Thursday, May 7, 2015


We are now staying at the Highlands RV Park in Bishop, CA.  When we are in the Eastern Sierras, we usually stay up in Lee Vining to be close to Mono Lake and Tuolumne Meadows, but we really wanted to explore down around Bishop and we are happy to have found a really great rv park with a grassy dog area and rv spaces under the trees.  The snowy peaks of the sierras peek over the trees in the park to our west and the cooler light blue of the White Mountains are to the east.   The White Mountains are named for the white dolomite limestone which used to be on the ocean floor many eons ago, but now is up at 10,000 feet.  
Tuesday we drove to Schulman Grove in the Bristlecone Pine Forest to see some of the oldest trees in the world.  The alkaline dolomite, the high altitude, the cold winters and drought like summers are some of the reasons that the bristlecone pines are so old.  They grow very slowly and the wood is extremely dense, plus they don't grow close together so wildfires can't go very far, there is not enough fuel.  The oldest tree here is over 5000 years old which means that it germinated about 3000 b.c.  We did not take the long hike to see the oldest tree but instead took the Discovery Trail where we saw trees that were about 3000 years old.  We had to hike up a mountain side and at 10,000 feet it seemed like we were hiking Mt Everest.  
When I was a botanist for the forest service I used to be up and down trails like this all the time without blinking an eye, but at 71 years old... I was blinking in disbelief at how a one mile hike seemed more like a 10 mile hike.  I was hoping to see some marmots but not a one appeared.  
Snow in the bark of the tree.
We saw plenty of birds though and lots of chipmunks scampering around.  And because it is still May and because we were at 10,000 feet, we also saw that stuff rarely seen in Phoenix, Arizona.... SNOW.  There was snow along the path at the visitor center and along the trail, under the trees, and even in the trees. It was also very cold.  We both had on sweatshirts and jackets and still the cold seeped through our clothes and sometimes we could see our breath condense as we exhaled.  

Yesterday we stopped at Eric Schat's Bakkery to fuel up for an excursion up the eastern side of the sierras towards Lake Sabrina.  This bakery has been an institution in Bishop for many many years and it used to be called Ed Schat's but has now been passed down to his son Eric.  Good sheepherders bread and excellent sandwiches as well as coffee and danish, cookies, or home made doughnuts.  
Lake Sabrina 
Now fortified with expresso and bagels, we drove up to the lake, only to find that the lake is representative of the drought going on all over California right now.   It was down so low, it was barely a puddle.  Bishop Creek still had water and one fisherman told us he had just caught 7 fish.  
At 8000' in the Eastern Sierras looking across to the White Mountains
We decided to drive up higher to North Lake and see how that looked and on the way we were able to look across the Owens Valley to the White Mountains where we had just been standing the day before.  North Lake still had some water and there was some fishing going on, but we found a place where the creek was running into the lake and set up for painting plein air.

  The air was cold and crisp, and there was a wind blowing through down to the lake, so we bundled up and painted for a couple of hours and then we took a lunch break before packing up to return home to the rv.  As you can see from the photo, winter is still hanging on up here at 8500'.   No masterpieces were produced but the experience was invigorating.

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