large production of silver, gold and tungsten. Visit these in the Spring on a trip to
Death Valley and Panamint Valley.
23.6 1.7 Koehn Dry Lake is located a few miles southeast of the highway. This sump of
Cantil Valley was formed when mountains to the north and south rose quicker than
streams could erode to an outside base level. This result is an undrained
depression where water leaves only by evaporation. Salts in the water are left
behind when evaporation occurs. These salts have built into economic deposits
which are periodically mined.
25.3 1.7 Red Rock Canyon State Recreation Area: Colorful uplifted interbeds of
sandstone, conglomerate, shale and volcanic basalts and tuff of the Miocene-age
Ricardo Formation are displayed in the canyon. These terrestrial sediments have
been eroded into unusual shapes and occasionally contain petrified wood and the
mineralized bones of camel, horse, mastodons, rhinos, saber-tooth cats and
mammals that roamed the countryside millions of years ago.
33.0 7.7 Black Mountain, a lava (basalt) covered mountain, is located a few miles east of
40.2 7.2 Massive, isolated knolls of granitic rock are seen a few miles west of the highway
afloat in a sea of alluvium. These last remaining peaks are all that remain of a
retreating mountain front that was buried in its own sediment.
41.0 0.8 Father J. Crowley Memorial.
43.6 2.6 Exit for Highway 178 west to Lake Isabella by way of Walker Pass. In 1834, a
scruffy and very capable mountain-main by the name of Joseph R. Walker passed
this way with a band of 52, plus cattle and horses. Walker entered California the
year before while exploring the potential of fur trapping for Captain Benjamine
Bonneville. After wintering in Monterey, Walker began to search for new southern
routes to cross the Sierra Nevada and, in the Spring of 1834, followed the Kern
River eastward, ultimately crossing through the Sierras and exited near this
location. From here, Walker and his men turned north to "discover" and explore
the regions of the Owens Valley. Walker returned to the area in 1845 while
guiding an exploratory force under control of Captain John Fremont.
46.4 2.8 Exit for Chino Lake and Naval Weapons Center. Eastward across the cracked,
dry bed of China Lake is the Argos Range which, in this area, is composed largely
of granitic rock. West of the highway, the Sierra Nevada has encroached very
close to the road, and in the vicinity of Indian Wells, the roadway passes over the
frontal fault of the mountains.
48.5 2.1 Indian Wells
48.7 0.2 Exit west on an improved dirt road to explore Indian Wells Canyon. This canyon
extends from a desert environment near the highway to one of pines, mountain
mahogany and wild grape vines in the upper reaches of the canyon. Exploration
of the area is best accomplished with a four-wheel drive vehicle.
January 5, 2012
50.0 1.3 Scars of the High Peak Mine, a tungsten prospect, are seen one-half mile to the west.
58.1 8.1 There are small moments in everyone's life that occasionally flash back with pleasant
memory. One of these must be attending a "Grande Preeze" at the world-famous
60.8 2.7 Exist west on Nine Mile Canyon Road to explore the beautiful upper Kern River plateau.
62.7 1.9 Far to the east of the highway, in the southern hills of the Coso Range, are reddish
volcanic cinder cones and black lava flows. Most of these volcanic features have
occurred within the past 500,000 years (just like yesterday) and are the forerunner of
similar volcanic features to be seen throughout the trip.
67.8 5.1 Little Lake Hotel – This ancient pink relic was reportedly used by early travelers to the
Owens Valley from Los Angeles as a layover on the two-day trip. Paving of the entire
roadway from Los Angeles to Bishop was completed in 1931.
68.1 0.3 Little Lake – Once called Little Owens Lake, this natural body of water is maintained
largely by springs. Heavy concentrations of migratory waterfowl are found here in the
Fall and Winter. Paiute and Shoshoni indians frequented the area and their artifacts
have been found in the vicinity. The lake is presently a privately owned and maintained
69.4 1.3 On the east side of Little Lake is a high, black cliff of basalt which displays a special
type of fracturing called "columnar jointing". Excellent examples of columnar jointing
are also in the Devils Postpile area west of Mammoth. The basalt (lava) in this area is
about 130,000 years old.
