Taking the rainbow tour of the Eastern Sierra

My husband and I just went on a barnstorm tour of Highway 395, down to Mono County.  Any time you want to get out of town, got a couple of days and a few hundred bucks burning a hole in your pocket, I’d recommend a 395 vacation.  Go “off season” and the hotels are remarkably cheaper.

We went to see our son, take him some birthday presents, hang out with him for a couple of days over his birthday. He attends a neat little community college near Bishop. Every time we visit him there we meet more nice people. He works at his dorm and now he has a job doing the sound board at the local theater. They are currently running the play, “Of Mice and Men.” This is not my favorite work, not even my favorite work by Steinbeck, but the cast, a mixture of local amateurs and some Los Angeles professionals, was worth an evening.

It’s a difficult play with some language and situations, but they pulled it off really well. I’ve always hated the ending – I won’t spoil it for you – but that’s my son’s big moment – he has to do the lights and sound when George plays out his final act of devotion to his friend Lennie. My son has to do his part just right, or it will look dumb, and I’m real proud he understands how important his job is.

My son lives in a huge caldera. Having grown up with Lassen and Shasta, we had thought we lived in a volcanic area, but the Eastern Sierra is like the Land of Giants. Every time we go down there we try to take in something spectacular. We’d seen this sign along the road again and again – Obsidian Dome. Sounded so cool, my husband just shook his head – “oh, it’s probably a 20 mile drive to Boredom…” he kept insisting. “Those exciting names can be a real let-down.” 

But I kept wearing on him, and then the kids chimed in,  and this time he actually thought of it himself. We set out from town and within 15 minutes we were in one of the weirdest moonscapes I have ever witnessed. 

This is a ginormous pile of obsidian. Like a giant's toy pile.

This is a ginormous pile of obsidian. Like a giant’s quarry. I’m down at the bottom telling the kids, “get off there!” The rocks are like broken glass.  

I’m sorry I didn’t remember my little digi-cam, my husband took this picture with his phone. You just have to see this place to believe it. My son climbed that pile, looking at each rock, saying, “look at this! look at this!’  Some were solid, some chipped apart in his hands to reveal shiny black wet-looking volcanic glass, ranging in color from deep dark black to fiery red. Some was sharp enough to cut our skin, but we were careful.

This dome is part of a chain of explosions that only happened about 500 years ago. Wow, that’s not very long ago.  A “dike” of lava running crisscross underground encountered an underground river as they ran along together, and wherever the lava came into contact with the water, steam blew through the rock and created craters spread out for miles in line. At Obsidian Dome, the lava came pouring out of the ground, creating a huge dome.

Yeah, in my child mind, I expected a big shiny round dome, like the top of the state capitol building in Sack-o-tomatoes. Ha ha – the lava solidified immediately on contact with the cold air, and broke like glass, into shards. You can see the flow lines, all bent and twisted, different kinds of rock layered together like candy. 

Trails lead into the center of the rock pile. It’s exactly what I imagine the moon looks like. 

I was shocked how close this wonder is to the road – in fact, now that we knew what we were looking for, we could see it from the road, along with another, smaller dome to one side. We will most certainly revisit this place, I think we only saw part of it. There’s a creek called “Glass Creek,” that’s got to be good.

Whenever we leave I have a kind of anxiety attack, I hate being so far separated from my son. But it was raining, and that cheered me up – I wondered if it was raining in Chico. As we got out on the road for Bridgeport, we noticed a big rainbow.

I don't too often see the top of a rainbow.

I don’t too often see the top of a rainbow.

It beckoned us further, spreading out over the glacial valley like a bridge.

As the road wound into the Walker River Canyon near the Bodie turn-off, it seemed to disappear into the clouds.

As the road wound into the Walker River Canyon near the Bodie turn-off, the rainbow seemed to disappear into the clouds.

The road meanders into a tiny canyon at Bodie, rock walls all around.

This is a gloomy place, especially if you know the history of the tiny town that lies behind the canyon walls.

This is a gloomy place, especially if you know the history of the tiny town that lies sleeping behind the canyon walls.

The storms rolled over us as we rode the highway, around the corner, the rainbow came out of the darkness again.

Hello Friend.

Hello Friend.

I have driven through Bridgeport so many times, the little tourist town has grown on me. Sometimes it’s just a ghost town, businesses closed up, sometimes boarded up, For Sale signs posted. Other times – now it’s trout season – it’s really hopping. There are a couple of hot springs there, we just visited Buckeye Hot Springs the last  time we went through town. We eat at a Bridgeport restaurant now and then, but gas is usually kinda high there. 

This time we found out, Bridgeport is a special place.

It's not every day I get to see the Rainbow's End.

It’s not every day I get to see the Rainbow’s End.

This rainbow set itself down right in Bridgeport. Wow, that’s pretty special. Look hard, you can see it touch the ground.

As we rolled along home, six hours, sheesh, we wondered – is Southern California getting all the rain? 

Come on baby, we got to take this rain to Chico!

Come on baby, we got to take this rain to Chico!

Suddenly, the storm let up, and Tahoe appeared around the bend. 

Lake Tahoe - the Number One

Lake Tahoe – the Number One “place I like to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.” Or stop, just keep driving.

Lake Tahoe is an incredibly beautiful tourist shithole, sorry to cuss, but that’s what it is. We enjoy the scenery, we might stop at a convenient coffee shop in Incline Village, but then we get the hell out. The people there will crawl up your ass if you stay more than five minutes.  The whole Tahoe area is a good argument against a tourist economy.  There’s no community, no old-timers, just a bunch of transplants peeing in the lake while screaming “KEEP TAHOE BLUE, YOU BASTARDS!”

This is the point where I start getting impatient to get home. Home sweet Chico. I watch the road to see signs of recent rain. BAM! As we get over the state line the rain hits our windshield, like it really means it!

Well, thank goodness, the rain has made it to Northern California.

Well, thank goodness, the rain has made it to Northern California.

The sun shines bright above Oroville, but you can see there was a gullywasher earlier in the day.

The sun shines bright on a walnut orchard above Oroville, but you can see there was a gully washer earlier in the day.

Yeah, I might be nuts, but I love the North State. 


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