Road Miles: 224
Trail Miles: 2
Site: Eastern Sierra Scenic Byway, US Highway 395, California
Finally, finally, about a month later than originally planned, I was as ready as I was going to be to get on the road full-time, and start heading east toward the AT. I had tentative plans to hit up several sites and locals in Arizona, starting from the southwest corner and making my way up to Flagstaff. Except, instead I went north.
Apparently, all it takes to get me to chuck plans and change my route is a well-written haiku. For example, this fine composition by fellow PCT & CHTer Forrest:
“Bishop Bishop YAY
Bishop Bishop Bishop YAY
Bishop Bishop YAY”
Ok, a haiku AND finding out that a bunch of trail family was posted up in Bishop, which is conveniently located on my favorite road, US Highway 395. So… Bishop it is, then.
I gave each of the dogs a farewell scritch, and tried to take pix of them, but they weren’t having it; they wouldn’t even look at me. They know what’s up, and they don’t like it. They pout and turn from me with reproachful disdain. My heart shatters into a million pieces as I let out a deep sigh and climb into the van. Setting out is always an emotional mixed-bag: I feel sad and wistful for all I leave behind yet excited and anticipatory for what’s before me.
I’ve driven 395 many times in the last few years, and could drive it endlessly without getting bored: my own personal Mother Road. It even has its own Facebook page, where people post their pics and stories of the spectacular sights and quirky towns along its length. The southern terminus is in Hesperia, CA at I-15, and foretells nothing of the magic up the road. Here in the High Desert, the road passes truck stops, dingy strip malls, a prison, through communities that almost reek of hopelessness and desperation with an above-average rate of tweakers per capita.
But, in Adelanto, there is a Vietnamese Buddhist center I’ve watched grow over the years as I’ve passed, from a fairly modest single temple to the large complex it is now. I’ve always wanted to drop in there to check it out, and today I have the time, so I do. The grounds and temple are immaculately manicured, scrubbed clean and gleaming white. I wandered around the grounds, into the meditation hall, and around the statuary, and ate the lunch I’d packed under the serene gaze of Kwan Yin. It was a nice stop, and I left feeling more centered and calm about leaving.
I passed the Astro Burger at Kramer Junction, and was kind of relieved it was closed since I had just eaten but would doubtless still have tried to pound one of their Ortega chile cheeseburgers – one of the best I’ve had outside of New Mexico. Continuing my slow roll up 395, I stopped several times to get out, walk around, and take pictures; most of the land on either side of the Highway is BLM and therefore open to exploration. I almost stepped on a cute little horned toad while walking around the remains of old mining activity in Red Mountain, distracted by the multi-colored hills and rafts of wildflowers in the basins. Spring had sprung here, and it was magnificent.
What normally would have been a 4.5 hour trip ended up taking me around 8, and it was perfect. I finally got to Bishop and was thrilled to see hiker family Baby Steps, Forrest, Pippin, and Murph at The Hostel California. Pippin made an amazing vegan dinner for everyone at the hostel, and we passed an awesome night, catching up, and chilling hard!