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Eastern Sierra Nevada 2

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Picture of Millpond County Park Photograph of Millpond County Park Millpond County Park is 11 kilometers north of Bishop, off Highway 395. It’s best known as the site of a music festival held every September. Early on an autumn morning it’s a tranquil place for reflection (in all senses of the word).

Continuing north on the 395, the Owens Valley gives way to Long Valley, the caldera (crater) of a volcano that last erupted about 200 years ago. In the valley are some very popular ski areas, including the upscale resort town of Mammoth Lakes. The volcano is starting to show signs of renewed activity, including some rather ominous earthquakes. But that doesn’t seem to be deterring development.

Picture of the Devils Postpile Pictures of the Devils Postpile You can see evidence of a long history of volcanism at the Devil’s Postpile. Lava flowing from an eruption some 100,000 years ago formed hexagonal “pillars” of basaltic rock as it cooled and shrank. 80,000 years later, glaciers exposed, bent, and broke up the pillars.

Photograph of the Devil's Postpile Photo of the Devil's Postpile Getting to the postpile requires an easy 650 meter hike on a pleasant trail from the parking lot (or shuttle bus stop) at the ranger station. The postpile wall is 18 meters high and faces west, so the best time to visit is in the afternoon.

Picture of Sotcher Lake The postpile is actually just a small part of the 324-hectare Devils Postpile National Monument. Along with the adjacent Reds Meadow, it’s a popular destination for hiking, camping, and fishing. During the crowded summer months, only people who are using the monument’s small campground or who are handicapped can drive on California Route 203 past the Mammoth Mountain ski area. Everyone else must park at the ski area and ride a shuttle bus. By the middle of September the crowds dissipate, the shuttle bus stops running, and visitors can drive the narrow, twisting road into the monument.

Sotcher Lake is in the Reds Meadow area of Inyo National Forest, east of the postpile. It’s a good place to relax and enjoy a picnic.

Picture of June Lake Image of June Lake The town of June Lake is 32 kilometers north of Mammoth Lakes on the 395. It’s a ski resort like Mammoth Lakes, but a prettier and far less pretentious one. June Lake is a very pleasant base for exploring the area from Mammoth to Mono Lake. The town and its namesake lake are at the southern end of Route 158, a 25-kilometer byway known as the June Lake Loop.

Picture of Silver Lake Pictures of Silver Lake The scenery is stunning on the southern half of the loop, which includes June Lake, Gull Lake, and Silver Lake. But the trees inexplicably disappear when you get to the northern half of the loop around Grant Lake, before it rejoins Highway 395. The landscape there is barren and clearly reveals the region’s volcanic history.

Picture of shack near Lee Vining Lee Vining is 15 kilometers north of June Lake on the 395. It’s the nearest town to Mono Lake and Bodie. Beyond Lee Vining, the 395 continues another 105 kilometers to the Nevada border.

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