Following last week’s freezing stay in Mammoth Lakes we escaped to lower altitudes and much (much) warmer weather in Bishop, CA. Thanks to the pre-scouting efforts of Watson’s Wonder (talk about fabulous RV friends, eh?) we were able to score an outstanding and very private boondocking spot  in the Volcanic Tablelands. This ancient landscape was formed over 700,000 years ago and rises like a flatland phoenix just north of town. It’s a barren and forbidding place with a special allure all it’s own. Long, flat stretches of high-desert scrub surrounded by fascinating rocks, petroglyphs and breathtaking views of the white-tipped Sierra Nevada Mountains. In other words, just our kind of place…

Sunrise paints the mountains red at our boondocking spot

Sunrise paints the mountains red at our boondocking spot

We rolled into our spacious site earlier this week, aligned the RV east-west, tilted our solar panels (= 40% boost in solar generation, baby) and settled in for a longer stay. When we boondock like this we like to linger. With careful water management we can usually last 3 weeks on our 100 gallon tank and our first week in Mammoth took us down only 1/3 of a tank…right on schedule. With our solar panels tilted we have all the electricity we can possibly use and with miles of open and empty space around us we have all the nature we need right here. It may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but for us this is perfect heaven.

But we love the area too! We’ve been to Bishop before and have sampled many of it’s best assets including the amazing Ancient Bristlecone Forest, and Little Lakes Hike (probably my most favorite hike, ever!). This time around we  decided to sample a few more of the local sights…

Buttermilk Country

This may not be the land of flowing milk and honey, but it comes close.  Around 14 miles west of town lies an area of world-class bouldering which was once the route of miners and the location of the Wells Dairy Ranch. The buttermilk is long-gone, but the coarse monzonite granite remains and draws climbers from all over the world to it’s classic ascents. It’s a pretty drive for those of us who prefer to keep our feet on the ground and makes for some neat photography too. A nice little day-outing all in all.

Mountain Light Gallery

Bishop is the home of one of my all-time favorite mountains photographers, Galen Rowell. I bought his book Mountain Light many years ago, waaay before I ever made it to the Eastern Sierra’s and have been in awe of his talent ever since. Sadly he died before his time, but you can still see his outstanding work (f0r free!!) right in town at the Mountain Light Gallery. It’s a place to immerse yourself and be re-inspired. I see it everytime I come to the area and sometimes twice….a worthy stop.

My hat-tip shot to Galen Rowell taken right near our boondocking site. It's not the same quality, but I tried to re-create his portrait shadow which was a favorite pose of his.

My hat-tip shot to Galen Rowell taken by our boondocking site. He loved to do these  ”shadow portrait” shots. Not the same quality as the “master”, but not too shabby.

John Muir Wilderness

Just a little mountain magic!

Just a little mountain magic!

The John Muir Wilderness is a massive 581,000 acres (2,350 km2) area which encompasses some of the most spectacular and highest peaks (no less than 57 peaks over 13,000 feet (4,000 m) in elevation) of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It’s a land of striking panorama’s and thousands of hidden lakes. In other words…bloody spectacular stuff! We’ve hiked many bits of this country along our Eastern Sierra trips and did another gorgeous 6-mile round-trip hike to Treasure Lakes yesterday. There’s nothing quite like 10,000 feet of elevation to turn your heatbeat to a jackhammer and your legs to jello, but it’s all worthwhile for those picture-perfect alpine lake shots. And it’s all excellent fun too, of course.

Food And Friends

Surprising as it is, the little town of Bishop has quite the offering for foodie-lovers. We’ve sampled excellent Thai food at the airport (no, I’m not kidding), and delectable Holy Smoke BBQ just across from Erick Schat’s Bakkerÿ (a rather famous place, but sadly no gluten-free offerings). But this week we took advantage of Amanda’s birthday to gorge out on home-made milkshakes and locally-sourced burgers at the Burger Barn. Not only is this a super-cool eco-friendly, ultra funky spot but oh my, oh my….let my taste buds die and go to heaven. A worthy place and one we will visit again!

We’re here for almost another week so there will (no doubt) be more of this good stuff coming. If you don’t hear from me, just assume I’ll be off in the wilds. As John Muir so aptly put it “the mountains are calling and I must go”…

JUST FOR FUN/ I ran a little experiment in the Mammoth post to see how much interest the word “naked” in the blog title would bring. Turns out it’s a massive attraction and brought me over 2,000 additional hits to that one day alone!! I can’t deny Paul is one hunky man, but that one beat even my own expectations. Pretty funny, eh?

AND ONE I MISSED/ Turns out that throughout our little 395 drive we’ve been  boondocking & sightseeing in the very steps of Life’s Little Adventures. They’ve only been about a week ahead of us this whole way and have got some gorgeous pics of their own. Go check them out!

