Before starting a seven-day ski school work stint, I shot down to Bishop, California hoping for a little fun in the sun. However, this little town of 3,500 impressed beyond all expectations.
About four hours east of Los Angeles and an elevation of just over 4,000 feet, Bishop gets only 5 inches of rain a year. Yes, it’s an arid environment, but this stat mostly indicates sunshine – so much that friends who live there call it “the blue hole”. What this meant for me that the recreation possibilities were so numerous that choosing what gear to bring and which day to use it was a challenge.
With only four full days to play, I forced the gear quiver down to two sports – skiing and climbing. My playmate had wanted to also include mountain bikes and kayaks, to which I promptly responded that four sports for four days was ludicrous. Day one started with a back-country ski tour up a sagebrush infested gully. While the snow coverage was less than stellar, the expansive Sierra views were truly exceptional.
Day two was what I was really excited for as I hadn’t been climbing outside since the spring. Owens River Gorge is a popular climbing destination with over 2,000 bouldering problems as well as sport and trad climbs on volcanic tuff and granite, but I was equally excited about the prospect being outside without gloves and still maintaining full dexterity in my fingers. At 55 degrees, I made the experience as much about absorbing the warmth for a long winter ahead as I did about climbing.
Day three we skied at Mammoth, which may be the most diverse ski area I’ve ever seen as it draws from L.A. At more than 3,500 acres of skiable terrain, Mammoth has a little something to keep most everyone happy, including me. Day four brought an interesting hike to Champion Sparkplug Mine and Black Eagle Camp ruins. Maintained by volunteers, this deserted mining town now allows hikers to stay a night in the spartan cabins and enjoy a bit of history in a mineral museum. The drive up and approach can be a bit confusing and the approach has some seriously sketch washout sections, but if that doesn’t scare you off click here for some fairly poor directions. The easier way, of course, is to go with some rockin’ locals that welcome you into their guest home/garage. After years of traveling adventures, I have learned that friends living in cool places practically guarantee an amazing experience. So who wants to come to Jackson?
Bishop Coffee Shop of the Day: Black Sheep at 124 S. Main St.
Mammoth Tidbit: Mountain employees aren’t allowed to have beards. Hmm.