70.9 1.5 Following signs,
Exit to the east at Cinder Road for about one mile will take you to an area of an ancient
waterfall. This fall existed many thousands of years ago when Owens Lake, now only a
fraction of its original size, filled the entire basin to the north and outletted to the south
at this point. The ancient river scoured the dense basalt creating a series of falls with
natural arches, potholes and chimneys. The hardness of the rock and dryness of the
land has helped to preserve this testimony in such fine order that it looks as if the river
left only last year.
Obsidian flakes are found on the ground at the top of the "falls". Obviously, indian
camps existed on each side of the ancient river in this area, just before the river
dumped over the falls.
71.1 0.2 Red Hill cinder cone is located immediately east of the highway. This feature was built
entirely of hot cinders ejected from a volcanic vent and is similar to other cinder cones
which can be seen in other parts of the valley. Red Hill is periodically mined for the
cinders to be used as road and concrete aggregate and decorative rock.
82.0 10.9 Haiwee Reservoir, owned by the Department of Water and Power, Los Angeles, is
located about one mile east of the highway. A large grassy area called Haiwee
Meadow once existed in the area of the present reservoir. In the early 1860's, a
McGuire family ran a goat farm in the meadow. While Mr. McGuire was away on a trip
in 1865, a dozen Paiutes attached the farm, killing Mrs. McGuire and their six-year-old
son. Whites retaliated by killing 41 Paiute men, women and children at Owens Lake, a
number of miles to the north of this spot.
January 5, 2012
86.9 4.9 A geologically recent fault scarp up to 10 to 15± feet in height is noted about one-
quarter mile west of the highway. A house sits directly above the scarp.
89.6 2.7 The large bowl area is situated west of the highway is the headwaters of Olancha
Creek. Old cattle trails exist at the foot of the mountains and cut across the face
of the uplifted granite face to give access to the sierra meadow areas above.
Cattle were driven up the trail in the late Spring to feed the summer long in the
Monache Meadow area. In late summer, the herds are again brought to the valley
92.6 3.0 Town of Olancha. Olancha got its beginning in about 1861 when M.H. Farley built
a mill nearby for his Olancha Mine. The area soon became a stage stop for the
Owens Valley – Mojave Stage. A formal community developed as ranching
interests settled the valley.
Exit on Highway 190 east will take you around Owens Lake. About 5 miles east
on Highway 190 is Dirty Sock Mineral Hot Spring. Reputed to be great for what
ails you. Enter at your own risk.
94.0 2.1 Cartego Creek issues from a steep walled canyon west of the highway.
Occasionally, small golden trout can be caught in the upper confines of the
94.9 0.2 Town of Cartego. The town of Cartego is located at the southern end of Owens
Lake. In the 1870's, the silver bullion was shipped from across the lake to Cartego
where ingots were loaded on wagons and pulled by mule team for their trip south
to Los Angeles.
96.6 1.7 Owens Lake lies to the east. This lake is only a fraction of the size it had attained
during the geologic past. Lake sediments have been mapped from as far as Little
Lake to the south to ten miles north of Lone Pine.
Glacial melt waters caused the lake to swell in size at the end of the glacial stages,
achieving depths of more than 200 feet and a length of 40 to 50 miles.
Other than the fossil falls north of Little Lake, Owens Lake has no outlet. Once the
water level fell below the elevation of the falls, water entering the basin largely
disappeared by evaporation. Water entering the lake are quite put but do contain
slight traces of minerals dissolved from the surrounding bedrock. Evaporation of
the water leaves behind a very small concentrate of salt, which, over a very long
period of time, developed the salt deposits now apparent in the lake bottom.
Prior to diversion of Owens River water in 1913 by the City of Los Angeles,
Department of Water and Power, Owens Lake had up to 30 feet of saline water.
With diversion of the water, the lake has dried and the resulting salt crust was left
susceptible to erosion by wind storms that sweep across the basin. Salts in the
lake basin have periodically been mined for sodium carbonate and boron complex
minerals. Colors in the brine are caused by algae growth.
January 5, 2012
102.7 6.1 A one± mile trip via dirt road on the east side of the highway will take you to adobe
charcoal kilns built in 1876-77 to provide charcoal for smelters at Cerro Gordo.
