The next stop is going to be our last one in the eastern Sierras before the caravan officially disbands for us to all go our separate ways. We will continue to head north towards Mammoth Lakes to camp at Crowley Lake. Before that happens, we are going to double down on the Burger Barn in Bishop before we leave because it is that good.
After the Burger Barn, we spotted the Works at Mahogany Smoked Meats on our way towards Crowley Lake so we made a quick stop to check in with them. We also found a beginners guide to smoking meat so we can try to make our own smoked meats. They had just had lunch there and raved about how good the deli sandwiches were. They also bought a medley of their mahogany smoked jerkies which was pricey but looked amazing as well. We will definitely be making a stop here once out bellies are not full of burgers.
The drive from Bishop to Crowley Lake takes us up another couple of thousand feet in elevation. Not considering the detour we took to Death Valley, it is the only significant incline for anyone driving up from the Los Angeles basin.
Crowley Lake is only about 20 miles shy of Mammoth Lakes. It sits just below 7,000 ft above sea level and and was created by the Long Valley dam built by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power during the controversial water rights battle that created the Los Angeles aqueduct.
Just like the BLM campground in Lone Pine, Crowley Lake is a federally managed campground with no hookups for $5 a night. There are several places to fill water and a dump station as well as concrete picnic tables and fire pits at each site. We were able to find 3 sites next to each other with view of the lake. You are just not going to find deals like this else where in California.
Just like all the other places we have been on this trip, the views are spectacular. The only thing bad I can say about this place is that there seem to be more mosquitoes here than the last 2 campgrounds. Probably due to the close proximity to the lake.
The following morning, we left our Airstreams and pets at the campground and headed out in our respective adventure mobiles northward. Our goal today is a place we have been wanting to see for a long time – Bodie Ghost Town.
We spotted this awesome woody towing a vintage Airstream on the way there. We snapped a quick photo of it as we passed but Josh and Jessa actually stopped to take a much better pic of it. Apparently the owners are headed to the vintage trailer show in Pismo Beach.
The road to Bodie is a windy mountain road the turns off of the 395 for several miles. Eventually it turns into an unpaved dirt path. It is bumpy and hard on the vehicles and definitely not a road you would want to tow a trailer on.
If you have never heard of Bodie, it was a mining town during California’s gold rush. It is named after one of the original prospectors that perished before discovery of gold that led to the rise.
At its peak in 1880, there were over 10,00 people living here and its Main Street was home to 65 saloons. $3.1 million worth of gold was extracted from the mines around here in 1881.
It’s decline came when the prospectors were lured away to towns like Tombstone and Butte, Montana in search for more easy money.
There were as many as 2,000 buildings here during the peak. You wouldn’t know it by seeing these photos we took while we were here but in the winter, this is a cold and treacherous place. Snow banks over 40 feet along the sides of roads are not uncommon during the dead of winter as it sits at nearly 9,000 ft in elevation.
Unlike other ghost towns, Bodie has been made into a California historical site. There are no daily reenactments of gunfights nor are there stagecoach rides down Main Street. Everything is preserved exactly the way it was left when the resident left in the 1940s.
Even the school house still has books on the tables and writing on the chalkboard that is frozen in time from when the kids left home for school one last time and never came back.
The park’s job today is to do its best to preserve what is here to the best of their abilities so visitors can see it as the time capsule that it is.
Just like many other old western towns, buildings are usually made of wood. That contributes to a large attrition of structures lost due to fire and other forces of nature. This brick building was once the safe located inside a bank here in Bodie. You can still peer inside and see the metal safe that once held valuables of the town’s residents.
As the single prospectors left town seeking fortunes else where in the 1890s, the town became more family oriented. That meant several churches were built here to accommodate them. The only one that is left standing is the Methodist church that is in surprisingly good shape.
If you have never been to Bodie, we highly recommended it as a way to peer back into to the pioneering and prospecting days of early California. It is not at all a tourist trap and worth every minute of your time.
As we left Bodie, we began heading back towards our campground. Along the way, you pass the turn to Tioga Pass on the edge of a little town called Lee Vining. Tioga Pass is a road that takes you down into Yosemite Valley from the east and isn’t open most of the year due to snow.
We have been recommended by several people to try to food at the Whoa Nellie Deli inside the Mobil gas station. Yeah, you heard right, it is technically a gas station but it just happens to serve world class food.
It has been written about in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times and various other publications with high praises. This right here is their steak sandwich. I have never had a steak sandwich that looked like this, gas station or not.
Some how I will need to fit my mouth around this monster and take a bite. Don’t worry, I managed and it was awesome.
With full bellies, we headed back down the hill further towards our campground. Following Josh and Jessa, we decided to take the June Lake Loop detour for a little scenic drive.
The drive was spectacular. With patches of snow still on the mountain, we came around various corners of the mountain roads and found views like this alpine lake within an arm’s reach of the road. We use to come up to Mammoth Lakes in the winter for skiing and snowboarding but have never been here during this time of year. It is breathtakingly beautiful.
We finally got back to the campground after a long day exploring and the kids were total troopers. They loved every minute especially since they got to hang out with their little Airstream friends.
Our last and final morning in the eastern Sierras happens to be Mother’s Day. The girls made cards for Marlene and surprised her when she woke up.
It was pretty cool to have all of these little Airstream friends here celebrating Mother’s Day together. Without these amazing women in their lives, these adventures we all get to take will simply not be possible.
As we posed for one last photo with kids and their mom’s, we bid farewell to our friends and hitched our wagon and headed out of Crowley Lake.
Josh and Jessa will be staying another night before moving on while Sam and Jessica are going to hangout a bit longer. During our drive back towards Bishop, all I could think about is getting a sandwich at Mahogany Smoke Meats Deli.
Boy does this sandwich not disappoint. Even the potato salad had tons of their amazing double mahogany smoked bacon bits in them. I still cannot comprehend how so much good food exists in this little town of Bishop tucked away in the eastern Sierras. On our way out, we bought a few of their beef jerkies and ate them on our way back to Los Angeles. The jerkies completely blew my mind. I have had good beef jerky before and have even made several batches of my own that were pretty amazing. Nothing I have ever had compares to the mouth watering deliciousness that came out of Mahogany Smoked Meats. If you don’t believe it, you can order them online and give it a whirl.
On the long drive back to Los Angeles, we stopped briefly at Red Rock State Park for a quick break. We have been wanting to camp here but have never gotten a chance.
We were surprised to find how beautiful the campground is with their eroding sandstone cliffs directly adjacent to many of their sites.
It was getting to their slow time of the year as the summers are pretty much unbearably hot so lots of maintenance work was being done and the campground is practically empty. We will definitely be back here soon once the weather cools down and explore the desert landscape in this part of California.
For now, we will be headed back home to continue planning for our next adventure.
over and out,