Sunlit Water

March 2, 2009

Day Thirteen

Filed under: Personal — by teofilo @ 10:37 pm

I spent the morning taking pictures of Lone Pine, then drove down to the interagency visitor center at the south end of town.  It has a nice little pseudo-museum.  One of the main agencies involved in it is the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which owns much of the land in the Owens Valley, so the interpretive material on the famous conflicts over the valley’s water has a definite tendency toward glossing over the rough parts and emphasizing the city’s current efforts to help the valley.

When I was done at the visitor center I continued heading south and went all the way around Owens Lake, which is virtually dry thanks largely to the efforts of the city of Los Angeles, then back north through Lone Pine again and beyond.

My next stop was Manzanar.  This is, as you might expect, an emotional place.  There’s actually very little left of the camp; when it shut down the government gave he useful buildings and equipment to the local towns and sold most of the rest for scrap.  The only building still left in place is the old high school auditorium, which is now the visitor center.  It has a museum which is quite new and, like many new museums, very elaborate and interactive.  I found it a bit overwhelming, especially with the use of sound, but that’s really just a matter of my personal preferences.  There was a ton of information there.

The rest of the site is basically a driving tour through what’s left of the camp, with signs indicating where various things were.  At most of the stops what’s left is at most some foundations, with a few trees or other plants where the gardens were.  There’s a sort of haunting beauty to the place, which is only compounded by its emptiness and the knowledge of what was once there.

One interesting side note about Manzanar: the federal government didn’t own the land.  When the army decided to put a relocation center in the Owens, it leased the land where the abandoned town of Manzanar had been from its owner, and the War Relocation Authority operated the camp under that lease until it closed it at the end of the war.  The owner, of course, was the city of Los Angeles.

When I left Manazanar, I headed north to the town of Independence.  I stopped there and looked at the Eastern California Museum.  Now this is an old-fashioned museum: mostly exhibits in glass cases with limited signage.  There’s a ton of interesting stuff there, though, including a very detailed Manzanar exhibit, some stuff on the history and geology of the Owens Valley and the surrounding area (including an exhibit on the water conflicts with a decidedly different spin from the interagency visitor center’s), and one of the finest collections of Paiute and Shoshone basketry anywhere.  The baskets were what particularly fascinated me.  The fineness of some of the work is just unbelievable.  I’d seen a lot of baskets like these in the various museums I’d seen earlier in the trip, but the difference here was the sheer number of them.  Case after case of exquisite work.  Definitely worth seeing.

The museum was actually a bit disorganized when I was there, as they seemed to be in the process of doing a major reconfiguration.  It looked like most of it hadn’t been significantly altered in a very long time, so it’s probably a worthwhile effort.  In any case, I suspect that quite soon the feel of the museum will be rather different, although as far as I could tell the stuff on exhibit will be more or less the same.

From Independence I kept going north to Bishop, where I got a room for the night.  Bishop is similar in many ways to Lone Pine and Independence, but it’s bigger.  It has more services as a result, but it’s not quite as quaint and picturesque.  Still, seems like a nice place.

Overall, I’ve been very impressed with the Owens Valley.  It’s too bad LA took all the water.



  1. Have you been to In&Out yet? There’s a bunch of people here from LA (shocking, right?) and they were talking about it a lot today on our way to Burger Bar (which is actually much better). I let the burger guy put whatever he wanted on my spicy burger and although I never would have gone for chimichurri, garlic mayo and BBQ sauce, it was amazing! It did seem kind of odd that for our first meal out we went to a burger place but…we’ll have lots of time for falafel. I got some nice pictures of the Old City today which I will try to put up tonight. I need to actually set up a flickr account first, though…so that may not happen until the weekend. They may just go up on facebook for now. We have to leave for our desert hike at 7am!

    Comment by mcmegan — March 3, 2009 @ 5:56 am |Reply

  2. PS: Sorry about the random phone call last night (or yesterday morning for you). Things here got pretty crazy. We can stick to online communication. It’s cheaper anyway. I’m glad the phone mystery is solved, though. Thanks for being my guinea pig!

    Comment by mcmegan — March 3, 2009 @ 5:58 am |Reply

  3. I have not yet been to In & Out, although I’ve been seeing them since Vegas and have thought several times about trying one. I’ve heard lots of praise for it.

    Comment by teofilo — March 3, 2009 @ 8:24 pm |Reply

  4. You should go. I was trying to think of a code for you to use but…you don’t really like anything weird on your burgers anyway…I don’t think they have green chile…

    Comment by mcmegan — March 4, 2009 @ 7:04 am |Reply

  5. Glad you’re poking around the Owens Valley. As you know I spent some time out in those parts. A couple of tips, if you find yourself headed back down through:

    1. There’s a startlingly lovely French restaurant called the Still Life Cafe in the middle of Independence on 395. Delicious, slow, not too cheap. I recommend a stop, especially if you have a traveling companion. There’s nothing around like it for counties.

    2. The Eureka Valley Sand Dunes are off 395 from Big Pine. Go east on Hwy 168; where the road goes left for Deep Springs College (also worth a look-see), go right for Death Valley. Follow that road for about an hour, and turn right on Eureka Valley road. I like to climb the dunes at night under a full moon and then slide down them with a bunch of people for the singing sand effect, but that’s no good until May at the earliest.

    3. The pullapart bread at Schatz’s bakery in Bishop is for yummers.

    Comment by Wrongshore — March 5, 2009 @ 9:14 am |Reply

  6. Read *Cadillac Desert*. Seriously, read it.

    Comment by Meredith — June 28, 2009 @ 1:02 am |Reply

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