Cerro Gordo is a mining district located high in the Inyo Mountains northeast of
Owens Lake. The mines of Cerro Gordo were originally discovered in 1865 by
Pablo Flores and companions. Silver ore was extremely rich and plentiful. It was
not long until shrewd dealings by a few resulted in consolidation of ownership of
important claims. By late 1868, regular shipments of silver bullion were arriving in
Los Angeles. Ingots weighed 85 pounds each and were 18 inches long. To
facilitate transportation, the steamship Bessie Brady was constructed and placed
in service on Owens Lake in 1872. The Bessie Brady had an 85-foot long keel
and carried silver ingots from Keeler and Swansea on the east side of the lake to
Cartego at the south end of the lake. The Bessie Brady was later used to also
transport charcoal from the kilns on the west side of Owens Lake to Keeler on the
east side of the lake where it was hauled by wagon to the smelters at Cerro
Once the silver ingots were unloaded at Cartego, they were hauled by teams of 16
to 20 mules to Los Angeles under contract by Remi Nadeau. By the mid-1870's,
Rene Nadeau's mule teams were transporting 18 tons of silver ingots each day.
Thousands of tons of silver ingots were ultimately brought to Los Angeles.
Transportation by mule team ended in July 1883, when the Carson and Colorado
Railroad was extended to Keeler.
Jody Stewart is the owner Cerro Gordo and has overnight accommodations. Call
her at 760-876-4154 for reservations to spend a night or two in this ghost town.
109.4 6.7 Herds of Tule Elk are found throughout the Owens Valley from Owens Lake north
to Big Pine. The southernmost herd is often seen feeding around the grassy
slopes on the northwest edge of the lake. These elks were introduced to the
valley in 1933 from the San Joaquin Valley.
110.1 0.7 Rings or beach lines of the old lake shore are visible at the north end of Owens
Lake. These represent lake levels which existed prior to diversion of Owens River
water by the City of Los Angeles.
113.0 2.9 Diaz Lake, located west of the highway, lies in a low area (graben) created as a
result of fault movement in 1872. The Alabama Hills rise behind the lake. This is
one of the few lakes in the valley where water skiing is allowed.
115.7 2.7 Town of Lone Pine. The first house on Lone Pine Creek was built in 1861 by the
McGhee brothers. Shortly after, the population of the area began to swell as the
result of mining activity in the region, and a town was born. Many nationalities
were represented, but the strongest contingent were Mexican. Mining activity
slowed over the years and a more stable population based on agriculture
January 5, 2012
115.7 2.7 Town of Lone Pine (cont'd). In 1869, due to a scarcity of coin in the general
area, a small mint was set up in Lone Pine which was run by an ex-gold miner
from England named Charles Aaron. Aaron purchased silver from the Cerro
Gordo mines and mixed it with small amounts of gold from the Coso mining
district. Two coins were manufactured – a one-dollar piece which was one inch in
diameter, and a two-dollar piece which was one inch and one-quarter in diameter.
The dollar was stamped "C.A." with $1 below on one side and 86 on the reverse
side. Two-dollar pieces were stamped "C.H.A." on one side and 172 on the
opposite side. The numbers represent the weight of silver/gold mixture used for
each coin (one dollar equals 86/100 ounces; two dollars 172/100 ounces).
116.3 0.6 Whitney Portal Road intersects the highway at this station. Try this road for a
very enjoyable sidetrip. Emerging from the center of town, the road follows Lone
Pine Creek westerly through the Alabama Hills, across the alluvial bajada which
flanks the east side of the Sierra Nevada, and into the mountains. The Alabama
Hills are a very attractive collage of boulders which, in itself, can provide a day of
exploration. Lone Pine Creek is frequently replenished with trout and is a good bet
during the season. The road ends at Whitney Portal, which is the departure point
for those climbing Mount Whitney. Try it – you will like it!
117.3 1.0 1872 Earthquake Victims Grave Location. On March 26, 1872, at 2:30 a.m., a
very large earthquake occurred which had its epicenter near Lone Pine in the
Owens Valley. The valley was sparcely populated at the time, though Lone Pine
had about 200 to 300 residents, many living in adobe-like and/or stone houses.