54 Responses to Boondocking & Bumming In Bishop, CA

  1. placestheygo says:

    Don’t you just love when someone very nicely lays the ground for you just prior to your arrival! That was very nice of the Watson’s to find a boondocking site for you.

    I can understand why you may linger there for awhile. What a gorgeous location. Your photos are beautiful…love the shadow portrait:)

    I’ve been pinning all the neat hikes that Life’s Little Adventures have been taking. I am preparing for our tour of 395 soon, I hope! Now I’ll add your hikes, as well. We will be well prepared!

    Enjoy your solitude:)

    • libertatemamo says:

      I know you would love the hikes out here Pam! Just your kind of cool hiking with lots of interesting rocks. We didn’t meet a single soul on our hike either, although I imagine it’s a bit more popular in summer. Just lovely!
      Nina

  2. Ralph says:

    The high mountain country..makes me long for the days when I backpacked many summers in Montana.. Would love to spend some time in the eastern Sierras. Looks like jaw dropping scenery. Also, Bishop sounds like a cool town to visit. Be safe and enjoy!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Montana is another state I’d like to explore. Can you believe we’ve never been there? We may try to route that way next summer. I know we’re missing out on some spectacular stuff up there.
      Nina

  3. Lee and Shelia says:

    As usual you simply amaze us in your writings and photos, We love the perspective you have on your adventures. We hope to venture over that way later in the year and I am trying to figure out a way to save your writings in order. You provide some much information and the choices are so many it is hard to decide where to start. We are only about 100 miles west from you as the crow fly’s but getting there would be a challenge. Oh if only our sticks and bricks would tend for themselves. Like Ralph said Be Safe and Enjoy

    • libertatemamo says:

      Collecting blogger info is actual a tough one. I have an email folder where I keep collections of info on various places, but I also like the flexibility of something like Microsoft Street and Trips. You can add pins to the map everytime you get a good tip from someone, so that (one day) when you actually make it to the area all you gave to do is zoom in on your map and all the recommendations are right there in a nicely organized manner.
      Hope that helps!
      Nina

  4. Galen was one of my photographic heros. I wasn’t really that aware of his personal life, but here are two links that capture the spirit of the man (and his wife, Barbara).

    http://www.outbackphoto.com/essays/essay012/essay.html

    http://www.supertopo.com/articles/rowells.html

    Remembering Galen…..thanks!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Thanks for sharing those links Rainer! I deeply admire the couple and what they achieved in their far too short lives. And I can’t tell you how many hours I spent with his book absorbing his technique and dreaming of the day I might get close to his mastery of the art of photography. His pictures and impressions will live on forever!
      Nina

  5. Just lovely, what can I say, you guys know how to rock highway 395! You can be sure Ill be checking this post once we are back to the west.

    • libertatemamo says:

      I have to admit my enthusiasm for this area knows no bounds. I could easily spend each and every fall here.
      Nina

  6. Love the John Muir photos – so beautiful! I wish we could have explored the whole area more – it was definitely one of the highlights of our whole trip!

    • libertatemamo says:

      This is our 3rd time in the area and we still haven’t seen it all. Not even close. In hikes alone we could probably spend years exploring the wilderness areas. It’s an amazing place.
      Nina

  7. Box Canyon Blogger Mark says:

    That’s a lotta travel news…do you have a Cliff’s Notes version. Oh well, I’ll study it cause that’s an area we have yet to explore. Nice post.
    Box Canyon Mark

    • libertatemamo says:

      You know it’s funny you should say that coz when I sat down to write this post I thought it would end up being a short little summary. Once I got into it I realized we’d done way more stuff than I thought. I guess this place just inspires you to get out and explore!
      Nina

  8. Sherry says:

    Oh my this just sounds like the perfect spot. Fascination rocks, petroglyphs, ancient bristlecone forest. Be still my heart!! I would LOVE to be there boondocking with all the solar I can use and such gorgeous country to be explored. I think your shadow photograph is fantastic. LOL about the response to naked. Did you get any comments from the additional 2K???

    • libertatemamo says:

      Interestingly enough I don’t think I got a lot of extra commenters on that post. Mostly just more “looks” LOL. It was a fun experiment.
      Nina

  9. Lisa says:

    I so love that area and cannot wait until Hans and I can spend some quality time there in the RV! Love the variety of stuff to see and do!

  10. Gloria Emory says:

    I just love all your posts. Thank you much for all the detailed information—am looking forward to trying some of these places out.

  11. Carol says:

    I thought you might catch up to Life’s Little Adventure in the Alabama Hills!
    We love 395 and will be traveling down it to Death Valley, with a stop at the Alabama Hills at Thanksgiving. Love reading your whereabouts!

