There’s yellow trees everywhere! Cottonwoods and Aspens turn bright yellow in the fall and look like patches of fire in the valleys and canyons on the eastern side of the Sierra’s. Brea had never been to the east side of the mountains so I had to show her the most beautiful back yard she never knew existed. We hopped over to the Orchard House in Genoa NV for a couple days before hitting the road. Nestled into the base of the mountains just below Tahoe, the property sits in the heart of Genoa, the oldest settlement in Nevada, and is one of the most beautiful places in the Carson Valley. There are deer everywhere, and bears, and they love the fall apples. Randy and Betsy live there and are the people behind the immaculate upkeep of the Orchard House. I’m glad to have them as friends and very thankful for their generosity and hospitality over the years. Thanks Falckes!
We left the orchard house after a couple days and headed south on the 395. Our next destination was Mono Lake, but we had a couple secret hot spring spots to soak up on the way. Mono Lake is one of the most alkaline lakes in the world and home to trillions of ancient crustaceans called brine shrimp. There are also swarms of flies that move around the shore like a shimmery sheet of black velvet. The flies can blow a bubble around themselves and swim below the surface of the water in their own SCUBA suit. Mono is also a sanctuary for all kinds of birds and breeding grounds for most California sea gulls. If you see a sea gull on any given beach in California, chances are it was born near Mono Lake. The landscape around the lake is stark and otherworldly yet one of the most colorful places you could ever see. There’s always loads of photographers out there because it looks like nowhere else on earth. Go to the south tufa on any given evening and watch the sunset, you won’t regret it!
We left Mono lake and climbed the hill into Mammoth Lakes CA, one of the most thermally unstable places in California. Thermal activity has been rising in the region for years and everyone is hoping the mountain doesn’t blow like St. Helens did. If you’re willing to risk it, however, Mammoth is a chill little ski town with lots of charm, a great brewery and also lots of bears. I watched a bear digging in the trash through the peep hole of our hotel room door at the Cinnamon Bear Inn.. maybe he was just the hotel pet. In the morning we headed back north and around the June Lakes loop. Some of the most spectacular groves of bright yellow aspens speckle the hillsides and shores of June and Silver Lake. The lakes are like shiny little dots of turquoise surrounded by glimmering yellow trees and massive blue mountain peaks. Perfect weather, clean air, no traffic and amazing colors made June Lake seem like a good place to build a cabin and disappear for a few months at a time.
Just north of Mono Lake we took a little detour to the gold rush ghost town of Bodie CA. Bodie sits in the high desert above Mono Lake, about 8,300 ft above sea level. Bodie grew from a small handful of miners is 1876, to over 10,000 people in 1880 after a mining company struck a large deposit of gold ore. At one time, Bodie was the fastest growing city in the nation and the 3rd largest city in California. Bodie was famous for hard weather and hard people. With 65 saloons at its peak, this inhospitable city was full of hard gambling, drinking and fighting. Only a small fraction of the city still remains but what is left is beautiful and eerie. There are homes full of clothing and furniture, as well as shops stocked with everything from Ghirardelli Chocolates to Calumet Baking Soda and Bay Rum. Rusty metal, old nails and wood litter the ground everywhere but you can’t take anything with you without also taking the Bodie Curse. We spent a few hours wandering the old streets peering into windows full of history and mystique. Brea and I both agreed that there was much more here to explore and we should come back soon.