Lack of proper reinforcement of these structures resulted in the deaths of 23
persons in Lone Pine. The earthquake also caused a seiche (seismic tidal wave)
which flowed up onto the shores of Owens Lake. South of Lone Pine, fish were
thrown from a steam onto the bank. This earthquake ranks as one of the three
largest ever recorded in California.
From the grave site north to Station 120.8, a 10 to 15±-foot high fault scarp is seen
100 to 600± feet west of the highway. This rise in elevation represents the scarp
of the fault along which movement occurred in 1872. The fault along which
movement occurred in 1872. The fault crosses to the east of the highway at
126.1 5.3 Manzanar, Japanese Relocation Camp. Shortly after the start of World War
, a number of "relocation" camps were established in the United States for
interment of those of Japanese ancestry. Manzanar, the first of these camps, was
located west of Highway 395 and contained as many as 10,000 persons, the
majority of which were American citizens. War time fears have a way of making
the best of people a little crazy.
132.1 6.0 Town of Independence. The town of Independence started life in about 1861 as
Little Pine. Shortly after, a trading post had been established on Little Pine Creek,
Colonel George Evans led an expedition of soldiers to the area and on July 4,
1862, camped on Oak Creek, north of the present townsite. Camp Independence,
named in honor of the day it was settled, rose on the site. Colonel Evans and his
men had been sent to the area in response to the appeal by valley settlers for help
in fighting the Paiutes.
January 5, 2012
132.1 6.0 Town of Independence (cont'd). Little Pine changed its name to Independence
shortly after establishment of the fort and, in 1866, became the County Seat. A
number of interesting old buildings still remain in Independence. A visit to the
Eastern California Museum on the west side of Independence is well worth the
141.2 9.1 A large number of volcanic, red cinder cones can be seen on the flank of the
Sierra Nevada. In a few cases, the actual vent can be viewed from the highway.
Flows of black lava issued from a few of these vents and flowed downslope onto
the valley floor. The highway crosses through a few of these ancient flows. The
entire complex of cones and flows are part of the Big Pine Volcanic Field.
146.7 5.5 Red cinder cones and associated flows of black lava are seen east of the highway
on the upper flanks of the Inyo Range. Ancient volcanic activity is in evidence on
both east and west of the highway.
152.0 5.3 Tinemaha Reservoir. Los Angeles Department of Water and Power storage east
of the highway. Alfalfa fields east and west of the highway often are a good spot
to view Tule elk.
154.2 2.2 The rather large lava-covered hill west of the highway is Crater Mountain, probably
the most prominent of the volcanoes in the Big Pine Volcanic field. Sinuous lines
of elevation change seen along the east flank of Crater Mountain are relatively
recent (geologically) fault scarps.
159.0 4.8 Town of Big Pine. Westgard Pass Road exits to the east at the north end of Big
Pine. This road provides access to the Bristlecone Pine area and Saline Valley.
Some of the Bristlecone pine found in this area are over 4,000 years old and are
reportedly the oldest living things on earth. Allow four to eight hours for a good
tour of the Bristlecone area. Late Spring through Fall is best.
161.2 2.2 Three large dish-type radio telescopes are located on the east side of the valley.
These are operated by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena for study
of radio stars, along with tracking and collection of satellite data. The largest disk
is 150 feet in diameter.
174.7 13.5 Town of Bishop. Named after Samuel Bishop who visited the area in 1861, the
town's first building was a blacksmith's shop. Mining was active in the surrounding
mountains but most claims proved of marginal value. Plentiful water and good soil
led to a strong agricultural base which caused the community to grow. One of the
larger battles between the white settlers and indigenous Indians to occur in the
Owens Valley started west of Bishop in April 1962, when about 50 settlers staged
an on-again, off-again battle with 500 to 1,500 Paiutes.
Exit west on Line Street in the center of town to explore the three forks of Bishop
Creek. Exploration of this area of glacial-cut valleys and peaks dotted with alpine
lakes requires more than few hours' time to really be appreciated. A special time
of year is the Fall when the leaves of the quaking aspen that forest the wetter
areas of the slopes and valleys are ablaze in orange and yellow.
