Monday, October 11, 2010

ES - Day 3, Part 1 of 2: North Lake, Manzanar, Alabama Hills

In Search of Fall Color

Nick says, let's go find some fall color and after asking a few people where to look, we turned right at the traffic light and went up and up and up.   I wouldn't say our marriage was in jeopardy, but I was mighty skeptical after we cleared the town limits and the only plants anywhere in sight was sagebrush.

Eventually, we start seeing some trees and Nick starts feeling vindicated.  The road has, of course, gotten more narrow and more twisty.  There begin to be lots of cars by the road.  Hikers, you may think.  Well, not really - it's photographers season.  At one bend in the road, there's a zillion cars and a bridge over a bubbling stream.   The bridge  is packed with photographers. So we keep driving.  At one overview, I noticed a sign that said "North Lake."  We were heading for lake Sabrina.  We stopped further along and did take some pictures over the river of the aspen.  We went along the main road a while and decided to turn around and head back.  I suggested we check out the North Lake road.  Now, silly me, I was thinking, lake, amenities, something.  Guess I've driven around Tahoe too much.  Yes, I know, much bigger, more developed and thus less dense with photographers.  Here, you had to compose pictures carefully to not have one or more tripods in them.  My tripod was back in the room.

Off we headed up and up and up and around and around and oh yes, it's now a dirt, one lane road.  Nick has a thing about heights, he doesn't like them.  He gets the hero award for that drive - the outside of the road is up direction.   He was actually better off since I'm ok looking out over the edge.  But, eventually, after passing too many cars and largish pickup trucks, we came to a clearing with a latrine and parking.  We drove past it to catch the lay of the land and sure enough a small lake.  Went back and parked.  The lake was beautiful - the fall color, especially the aspens, the clear reflections, the background of mountains.  Photos were taken, by us, by people with tripods, by people with small children.

I forgot to mention - this was our "shorts" day.  Weather was 72 per the car when we headed up the hill.  According to the car it was 48 while we out taking pictures.  It probably was, but oddly, it felt good.  Eventually, we headed back down, agreeing that the twisty, turny, narrow, North Lake road was worth it.

We headed down 395 and had a nice lunch in Big Pine  Passed through Independence, formerly like 150 years ago, as Little Pine and on down to Manzanar.


Nick and I have both heard a lot about Manzanar.  It's hard to live in the Bay Area and not know about how dreadfully our military leaders decided they could treat US citizens.  As the exhibit implies, some people think the Constitution is great except when they want something.

The first thing that struck me was how stark the surroundings are.  Beautiful but stark.  The Eastern Sierras on one side, the White Mountains on the other, with sagebrush of Owens Valley in the middle.  The original auditorium building is now the visitors center. We were both somber driving in and walking in.  Teared up reading the exhibits and while watching the well-produced 22 min video.

A few words about Ronald Reagan.  I vaguely remember him hosting the 20 Mule Team Borax TV western show [name escapes me.]  I never voted for him, I actively disliked all that I saw or read about his wife. Two good things from my point of view.  He was allegedly the only Type B POTUS in our time.  And on the Manzanar video, he was my hero for the way he signed the bill officially apologizing and giving survivors some reparations.  Too late for most, but needed closure.

As I walked around, I continued to be tearing up (as was Nick).  I nearly broke down reading the roster of internees, posted as a giant scroll.  I looked for and saw last names that I personally knew (including one Murai).   The experience was similar to my reactions at the Birmingham Civil Rights Center and the Washington, DC Viet Nam memorial.  And there were exhibits about other acts of prejudice and hate.  And I thought about the debate over the proposed Muslim Community Center in Lower Manhattan.  I'm tired of hate and fear and how it brings out the dark side of our populace.  I found myself quoting Pete Seeger "when will we ever learn."

We drove the self-guided tour of the whole site. Stopped and walked the bases at the playing field.  I put a rock that i picked up outside at the cemetery memorial, among the other rocks and pennies and cranes.  Thought about all my cats at the pet cemetery.  Wrung out emotionally, we headed to the next stop on Nick's tour of Pines.

Alabama Hills

Apparently, our latest thing is to go where they made movies and TV shows.  First Vasquez Rocks, now Movie Row.  You get there by turning right off of 395 in Lone Pine, crossing the Aqueduct, going up the hill, past the replacement Lone Pine.  Turn right again, following a guide book we got from a park ranger station. The rock formations are amazing.  We saw where Roy Rogers made his first movie and (not sure exactly of the spot but we saw it) where John Wayne made his last video, a commercial.  Took lots of pictures; followed the slight detour to Murphy Ranch Road.  12 miles or so and eventually came back.

Two last comments.  In the last Alaska trip, we had to go to the zoo to find moose.  Well, we watched and watched back up 395 - for elk, it was the right time of day, but no luck.  Actually we've seen very little non-human life forms.  There's still time.

When Nick was a child, they lived down Cape Cod during the summer.  There was a highway running nearby to Provincetown, Highway 6.  Well, guess where the other end is.  Yes, here in Bishop.  And that's why the last photos I took yesterday are of him and a highway sign.  Posted on my facebook page.

It's now Columbus Day and we're off in search, with Marcia, of ancient bristle cone pines.  A single destination day.


© 2010 Esther A. Heller

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