Follow Adventure Wherever it Takes You – Part 1
Recently, Skinny Guy Campers received an invitation to join a small film production company in Bend, Oregon, for the filming of their second installment of an overland series for Amazon Prime. Never one to turn down an opportunity for new friends and adventures, Jason and I committed to joining the crew in Bend as soon as we finished up an expo in Pomona.
After a great expo in the southern California sunshine, we left the LA area and made our way along I-15, over and around the San Gabriel Mountains, to link up with CA395. We stopped for fuel and snacks, spent a few minutes lamenting the extortion at the California fuel pumps, then proceeded along this route. After using onX’s Offroad Map App to find some overnight camp spots, we stopped for a few sunset photos and continued pushing up CA395. Well into the night, we arrived at one of the last areas marked in onX. We set up the campers in a pull-out, made a quick dinner inside the 6.5′, set up the projector to watch a movie, and a few minutes later, promptly fell asleep.
As the sun rose on our camp the following morning, the clouds to our West slowly dissipated, revealing the snow-capped mountains. It was a beautiful and mesmerizing scene that we won’t forget. Our camp was at a place called Fossil Falls. We decided to break camp and explore, not knowing anything about the area. At the area’s namesake, we found the ancient dry bed of the Owens River cutting through a volcanic lava flow and careening down a series of steps to create unusual rock formations. After a few moments of reflection, we were back on the trail and headed North.
The next community was Lone Pine. Here Jason informed me that the portal to Mount Whitney was just outside town. I was ignorant but learned quickly that this was the highest peak in the contiguous lower states. Over 30,000 people visit Mount Whitey to attempt the ascent. (Not sure why I never previously gained that tidbit of information.) We drove up the road leading to the trailhead passing through what appeared to be a relatively significant recent burn, only to find the road was still closed to vehicles. Undaunted, we returned to Lone Pine and decided to head to Death Valley as neither of us had been there before.
It took us a couple of hours to make our way from Lone Pine to Stovepipe Wells. We visited the general store, topped off fuel, paid our park fees, and had lunch in the rustic restaurant surrounded by the familiar smell of many old national park establishments. During lunch, I got confirmation from a local guide that had agreed to take us out on the lower Owens the following day to drift a few nymphs. After talking to a friendly Park Ranger, we determined that the Big Pine route would loop us back to 395, allowing us to reach the river camp where we were to meet our guide before nightfall.
We spent the rest of the afternoon cruising through Death Valley, occasionally stopping to take in the exaggerated vistas. After a few miles of tuning our speed to the harmonics of the washboard gravel top road, we settled on 38mph (it was either that or eight mph). The road wound its way northwest out of the valley affording even more incredible views to the East. We continued to the apex of the pass, coming to an old abandoned borax mine operation. We poked around a bit, took a few pictures then continued. As old places are want to do, this one made us ponder its history and the people who stood on the same ground in lifetimes long gone.
After backtracking to Big Pine, we found a local general store. We purchased fishing licenses and more fuel, again shaking our heads in disbelief at the $7.29 a gallon price. The high prices at the pump made us both glad that our Skinny Guy Campers are so easy on a vehicle’s fuel mileage. We headed north to a campground on the Owen’s River just outside Bishop, CA, where we set up camp tucked into the willows just a few feet from the river’s edge. We built a fire and cooked some delicious Brats, and due to the cold rain that was picking up, we retired early to the campers.
It rained steadily throughout the night, and unfortunately, I forgot to uncap the drain on the camper’s rainwater catchment system. That led to some consequences that I’ll tell you about in the next installment of News from the Trail.