Daisy's all bummed out because we promised her Death Valley in this next post and it's only about the gateway to Death Valley, Lone Pine, south of Bishop on Highway 395 (hell of a note to be best known as "the Gateway to Death Valley" but wait...there's more).
On the way to Lone Pine and Death Valley is one of the more beautiful glacier-formed lakes in the U.S. and it's just a couple of miles off the highway: Convict Lake. In 1871 a group of convicts escaped from the territorial prison in Carson City and were chased by a posse to this location. There was the usual shootout and two lawmen were killed. The convicts were captured and since then this place has been known as Convict Lake. Don't know why it wasn't called "Lawmen Lake" since they were the ones who bit the bullet. In 1951 a movie was released called "The Secret of Convict Lake". Don't go looking for it because you already know the outcome.
And, as an aside, as we are wont to do...
Convict Lake is where my family-- dad, mom, two brothers, sister, and dog -- went camping around 1965. We had driven over from Burbank, California and were all set for one of them thar camp dinners where you pump up a kerosene stove and start cooking. As luck would have it, the stove blew up. High winds fanned the flames and our campsite and the surrounding forest caught fire. A ranger rushed to the rescue, our dog attacked the ranger, my mom was screaming, my sister was wailing, my brothers dumped their cans of worms at the edge of the lake -- they'd been fishing -- and tried to douse the inferno. People from surrounding campsites came to our aid, put out the fire, and to this day my family is banned from Convict Lake.
Again, we digress, so back now to the road to Lone Pine and the small town of Independence, just north of it. Independence is the Mono County seat with quite an impressive courthouse, probably the largest building in fifty square miles. Don't know why these little towns have such imposing courthouses but they do and maybe it gives the town some stature.
It was in this courthouse in 1969 that that snivelin' little teabaggin', Scientology-following (true about Scientology) evildoer Charlie Manson was brought up on charges. Not for murder but for car theft. He was picked up in Death Valley and while jailed in Independence, somebody snitched on him and he was taken to Los Angeles to face murder charges in the Tate/La Bianca slayings. Now 45 years later we, the taxpayers, are still feeding and housing this guy and his followers. Paul's two cents: While we neither encourage nor condone violence, why hasn't some deranged gunslinger with an AK47 bust into Charlie's cell? Why do they always have to shoot up schools, malls, and movie theatres?
In between Independence and Lone Pine is the sad story of this place, Manzanar, where Japanese Americans were imprisoned during World War Two.
Today these camps are referred to as "internment camps" but make no mistake, Japanese Americans were imprisoned here. Barbed wire and armed guards in guard towers surrounded the place so no one could get out. It's difficult to view and understand why the American government did this through the lens of the twenty-first century. But happened it did and today some of these camps throughout the west and in parts of the east have put together interactive displays. Don't pass this by.
An old barracks at Manzanar.
And finally, we arrived at Lone Pine. Yes, gateway to Death Valley and the jumping off spot for hikers scaling Mount Whitney.
First thing you see as you enter from the north is a sign pointing to the graves of 1872 earthquake victims. When Lone Pine only had 300 people, close to ten percent of the population perished when a massive earthquake hit. It rivaled the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Since the quake struck at 2:30 in the morning, most people were asleep in their shabbily built pioneer dwellings which fell on top of them. (It's said that John Muir felt the quake and ran from his Yosemite cabin yelling, "A noble earthquake!".)
Most of the victims were unidentified and placed in a mass grave. They were American Indians, along with Irish and Chilean immigrants who had come during the Gold Rush.
Down the street, there's quite an impressive small movie museum. Lone Pine with its quintessential mountains/pine forests setting was a favorite shooting location for westerns and other genres.
Humphrey Bogart's 1941 crime drama "High Sierra" was shot here...
along with episodes of "The Lone Ranger"...
and the 1955 drama "Bad Day at Black Rock" starring Spencer Tracy and Lee Marvin (a former Marine--ooo-rah). Visit the earthquake cemetery and movie museum because in Lone Pine that pretty much sums it up.
One last attraction if you're lucky or unlucky enough to spot it: Lone Pine has its own version of a flying Bigfoot knock-off called something like the "Lone Pine Mountain Monster Devil". It's supposedly a dinosaur/bat-like being that flies around and terrorizes people. Sounds like the Mothman to me, a red-eyed winged creature that haunted little Point Pleasant, West Virginia for awhile.
Like we said what Lone Pine really is is the Gateway to Death Valley. Find a motel -- there are quite a few -- or if you're an RVer, pick your park. There are a couple of nice ones. This one, south of town, is called "Boulder Creek". Don't go lookin' for a creek cause there ain't one.
And here we are all geared up for our run through Death Valley tomorrow in the all new for 2014 1885 Lance travel trailer with side slide with the 2013 Prius V tow vehicle.
When we checked in I asked for a quiet, private site and didn't think that would be a problem since the park was only one quarter full. Our spot had plenty of privacy but damn little quiet. We were about 200 feet from big rigs roaring up and down 395 all night. So keep in mind that quiet after a long day on the road is mighty important.
All of these RV parks are dog-friendly and some provide poop cleaning stations with bags. The irony here is right below the poop bag dispenser is...dog poop. And no, it wasn't Daisy's. For her to lay a loaf this size would probably turn her inside out.
In the morning we set out, destination: Death Valley. It didn't take long for the temperature to hit 111 degrees. Headed for 156 but the Prius V pays no attention whatsoever to scorching heat like Fox News does to the facts.
See ya soon. Bye bye. Buy Starbucks. Best damn coffee in the world.