BISHOP – Oasis in the High Country - Part 5
by Christopher Vardas
Jun 01, 2013 | 542 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Barely over an hour south of Mono Lake lies Bishop, a seemingly dusty cow town from out of a Louis L'Amour novel modernized with a casino, gas stations and fast food store fronts. However, don't let first impressions shy you away from the hidden gem that is this little town. After making the big bend in the road, the town reveals itself more fully: modern motels, a great visitor center (an A-frame on the left), a wonderful breakfast waffle house and a premier temple to photography. Backpacking and camping supplies and support options abound. On the outskirts of town are a great Native America Indian museum, a fine Thai food restaurant, amazing lakes, trout fishing, hiking trails, an ancient Bristlecone Forest, and a richly rewarding museum of western Americana and railroading.

On the topic of what is closest to my heart - food - is a must-stop at Jack's Waffle house for breakfast. Be prepared to take your turn, as it's a popular place among both tourists and locals. For dinner, the Visitor Center staff was very fond of a restaurant located at the little regional airport called Thai Thai. Though hard to believe, this small restaurant has garnered praise from folks all over the country for their fresh ingredients, a sophisticated menu and amazing flavors that reflect the personal and award winning talents of the chef. I was there on a Wednesday night and was treated to an evening of soft New York-style club jazz by a sax player who has worked the casino circuit from Vegas to Reno for years. Another must stop is the Great Basin Bakery at the south end of town (cinch your belt before entering.)

The enthusiastic staff at the Visitor Center outlined an array of activities and ideas to fill a week's visit. They can provide you with good maps and tips on visiting all points south of Bishop including Lone Pine, the Alabama Hills and Mt. Whitney. With their help, we visited a small yet well-designed Native American museum, lovingly prepared by members of the Paiute-Shoshone tribe. Check ahead because the museum has limited hours and staffing. The museum, though modest, is full of great historical information, artifacts and displays that beautifully educate the viewer not only about the local Indians but the nature of aboriginal life. Allow an hour to enjoy this wonderful museum.

North of town, a few miles along Highway 6 (where Highway 395 turns south), is a wonderful and extensive outdoor complex called Laws Railroad Museum and Historic Site. For a very nominal fee you can access old, historic buildings filled with examples of western American life from the late 1800's through the 1930's, including a print shop, hairdresser, apparel, pharmacy, school, blacksmith, livery, saloon and so much more. Additionally, friendly people will inform and direct you to fascinating active workshops, a static steam train display (you can go into the engine cab), locomotive oil and water towers, century-old fire engines and so much more. The grounds are flat and easily accessed by families and seniors alike. Bring water, good shoes and sunscreen and take frequent breaks under the refreshing shade trees. This is a great morning stop before heading out for more high country adventure. Note: there are loads of wild rabbits roaming the area. Despite their cuddly looks, they are not to be trusted with your fingertips! This is a must-bring-your-camera place that requires at least 2-3 hours to enjoy properly.

Another gem worth a stopover is the Mountain Light Photography Gallery. Originally the photographic home of world-famous photographer Galen Rowell, the store front art gallery houses a collection of some of the finest landscape photography to be found anywhere. Worthy of any art museum collection, the work is a testimony to the passion of fine art photographers who find and capture inspirational images from the Sierra Nevada and the area surrounding Bishop. This is a definite must-see.

To the west, up Highway 168 from downtown Bishop, is an amazing array of high country lakes and landscapes to satisfy camper, fisherman, hiker and photographer. South of Bishop, you can connect with Highway 168 eastbound to access the rare and magnificent Bristlecone Pine forests. Bear left up the Westgard Pass Road and left again up the White Mountain Road to the Schulman Grove Visitor Center and access the Bristlecone Pines. Check in town to make sure the road is open and, if you go, bring a jacket and hat, even in summer, as this is another high altitude destination. Did I mention sunscreen, too?

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