Thursday, October 12 - Part 1

By 6:30 I was packed up and ready to continue my trip north on US 395. I decided to get some parting shots of Mt Whitney before I hit the road.

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A rather trashy look behind the hotel and the Sierras.

Clear skies over Mt Whitney.

Ha! This is the famous “Face Rock” the only vandalism/graffitti I saw on my 3 trips to the area. The rock is about 20x30' and a popular photo op for visitors.

Source: © Google Maps

Area map for Part 1 of Day 23.

The site of Manzanar War Relocation Center is located on the west side of U.S. Highway 395, 9 miles north of Lone Pine and 6 miles south of Independence. This place was fresh in my mind having just see the Ken Burns PBS documentary “The War”.

In February, 1942, three months after Pearl Harbor, the United States took unprecedented action directed at its own population. Executive Order 9066 and Civilian Exclusion Order 5 decreed that over 120,000 Japanese Americans be removed from their homes in the "western defense zone" of the United States, and incarcerated in ten "internment" camps, which were located in isolated areas of Utah, Montana, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, and Idaho. These ten camps functioned as prison cities, with populations of 10,000 to 18,000 people in each camp.

Source: Musami Hayashi Photography

Running at the same time were also was “The War: Bay Area Stories”, a local KQED/PBS production with interviews of Bay Area residents who were either imprisoned in the camps or had family and friends who were.

One of the interesting things which was pointed out in one of the interviews was the fact only Americans of Japanese descent were imprisoned in these camps. No Americans of German descent were imprisoned.

Japanese Relocation Camps

Source:Musami Hayashi Photography

As shown above there were 10 relocation/concentration camps. If you visit the Musami Hayashi site, you will find links to all the interment camps with photos and other information.

Manzanar is most widely known as the site of one of ten “camps” where over 110,000 Japanese Americans were imprisoned during World War II. Located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada in California's Owens Valley between the towns of Lone Pine to the south and Independence to the north, it is approximately 230 miles (370.1 km) northeast of Los Angeles. Manzanar (which means “apple orchard ” in Spanish) was identified by the United States National Park Service as the best-preserved of the former camp sites, and it is now the Manzanar National Historic Site.

Source: WikiPedia

This is the Gatehouse. Manzanar closed in November 1945. All of its buildings, except for the camp auditorium, were torn down or sold and moved. Many of those moved remained in use for years. The auditorium later became an Inyo County equipment shop.

The camp covered 540 acres and was surrounded by a barbed-wire fence and eight watchtowers.

Hopefully this will not be turned into the dreaded "Fee Station" some day.

When you walk around the Camp you can see the old foundations where the camp facilities where.

I used to visit Manzanar a lot in my twenties, when I lived in LA and made this trip home half a dozen times a year. Back in the 70s and 80s, there wasn't much to see. The stone pagoda-shaped gatehouse was abandoned and falling to ruin. The big auditorium -- the only remaining building of consequence -- was being used by the county as a heavy equipment storage barn. Other than that, the only evidence from the road that this had once been a makeshift city of 10,000 incarcerated people were the trees.

Source: Return to Manzanar - Sara Robinson

The site has a wealth of information on Manzanar and life in the Owens Valley.

Reassembling a Sad Chapter of History
Manzanar, Calif. - A piece of Manzanar came home this week, trucked down U.S. 395 past the snowy teeth of the Eastern Sierra to the empty flats on which it once stood. The return of the weathered mess hall building is a small milestone in a painstaking effort to tell an inglorious American war story: the 1942 roundup of 120,000 West Coast residents of Japanese descent and their internment in government camps.

Source:Excerpted from the Wednesday, December 11, 2002 edition of the Los Angeles Times

A few miles north of Manzanar is the town of Independence. While listening to the car radio my ears pricked up when the topic turned to the continued widening of US 395. It seems some of the folk living in Independence were up in arms about the plan to "4-lane" this streach on the south end of town.

Tiny town stands with its trees
Caltrans engineers say 100 trees are standing in the way of plans to widen a stretch of Highway 395, the town's main thoroughfare, from two to four lanes and line it with about 400 feet of sidewalks. The project, they say, would improve safety and the flow of vehicles on the rural fringe of the community 200 miles north of Los Angeles, where a third of the traffic on any given day consists of Southern Californian vacationers.

Independence is protective of its trees, which have been steadily declining in number since the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power began pumping groundwater in the Owens Valley nearly 40 years ago.

Source: Los Angeles Times

Source: © Google Maps

As you can see from this image, vegetation, particualarly trees, are a rare commondity in the dry Owens Valley. And one can better understand why when most of the surface and ground water is sent to Los Angeles via the LA Aqueduct, which is visible on the east side of town.

If Caltrans is anything like the WVDOT (aka- Road Nazis) it is likely these trees will come down.

About 30 miles north of Manzanar is the town of Big Pine.

Big Pine is the gateway to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains and the Eureka Dunes in the extreme north end of Death Valley National Park.

The above photo was taken from SR 168, just about a half mile from US395 near Big Pine.

Although I was short on time I could not pass up the opportunity to see some of the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. I drove east on 168 for about 12 miles until I reached the top of Westgard Pass, which is a long flat plateau rather than steep mountain pass. I then turned left on White Mountain Road, which is the only paved road turn off in this area; it is clearly signed to the Bristlecone Pine Forest.

It was then another 10 miles of steep, twisty-turny road until I reached the turn off and parking lot to the Schulman Grove Visitor Center.

There were many spectacular views on the drive up White Mountain Road.


The dreaded Fee Station. Fortunately this one was closed.

I parked near this sign and after exploring the slope above the road I headed up the trail.

The severe climate, dry, depauperate soils, and fires - all take their toll. This looked to me like Sage Brush.

Desert driftwood.


White Rocks and Tough Roots

It has been said that bristlecone pines “prefer” the dolomite soil where they are found in greatest concentrations. Bristlecone pines don't have a choice in where they grow; they are found in soil with higher concetrations of dololite because few other plants can survive in such alkaline soils. This lack of competition gives them the opportunity to establish a strong, viable seedling. In additon, the light colored dolomite promotes cooler soil temperatures by reflectiong heat, thereby makeing more water available to the trees by reducing evaporation of moisture from the soil...

Source: USFS

The rocky slope above the Discovery Trail

Where's the soil!!??

For eons the bristlecones (Pinus longaeva & aristata) have flourished atop the arid mountains of the Great Basin, from Colorado to California, enduring extreme hardships and silently adjusting to their environment. Their exquisite beauty was known to few. Their great age was known to none - not until 1953.

Although I did not get to the where the really old trees are, I imagine these were pretty ancient.

Great Basin bristlecone pines (Pinus longaeva) are remarkable for their great age and their ability to survive adverse growing conditions. In fact, it seems one secret to their longevity is the harsh environment in which most bristlecone pines grow.

One bristlecone pine near Wheeler Peak was dated to be more than 4,900 years old. This tree, known as "Prometheus", was cut down and sectioned for scientific research in 1964 before Great Basin National Park was established.

Source: Great Basin On Line

Some addtional links worth exploring:

On the way back down the mountain I stopped to take pictures of some of the interesting rock formations.

That's Rabbit Bush in the foreground. The yellow blotches on the rock face turned out to be lichens.

The rocks were really plastered with them.

Most likely these are Pleopsidium flavum, one of the most colorful crustose lichens in the Sierra Nevadas.

When I got back down to the Valley I stopped to take a picture of the Cottonwood showing it's fall color. I was to see many more colorful trees over the next few days.

Next - Part 2 of Day 23: Up Scenic 395 to Mammoth Lake and over to Mono Lake.


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