January 5, 2012
174.7 13.5 Town of Bishop (cont'd). At the north end of Bishop is Highway 6, the road to
wild and wooly Tonopah. About 5 miles north of Bishop on Highway 6 is the
community (?) of Laws where the Laws Railroad Museum is found. For the
railroad enthusiast, this is a great spot to view memorabilia of the Carson and
Colorado – Southern Pacific narrow gauge railroad built in 1881 to 1883. This old
rail-line which once ran from near Virginia City, Nevada to Keeler, California, on
the east side of Owens Lake, had its final section uprooted in April 1960, with
removal of the rail section from Laws to Keeler at Owens Lake.
North of the Highway 6, on the south side of the roadway, is the Paiute-
Shoshone Indian Cultural Center. This is a good place to acquaint oneself with
the Paiute heritage of the Owens Valley.
184.5 9.8 Over 700,000 years ago, a catastrophic volcanic eruption occurred north of this
general area which resulted in huge clouds of airborne ash from this eruption at
least as far east as Kansas and Nebraska. Locally, deep accumulations of ash
and other ejecta resulted in formation of a regional geologic unit known as the
Bishop Tuff. Cliffs of this cemented, orange to gray to pinkish volcanic tock are
exposed 200± feet east of the highway at this station and are found on either side
of the roadway up Sherwin Grade. Good thing you were not driving this part of the
road in about 698,000 B.C.
185.7 1.2 Exit for Rovana and Pine Creek Canyon. Rovana is a small "company town" run
by Union Carbide at the mouth of Pine Creek Canyon. The mine at Pine Creek
was the most significant Tungsten mine in the United States with ore concentrated
in contact metamorphics perched high in the Sierra batholith. It is now shut down.
Flanking either side of Pine Creek Canyon, after its exit from the Sierra Nevada,
are long, sinuous mounds of glacial debris deposited from glacial action about
60,000 to 75,000 years ago. These lateral moraines formed as the tongues of
glacial ices which extended out of the canyon and over the valley floor melted,
leaving behind detritus eroded from up canyon areas. Similar moraines of varying
ages are found throughout the Sierra Nevada. Just south of Pine Creek Canyon is
notable Mt. Tom whose peak is measured to be 13,652 feet above sea level.
187.6 2.0 The large, bowl-shaped area west of the highway at the north end of the Owens
Valley is called Round Valley. A high water table fed by streams and springs
issuing from the mountains has created summer green pastures where cattle and
horses are grazed. Fields are bordered by cottonwood and poplar trees that
irrigate in golds and yellows from mid-October to mid-November.
Granitic rocks of the Sierra batholith with their roof pendents of metamorphics rise
abruptly to the west of Round Valley along the frontal fault of the Sierra Nevada
range. Elevations vary from 11,943 feet at the top of Wheeler Crest to 5,200 feet
at the base of the rise in Long Valley. It is this rapid change along faults that
border the east side of the Sierra Nevada that has created the dramatic front
through the Owens Valley.
January 5, 2012
190.7 3.0 Good views of the White Mountains on the eastern skyline are offered from this
section of Sherwin Grade. White Mountain Peak stands at a maximum elevation
of 14,246 feet, while a number of other peaks in the White Mountains exceed
13,000 feet. The University of California maintains a high altitude research station
on Mt. Barcroft, a short distance south of White Mountain Peak.
Starting at an elevation of about 6,000 feet on Sherwin Grade, vegetation patterns
change abruptly with introduction of a rather short and unspectacular pine tree.
This is the piñon pine which is found throughout the west and whose fat little
seeds provided a major food supply to the Indian population.
Collecting pine nuts in the Fall can produce a lot of good nibbling food. Be
prepared to slowly get covered with the sap of the piñon which seems to have a
magnetic attraction for clothing and hair.
199.9 9.2 Rock Creek and Tom's Place Exit. Rock Creek Canyon road heads west from
Highway 395 into the Sierra Nevada. Spectacular views, campgrounds, fishing
and access to the back country are provided along the road. During the winter,
the area provides a great area for touring on "skinny skis". Ski-in overnight
accommodations are available on a reservation basis.
204.1 4.2 Crowley Lake, the uppermost reservoir of the Department of Water and Power on
the Owens River, is located east of the highway. It's best for those who consider
themselves sane to remain well-detached from this body of water on the opening
day of trout season. Those who have once indulged in this opening day madness
usually remain slightly detached for life. Water skiing, wind sailing, cat racing and
"fox" hunting fill the warm summer days around the lake.
