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On the road going up the 395: Bishop and beyond

A Mule in Round Valley
Sharon Gilbert

It is hard to say which season is the most beautiful when one is driving to Bishop from Southern California. Each season brings with it a special beauty all its own.

The highway runs parallel to and almost up against the base of the Sierras allowing one to get a good feel for just how high the peaks are. The tips and crevices have snow almost year round.

The first “town,” and we use that term loosely, on the road trip is Olancha, population 192. The area’s main employer is a large water bottling company. But mostly, it is known for beautiful range land often dotted with horses and cows.

A half hour up the road is historical Lone Pine, home to the Lone Pine Film History Museum and Film Festival. Lone Pine not only sits up near the Sierras but also the Alabama Hills. If you have ever watched an old western, you have likely seen the Alabama Hills. Lone Pine has long been a Hollywood favorite for filming westerns. Tom Nix, John Wayne, Roy Rogers and Spencer Tracy all starred in movies filmed in the area.

Next up is the Inyo County seat. Independence has a population 669, a total that includes the inmates at the county jail. Independence is a beautiful old unincorporated town with many historical buildings such as the county’s courthouse built in the early 20th Century.

The last town before reaching Bishop is Big Pine. Big Pine feels more modern, mostly because the road has been widened through town, yet it is still a throwback to a gentler time with general stores that will sell one a soft drink or bait or maybe even a fishing pole.

Bishop is only a few minutes up the road from Big Pine. It is the only incorporated town in the county, with a population just under 4,000.

Although Bishop has a few modern amenities such as motels and a Starbucks and a McDonalds, mostly it is a small town full of mom-and-pop businesses catering to the outdoorsy-type tourist. The surrounding area is a paradise for hikers, photographers, skiers and fisherman.

Bishop is also home to Bishop Mule Days, an event held each Memorial Day weekend. It attracts mule lovers from around the world increasing the town’s population ten-fold during the four-day event. For more information about this year’s event, check out their website at MuleDays.org.

Bishop is a beautiful destination for a weekend getaway any time of the year.

The Sierra Nevadas
The Sierra Nevadas Sharon Gilbert

The Sierra Nevadas

Once past the city of Ridgecrest, Highway 395 runs along the base of the Sierra Nevadas, providing many photo opportunities between there and Lake Tahoe.

Olancha
Olancha Sharon Gilbert

Olancha

Olancha is a bit of an oasis in an otherwise dry-looking area. Much of the water is piped to Los Angeles leaving only a dry lake bed. However, underground water supplies keep some of the area green.

Alabama Hills
Alabama Hills Sharon Gilbert

Alabama Hills

Although considered to be part of the Sierras, the Alabama Hills sit west of Lone Pine between the high peaks of the Sierra Nevadas and the town. They provide a favorite backdrop for Hollywood productions.

Inyo County Courthouse
Inyo County Courthouse Sharon Gilbert

Inyo County Courthouse

The Inyo County Courthouse was built in 1921. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It was designed by architect William Weeks in Classical Revival Style.

The Sierras in the Summer
The Sierras in the Summer Sharon Gilbert

The Sierras in the Summer

Bishop and the surrounding areas experience all four seasons. This photo was taken in August during the summer rainy season while the fields were in bloom.

Winter and Fall in Bishop
Winter and Fall in Bishop Sharon Gilbert

Winter and Fall in Bishop

The first snowfall this past year came when the leaves were first starting to turn color. The snow-topped mountains provided a beautiful backdrop to the yellow leaves of the Cottonwoods and Aspens.

Round Valley Pasture
Round Valley Pasture Sharon Gilbert

Round Valley Pasture

This is another "fall" photo after an early snow this past year. The mountains are breathtaking and the pasture are as pretty as they come.

South Lake
South Lake Sharon Gilbert

South Lake

The is one of the many lakes on the way up to Aspendell. Even in fall there are streams running from the snow pack that remains high in the Sierras.

Round Valley Mules
Round Valley Mules Sharon Gilbert

Round Valley Mules

Round Valley is a tiny community just outside of Bishop. It consists mostly of farms. Horses, mules and cattle abound in the peaceful pastures that sit up close to the Sierras.

Deer in Round Valley
Deer in Round Valley Sharon Gilbert

Deer in Round Valley

Round Valley is also home to many deer and elk. During the early morning they can be found grazing right along with the cattle, horses and mules.