"Wildness is the lens to reveal our soul" ~ Robert Griego.
|Lone Pine is 48.2 miles from Three Rivers|
The Sierra mountains split east and west like cutting butter with a hot knife.
Three Rivers is on the western
side and Lone Pine is on the eastern side.
According to Google, and as the eagle flies, Lone Pine is 48.2 miles away
from my village of Three Rivers.
Muir, on a slow and deliberate walk, may have taken the short route over several
weeks, but on a motorcycle, I'll need to travel some 251 miles south, then
north to Lone Pine, for my first camp.
There are two routes.
The faster or the scenic one.
route, that I choose, is east on highway 178 towards Lake Isabella.
In years past with our California drought,
the lake has looked pitiful.
many curves to wake you up as you edge higher into the Kern canyon. T
he Kern River is just below the road with
fast moving white water. T
several fishermen but I think the water is too fast.
The scenic route is rewarding and the canyon
allows me to reminisce.
When I was a kid in Barstow, my best friend Warnell and his
family would take me fishing at Lake Isabella.
I don't remember too much about where we camped, but catching those
crappies and bass was important.
For a ten-year-old,
this was my first exposure to the wild and I loved it.
Baiting their hooks, untangling their fishing
lines, and getting their fish might seem like work, but for me, it was an
Those are my thoughts, 57
years later, as I round the lake on my motorcycle.
|Lone Pine Campground|
Lone Pine is a springboard to some amazing motorcycle routes.
Manzanar NHS, the Ancient Bristlecone Pine
Forest, Bishop, Mammoth Lakes, Death Valley NP, Devils Postpile NM, Yosemite
NP, or Lake Tahoe.
They can all be easy
day ride from Bishop.
My internal compass is pointing north, but at some point, I'll need to decide which way to go from Bishop.
My immediate goal remains, the Lone Pine
Campground, Manzanar National Historic Site, and Bishop for the annual Mule
After that, what will be will be.
My bike hums along, content, we have traveled this road many
The map marks it as highway 395,
or the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway.
begin to tire a bit, looking over my left shoulder constantly at the massive
Sierra mountains that John Muir called "the range of light."
Mile after mile, they seem to be in the very
There is snow on the tops and
Three Rivers is just over there, my left arm points the direction, for no one
else to see but me.
On my right, there
are dry salt beds and tall mountains towards Death Valley National Park.
|Jim Harvey and Bob Griego ~ Kearsarge Pass|
Looking to the west, the mountains remind me about riding a
horse in the backcountry of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
"There it is," Harvey shouts.
From the back of a horse, the view is
I tell him that I plan to climb that mountain
"Good luck, it will be a
he shouts back as
our horses continue along the faint trail.
We stop at the top of Kearsarge Pass and look off towards Independence
and Lone Pine.
The views are hard to describe, and they make
me feel so alive, and that is all I can think of to say to myself.
This is the
wildness I pursued all my life.
God for this feeling that hopefully will last a lifetime, and then some.
|Keith Griego, ~ Mount Whitney summit, 1988|
Years ago, Denise, our son Keith, and brothers-in-law Alan
and Gary climbed 14,494 foot Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the
"lower 48" states.
from the summit are enormous and panoramic.
To the west, lies the Sequoia National Park wilderness and to the east,
the Nelson and White Mountains of Death Valley.
It makes me feel very small, vulnerable.
The air is crisp, and we breathe deeply.
We are in awe.
John Muir must
have had the very same feelings, though I doubt he was breathing as hard.
There have been so many western movies filmed around
One look around, tells you that
Jimmy Steward or John Wayne is just over there, staring up towards the peaks in
front of us.
That's what I think about
here, western movies that I've seen a thousand times.
The rocks are huge, round, and a perfect retreat
for any cowboy of yesterday or today.
Deep down, I am a cowboy.
These days I ride my iron horse.
The Lone Pine Campground is just ahead.
Campsite #23 faces towards the 7,700 foot
Nelson Range in Death Valley and is perfect.
But honestly, right now, I am thinking about all the names I see on the
They are all
Every camp site has a Japanese
name on the post reserving the site.
campground host is coming by, "Why so many Japanese names?"
"They were here for a pilgrimage of
sorts; they went to Manzanar for a special celebration and reserved all the
campground sites yesterday," he replies.
I knew about Manzanar National Historical Site but had never been there.
I'll be going by there tomorrow on my way to
or from Bishop, so I'll find out.
The night is quiet, the skies are bright.
My fire burns clearly into the night and the
stars are resting on the top of Mount Whitney.
A shooting star crosses the entire sky.
I wait for another one, perhaps the Japanese campers did too.
Sleep comes easy as I look for the next shooting star.