    • libertatemamo says:

      You know we have yet to do Death Valley in the RV. We went there many times in our car camping days, but not since. I’d like to go back and do more photography there. It’s an inspiring place, and quite nice weather-wise if you pick the right time of year.
      Nina

  12. Robin says:

    You are welcome in our driveway anytime!
    Lydia and Robin
    Ridgecrest, CA

  13. John Pickard says:

    Hi, it sounds like we are pretty close to you as we are in the Pleasant Valley Pit campground. I think we must have driven right below you this afternoon when we drove the very rough Chalk Cliffs Rd. I enjoy your posts.
    John
    johnandaileen.blogspot.com

  14. Kyle Kuns says:

    The Little Lakes Valley hike is also one of my favorites–though you essentially can’t miss when hiking in the Sierra’s.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Very true. Just about any direction you hike up here has fabulous views and lakes. Really can’t go wrong!
      Nina

  15. geogypsy2u says:

    A definite slice of heaven. I like the shadow shots.

  16. Gunta says:

    Thanks for the fantastic shots of the Sierras I was waiting for. So glad you’re enjoying to the fullest (but then you have that knack!) :)

  17. Amanda says:

    Thanks for helping celebrate my birthday. We had a fabulous time eating and drinking our way through the evening. Looks like the hike to Treasure Lake was a good one. We’re going to try and fit in a hike this Saturday before we leave town and that one just jumped to the top of the list.

    • libertatemamo says:

      It was a blast to spend the day with you both. I think we’re going back for another burger when my buddy comes down to hike with us on Friday afternoon. They’re just too tasty!
      Nina

  18. Upriverdavid says:

    Howdy, When you do visit Death Valley, I suggest Mesquite Springs C.G..When I last visited it had a dump station and water..This was in 1999, but it sure beat the parking -lot campgrounds in the rest of the park.
    I am watching the morning reports for the temps and as soon as “Lucy” is out of the shop this week I hope to head there in Nov. or Dec..The weather between Wa. and there has to be O.K. also. I may pull a Bayfield Al or Allegro-Rod..(Retired Rod) and race down the highways to such a beautiful
    place..It is not to be missed…
    When I see you headed to Montana I will send you lots of neat places to visit.
    David

  19. John Pickard says:

    Hi, sounds like we’re pretty close to you as we are in Pleasant Valley Pit campground paying a whole $2 a day more than you. I enjoy your posts.

  20. Kentster says:

    Nina
    Wonderful time you guys are having. We love Rock Creek canyon and hiked little lakes many times. The bristlecones are amazing.
    After spending past 5 days here in Lee Vining while attending a photo workshop amongst the aspens, we are headed to the Bishop area to boondock. Can you share with us how to access this wonderland? Like basic directions? Perhaps we will see you there.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Sure. Take 395 into Bishop and turn left onto 6. Follow the road around to Casa Diablo Road (it’s called something else first) which twists up into the Volcanic Tablelands. You’re there!

      Nina

  21. Gayle says:

    We had a great time exploring the Bishop area. Glad you enjoyed the Treasure Lakes hike. The lake setting was so beautiful, we wished we had been backpacking. Except that we have grown fond of the bed in our house on wheels rather than sleeping on the cold ground in a tent like we used to!
    Did you try Schat’s Energy Loaf? It is wonderful! Wish we had a bigger freezer.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Sadly we’re gluten-intolerant so we couldn’t eat anything at Schat’s. Still, I’ve heard others praise it highly.
      Nina

  22. rv says:

    dang girl you look sultry in watson wanders night out pics.

  23. diuggo says:

    The Bishop area is also the setting for the only summertime LTVA in the country. But I think it’s ridiculously overpriced for the services offered. So it’s good to know there’s also some good free boondocking there.

    Speaking of LTVAs, the Imperial Dam LTVA near Yuma is also very volcanicky. A lot more crowded than where you are right now—but way less than Quartzsite in January—but a lot more services too.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yeah, I believe the pass costs $300 for a long-term stay at the BLM campgrounds here. You have the choice of quite a few campgrounds between Lone Pine and Crowley Lake, but it is rather pricey.

      I’ve never been to the Imperial Dam area. We usually end up boondocking out in the free spots down there. I do like Yuma in the winter.

      Nina

  24. LuAnn says:

    I sit here reading with a big smile on my face, remembering our time spent with the two of you last fall, probably one of the best experiences we have had since our time on the road. I knew very little about Galen Rowell before our time spent in Bishop and wandering through his gallery was very special for me. You did him proud with your “shadow portrait” Nina. :)

    • libertatemamo says:

      Thanks Lu for reviving those great memories! Thinking of you again tonight as we’ve just rolled into the Alabama Hills….and there’s a storm coming! Talk about déjà vu!
      Nina

  25. […] other RV friends who stayed in the area and it turned out to be an excellent base to explore all the interesting sights of Bishop. The area is accessed via a large, firm albeit rather washboarded dirt road and campsites are […]

  26. […] with a sudden forecast of deep freezes and very high winds. So we escaped  our exposed site in the Volcanic Tablelands and made the short 60-mile trek to Lone Pine. Early Monday afternoon was eerily still, as it often […]

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