To the west of the highway is McGee Canyon with large, well-formed lateral,
glacial moraines extending beyond the canyon mouth. About one mile west of
Highway 395, post-glacial movement along the Hilton Creek fault has caused up to
50 feet of displacement of the moraine. McGee Canyon is accessible for a few
miles via maintained dirt road, and then by hiking trail. Visit the canyon in mid-July
for wildflowers and in late September to early October for fall colors and an
incredibly blue sky.
206.8 2.7 An old, reddish-colored house situated a few hundred feet west of the highway is
the site of the first ski lift built in this area. Dave McCoy, who has built the
impressive network of ski lifts and support facilities on Mammoth Mountain, started
out at this location with a rope tow operated by the engine of his car. An
impressive success story for a fine individual.
209.7 2.9 Exit for Whitmore Pool and the Owens River. Looking northwest from this point
is Mammoth Mountain with the jagged Minarets silhouetted on the distant skyline.
January 5, 2012
210.6 0.9 Convict Lake is a beautiful body of water amid massive rock walls located two
and one-half miles west of the highway. Massive glacial moraines border both
sides of Convict Creek and mask the canyon from the highway. This is a fine
summer recreation area with trails providing access to high country to the west.
Convict Lake was once called Monte Diablo Cañon. In 1871, however, 29
convicts escaped from the Nevada State Penitentiary near Carson City. Heavily
armed and killing those who got in their way, the escapees split up, with a group of
six heading southerly into California. Deputy Sheriff George Hightower was soon
in hot pursuit with ten men from Benton. Wells Fargo agent Robert Morrison, a
member of the posse, spotted the group and the chase began down Long Valley
and up Monte Diablo Cañon from the Owens River to the east. The convicts set
up a trap for the posse and ambushed them just below the lake with Hightower
shot in the hand and Morrison killed. Mono Jim, who was holding Hightower's
horse, was also killed when he mistook the desperados for members of the posse.
This action had a rather demoralizing effect upon the posse, who fell back for a
little "R and R".
A new posse from Bishop led by Johns Clough and Clark took up the chase and
captured the worst of the bunch in Round Valley north of Bishop. On October 21,
1871, the three captives were placed in a wagon and headed out, under guard, for
Carson City. The party had hardly cleared town before being intercepted by a
group of vigilantes who questioned the effectiveness of Nevada justice. Court was
set up in the field and within two hours, the death penalty was given to two of the
three convicts. Shortly thereafter, they were lynched from a nearby cottonwood.
214.9 4.3 Mammoth Lakes Exit. Notice! Do not be deceived by the thousands of persons
utilizing this exit during the winter. Ninety-nine percent of these persons are
deranged southern California skiers who do not understand that the area has been
designated by the United States Geological Survey as having "a potential of
hazard from future volcanic eruption". The remaining one percent of the visitors
are United States Geological Survey geologists trying to figure out how the last
For the foolhardy and adventurous, an exit here has rewards. Little needs to be
said about the great skiing available at Mammoth Mountain. Dave McCoy, and
now Interwest, has steadily built this area into one of the finest ski areas in the
country. It is not uncommon for over 15,000 skiers to be massed upon "the
mountain" on a good winter weekend. In addition to alpine skiing, the area has
good trails for cross-country track skiing and back-country touring. West of the
town of Mammoth are a large number of lakes and streams accessible in part by
automobile. In the summer, these areas offer good fishing and adventurous hikes.
There are also two great golf courses within the town of Mammoth Lakes.
January 5, 2012
214.9 4.3 Mammoth Lakes Exit (cont'd). Just east of Highway 395 at the Mammoth Lake
exit is a hill called Casa Diablo (what else?) Where active steam vents can usually
be seen. The steam is caused by downward percolating waters coming in contact
with residual heat left in the ground from ancient volcanism. This area has a large
number of geothermal wells, though none are presently in use for production of
electricity. Activity of these steam vents is subject to change, especially following
larger earthquakes such as the one that occurred in May 1980.