I think the coyote in the distance waits too
or maybe the sliver of the moon caught his attention.
I think about the Japanese campers and what
they must have been looking for in these night skies.
Perhaps, a glimpse into the past.
I can only imagine the talk around the
campfire, full of respect, honor, an homage to family and friends who endured
hardships beneath the ever watching eye of Mount Whitney.
|Mount Whitney Campground ~ site #23|
Two scrambled eggs, diced Spam, green chili, one piece of
bacon, and two tortillas are almost ready.
The hot water for my coffee, however, is first.
I love a hot cup of coffee first thing in the
The view is breathtaking as my
cowboy breakfast is ready.
The sun has
not yet peaked over the Nelson Range and my bike rests for a perfect picture
from my sleeping bag.
From ground level,
the mountains look huge.
is quiet, most are still asleep as the sun slowly inches over the Nelson
After a hardy breakfast, I
repack all my gear.
Any bikers know that
what packed easily in the garage, goes stubbornly into new spots.
Thank goodness for bungee cords.
|Mule Days parade proudly begins|
Today, I'll ride to Bishop for the annual Mule Day Parade
and team competitions.
The National Park
Service teams, led by Nick Knutson, will be there.
These are the same crews who work regularly
in the backcountry of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
Out there in the wilderness, few appreciate
their work which is important.
hiking or riding horseback in the backcountry accessible and safe.
Today, hundreds of people will
cheer as they perform at these western competitions.
Sipping my hot coffee, I have still not yet left camp.
The Bishop Mule Days parade kicks off
promptly at 10am I tell myself.
called the "longest, non-motorized, parade in America."
Yet, the views before me, slow me down.
There is just too much to take in all at one
The mountain, the Japanese names
on the posts, memories of horseback trips, and me.
I sense that if John Muir were here, he would
ask for another cup of coffee to remember the moment.
And so, I do the same.
Another early camper walks by and says
"Good morning, where's your tent?"
"Slept here, pointing to the ground" is my reply.
"John Muir would have done the same, carrying a few hard biscuits
in his pockets," he adds.
I do not
say anything, but inwardly, it puts a smile on my face.
I'm running late so Manzanar National Historic Area will be
for my return trip.
Bishop is 60 miles away north along highway 395.
The view is breathtaking.
This, I think, is perhaps one of the most
spectacular motorcycle rides in America.
Bishop is a western frontier town.
There are plenty of restaurants and motels and people walk the streets
The pace has slowed down
considerably and you immediately feel this western atmosphere.
All the cowboy hats are here for the Bishop
|Erick Schat's Bakkery|
Erick Schat's Bakkery is buzzing and perhaps one of the best
attraction in Bishop.
The food is
awesome and I stock up on some sweets for the road.
People stand in long lines to buy sandwiches,
sourdough bread, and all sorts of sweets.
There is no hurry and they seem to be at ease at this iconic place.
I slow down and do the same.
|Bishop Mule Days parade|
|Bishop Mule Days competitions|
|Aussies on their Indian motorcycles ~ Bishop, California|
The parade is awesome.
Cowboys, cowgirls, native American Indians are everywhere.
After the parade, I return to the La Quinta
Hotel where I parked my motorcycle.
then, two bikers roll in.
As they look at the full parking lot, I point over to my bike.
They quickly pull in behind me.
They are riding Indian motorcycles.
"There are three more behind us,"
the first Aussie says.
again mate," he says again as we shake hands.
When I asked where they are coming from, the
first rider says "LA.
bikes there and plan to ride to Death Valley, and then to Las Vegas for a bit
As the second rider gets
off his bike, he asks "Why so many people here?"
They listen, as I talk about Mule Days and
they are intrigued.
The Aussies are a
"It sounds like
lots of fun, we might go out there this afternoon mate, but need to get some
"If you want some
great food, try Erick Schat's Bakkery a few blocks down the road," I
Just then, the other three
riders pull up, all on Indian motorcycles.
The first guy I talked too, wants to know where I'll be tonight.
"Up there, I point towards Sabrina
"Any motels up that far
I shake my head and I think
That was my goal until
the weather changed and the sky began to spit snow.
The NPS crews are major players at the Bishop Mule
They, like some of the others, do
this type of work day in and day out, in the backcountry of Sequoia and Kings
Canyon National Parks.
In years past,
I've ridden with them in the backcountry.
They have taught me so much.
yell loudly as they compete.
individual scramble is about to begin.
know that Nick will compete and I hope he does well.
A few years ago, he won the first place
"all around World Packer."
he rounds for the home stretch, I snap a picture, capturing the intensity of
this year's second place winner.
couldn't be more proud.
|Nick Knutson on the home stretch|
This is May in the Sierra Mountains.
