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Eastern Sierra Day Ride

Updated: Jan 1

A solo ride across the state, starting from Death Valley and headed north up the Highway 395 corridor running parallel to the Nevada border. My plan was a 420-mile 13-hour day on the Hayabusa headed up the side of the Eastern Sierra, then over the Sierra Nevada range in the middle of winter.

Ride Highlights: Manzanar War Internment Camp, Independence, Crowley Lake, Hot Creek, Mammoth Mountain, June Lake, Mono Lake, Bridgeport, Twin Lakes

Early Departure at 5am from Death Valley. Spring Forward, Fall Back, means it was really 4am. The desert is as dark as pitch this time of night.

Clearwater Lights light the way: More on these lights

An hour later, the very first dim glow of sunrise. Yes, that's the Sierra Nevada Range in the distance.

Phil took the same photo a few hours after me on the same road in nearly the same spot.

One year prior when I reached this intersection, I had been in search of an art installation recently built into the middle of Owens Lake. Up in those mountains in the distance is the mining ghost town of Sierra Gordo:

I found the Owens Lake Environmental Land Art installation built into the middle of Owens Lake. More on this later... But this year, I rode off into the darkness for several hours to skip much farther north.

The Dow Villa in Lone Pine, CA is our base for the Southern Sierra Pashnit Tour.

Dow Hotel in Lone Pine dates to 1923

Lone Pine at 5:30am

Boondocking with a view

A quick stop at the Manzanar War Internment camp was a must.

Never heard of this place, click the link and learn about a fascinating slice of forgotten American history.

I couldn't stay. We'll come back to Manzanar later in the year.

Rolling through Independence, Winnedumah Hotel, est 1927

Sprawling downtown Independence, California, the county seat of Inyo County, barely 700 people live here.

Commander's House

The Commander's House was built at Fort Independence in 1873, after the Earthquake of March 26, 1872 destroyed the adobe buildings there. Commanding officers of Fort Independence resided in the house until the fort was abandoned in 1877. The fort buildings were auctioned in 1883 and the Commander's House was purchased by V.G. Thompson for $345. In 1889, the Commander's House was purchased by Mr. S.A. Densmore and moved to its present location. Although it was sold to the City of Los Angeles in 1928, it remained a private residence until 1961. In 1968, the house was leased to Inyo County and it is presently operated by the Eastern California Museum.

I just thought it looked cool.

I skipped the Owens Valley Radio Observatory. This was such a cool place I stopped at a year ago.

Exactly one year ago today, I stopped by.

This place was fascinating.

East of Highway 395 and north of Highway 168 off in the distance are the large radar dishes for the Owens Valley Radio Observatory. You can reach the OVRO 4-miles north of Highway 168 at Orvo Rd 2.2 miles east of Big Pine. The radar dishes are used to make discoveries about star-forming regions, proto-stellar disks, proto-planetary disks and galactic structure. Galactic structure. It has a nice ring to it. The first 32-foot dish arrived to this valley in 1958 and by 1959 another was added listening to echoes in outer space. By 1968, a 130-foot dish was added. Radar dishes pointed towards the heavens are often paired up with other dishes in other parts of the globe all listening to the same radio frequencies.

Tours are given monthly, generally the first Monday of every month, but you’ll need to explore the OVRO website if or when they are available to sync up your travel plans with an available tour of this very unusual facility. Learn more at

The Owens Valley Radio Observatory (OVRO) is one of the largest university-operated radio observatories in the world. It is dedicated to research in radio astronomy and astrophysics, the training of the next generation of radio astronomers, and the development of cutting-edge radio instrumentation. Coolest place ever.

First rays of sun coming over the mountains. Deserted roads while headed up Highway 395 which parallels the Sierra Nevada Range to my left.

The purpose of this day ride was to reach Crowley Lake, which sits at an elevation of about 7000 ft. The lake was created in 1941 by the building of the Long Valley Dam by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, as storage for the Los Angeles Aqueduct and for flood control.

Does it look cold?

Remember the rule, there's not such thing as a cold rider...

What an amazing view. So cool, I was wide-eyed excited.

Crowley Lake is famous for the Crowley Columns. Bad news is I couldn't get there without a 2 mile hike or a 4WD as it's all dirt roads to get to the trailhead.

On the eastern shore are these unbelievable <natural> columns. Someday...

Rode to the end of pavement near the lake... Tempting to ride to the trailhead, but no.

Temps are in the 30s.

Roads are dry and clean though. And it's not snowing, so there's that.

Another day, I'll check out the Crowley Columns.

One more quick pic, super cool place. Zero people. Then, it was time to head north.

Crowley Lake. Quick clue of what lay ahead was the whitecaps on the lake.

Long Valley Caldera is a local basin resulting from a volcanic explosion so big is covered the western United States in ash.

A caldera is similar to a sinkhole, essentially a giant hole or depression that results from a volcanic eruption, but on a much larger scale. Magma chambers are large pools of liquid rock beneath the earth’s surface. Calderas like the one I'm riding across are formed by the inward collapse of a volcano. Long Valley Caldera is considered one of the earth’s largest calderas, running 20 miles long and 11 miles wide, creating this broad valley that Benton Crossing Rd flows across. Ash from this eruption 760,000 years ago blanketed much of the western regions of the United States and reached over 1000 miles from the eruption.

Heading north towards Mammoth while steadily climbing in elevation and I began to encounter wind gusts that would push the bike clear across the lane.

Nearing Mammoth, the wind coming over these peaks was starting to really pick up even more. My plan was to stop at Hot Creek Geologic site again. Super cool place, was riding past this for 20 years and never knew it was there. The site is located right behind the Mammoth Airport. There's a tiny sign.

However, March is a little too early. I had to ride through this giant puddle full of several inches of water and broken ice, but then...