220.0 5.1 Inyo Craters Exit. Two explosion craters called Inyo Craters are accessible via
improved and unimproved roads west of the highway. These craters were formed
about 450± years ago when residual magma from an older eruption caused
vaporization of groundwater and the resulting explosion pits. Small green-watered
lakes fill the bottoms of these pits.
222.2 2.2 Arcularius Ranch. Exit to the east of the highway provides access to the
Arcularius Ranch and the Long Valley area to east and south.
The Arcularius Ranch is an elongated piece of private ownership along the upper
Owens River surrounded by public lands. By controlling ownership to the land on
each side of the river, access is restricted to those invited by the ranch owners. By
means of this control, the ranch has developed this upper section of the river into
a great brown trout fishery. Accommodations are available for fishermen at the
ranch on a reservation basis.
225.6 3.4 Deadman Summit. In the early 1960's, this general area at the headwaters of the
Owens River was reportedly the location of the Lost Cement Mine. The Lost
Cement Mine was a very rich gold prospect where a lump of gold "like raisins in a
pudding" were encased in reddish cement. The fool of a prospector who originally
found the mine somehow forgot how he got there. This rather costly lapse into
stupidity received the attention of many, including a Mr. Farnsworth of Monoville.
Farnsworth claimed to have refound the Lost Cement and convinced Robert Hume
to finance a small mill to process this rich pudding. In 1861, Hume and
Farnsworth set out to visit the mine, and after an abnormally long period of time,
Farnsworth returned to Monoville alone with knife cuts in his clothing and a bullet
hole in his leg. He told a wild story of being attacked by Indians and of Hume's
violent demise. Friends of Hume's in Monoville questioned the story and had
Farnsworth locked up while they went to investigate. Hume's body was found
hidden in a creek and Farnsworth was the Number One suspect. By the time they
returned to Monoville, Farnsworth had somehow slipped from confinement and
made haste for parts unknown, never to be seen or heard from again.
January 5, 2012
226.0 0.4 Obsidian Dome is visible one-half mile west of the road at this station. A dirt road
provides access to this upwelling of viscous volcanic matter. Good samples of
volcanic glass (obsidian) and frothy pumice can be collected. This, and a similar
volcanic dome which can be seen about one-half mile to the south, erupted about
1,000 years ago, according to the United States Geological Survey legend.
226.7 0.7 Wilson Butte is the prominent landmark on the immediate west side of Highway
395. This feature is also an obsidian dome, but rock texture is different from that
observed at the dome to the south. Wilson Butte reportedly oozed to the surface
about 2,500 years ago.
Close inspection for the pumice-covered flats in the vicinity of Wilson Butte shown
evidence of massive forest destruction which occurred in the early 1920's. Tall
pines which were rooted in the loosely cohesive pumice were blown over by a
major wind storm that followed a long period of rain. Cool weather and low
humidity has restricted decaying action such that these 80-year-old corpses are
still very much in evidence.
229.6 2.9 Exit west on Highway 158 to June, Gull, Silver and Grant Lakes.
The June Lake Loop is probably one of California's best-kept secrets. A beautiful
alpine valley with its string of deep blue, glaciar-formed lakes gently curves west
and then north between protective peaks. Slopes are timbered with pine, fir,
mountain mahogany and juniper, while dense pockets of aspen, willow and
cottonwood line meandering streams and wet lowlands.
For many of those who have experienced the area, the June Lake Loop is
California's most beautiful four season resort area. June Mountain ski area is
situated in the loop and provides five double-chair lifts and 20 miles of slopes and
bowls for the best in family skiing. Nordic or cross-country skiing is also very
popular. By the last of April, it's time to put away the skis and get out the trout
fishing gear. Streams and lakes accessible by road, or in the back country, offer a
lot of great fishing. Brown and rainbow trout predominate in the lower elevations
and rainbow, brown, brook and golden trout in the high country. For an unusually
rewarding experience, try a back-country pack trip with the stables and packing
operation near Silver Lake. If you are not into murdering fish or punishing your
body on precipitous peaks, try the sandy beach at the east end of June Lake.
Late September and early October is the best of seasons to visit the area. Fewer
visitors, crisp days, trout rising for the last files of the season and a brilliance of fall
colors are never forgotten.