The weather is unpredictable.
My Aussies friends are comfortable at the La
The White Mountains
glisten strangely as the first rain drops begin to fall.
A few at first, then many more.
|Robert Griego ~ Manzanar National Historic Site|
It's time to "get out of Dodge."
Within five miles heading south, the rain
comes down in buckets.
There was not
enough time to put on my rain gear, so I am wet.
I'm not complaining but it is a fact.
By the time I reach Manzanar, the rain has
Manzanar National Historic Site
will cause you to think about this time in our history.
So hard to understand, yet war can do that to
even civilized Nations.
Our Nation may
not be proud of what we did, but the National Park Service has done an
outstanding job to right a wrong.
This camp opened on June 1, 1942, and closed on November 21,
There were 10,046 Japanese
Americans interned here.
It is painful
to read the statistics.
I have many Japanese friends and family and it is hard to
see what they endured at Manzanar below the snowcaps of Mount Whitney.
I will think more about Manzanar as I head
further north towards Mammoth Lakes.
|Devils Postpile National Monument - NPS photo|
Devils Postpile National Monument is a lost gem along the
Mammoth Mountain is heaven
for skiers in the winter.
Postpile is a perfect spot to relax, plan your next move, or camp for the
A short walk takes you to the
Devils Postpile formation and the 101-foot high Rainbow Falls.
The formation is a rare sight in the geologic
world and ranks as one of the world's finest examples of columnar basalt,
displaying an unusual symmetry.
from the falls feels good as I look for those big rainbow trout.
I won't camp here tonight, but I make a
mental note that this is an outstanding one-night campsite when going further
north to Yosemite National Park.
My decision is clear.
Tomorrow, I'll head for Death Valley National Park, back past Bishop and
If you have a motorcycle that
enjoys dirt roads, head up towards Wild Rose Campground, about 16 miles from
the paved road.
It sits about 4,100
feet, isolated, with incredible views and the camping is free.
|Crossroads into Death Valley National Park|
Tonight I'll camp at sea level at the Texas
Spring Campground, near Furnace Creek.
All amenities are here, and a campsite is almost guaranteed when
arriving before 2pm.
As I look around,
there are other bikers setting up their camp.
Be sure to go up to Dantes View, which sits at 5,478 feet.
From here, you are almost directly above Bad
Water which is the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea
I always pack shorts and sandals
for some hiking to mix up things up a bit.
You need to be resourceful, changing clothes, at these times.
|Into Death Valley National Park|
The wildflowers, after years of drought, are in love with the
Death Valley is best seen
in the winter months or early spring.
Any other time, it will be hot, very hot.
I've done both, and I prefer the spring.
But when I do the summer trips, I always
carry two liters of water, two Gatorades, and some food just in case.
This is a wild area and you must be
I always carry a lightweight
tarp that can be made into a lean-to shade cover from my bike.
The wildflowers are amazing.
Our intense rains have transformed this desert into a lake of
It is times like this when it
is best to simply say "thank you, God."
|Death Valley National Park with all its beauty|
|Death Valley National Park|
With Death Valley in my rear view mirror, my ride back
towards Lone Pine is not going well.
wind is fierce and rain is hard.
there is a campsite as I head for the Lone Pine Campground.
The sign says it all: Campground Full
|"This boulder was home from the relentless night winds."|
Earlier a few miles down the canyon, I saw a sign for the
Hills, public BLM lands where
dispersed camping is permitted.
weather is turning bad, the wind is fierce.
I need shelter, and now.
onto a faint dirt road.
The huge rock in
front of me is perfect to block these ferocious winds.
Quickly, I rig a lean-to and place my gear to
keep dry underneath.
The wind blows into
night, along with intermittent rain.
tarp keeps me dry.
In the morning, the
view of the Sierra mountains is my reward.
Perhaps, it will last a lifetime, and then some.
Leaving I glance towards the
west, only to hear John Muir say, "Three Rivers is only 48.2 miles away as
the eagle flies."
|"The calm morning after a night of ferocious winds"|
|Robert Griego, Badwater Basin|
|Robert Griego, "sometimes, hiking is better."|
|View from Dantes Peak|
|Manzanar National Historic Park|
|History is reversed, Manzanar National Historic Site|
|Guard House, Manzanar National Historic Site|
|A glimpse into the stormy past ~ Manzanar National Historic Site|
|Manzanar National Historic Park|
|Cowboy, Bishop Mule Days|
|Native America Indians, Bishop Mule Days|
|Jim Harvey, on his 80th birthday, and Bob Griego|
|"The wild stampede."|
|"The race is too close to call."|
|Mount Whitney is just there|
|The summit of Mount Whitney ~ 14,496'|
| Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest|
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