Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Highway 395

This post will be broken down into a few parts since we did and saw so much on our New Year's road trip up and down the 395. The quick rundown would be first our stay at The Hostel California, then walking on a frozen Convict Lake, soaking in Wild Willy's Hot Springs, camping on the outskirts of Bishop, Hot Creek Geological Site, Mono Lake, sledding and staying at a bed & breakfast in Mammoth, and finally our drive home, all done in 4 days. 

The hostel where we brought in NYE
 Loved the decor
The door to our dorm room with 12 beds
 Angelo, the host of the hostel, who made the best pizza ever!
Angelo's pizza (this one had potato, teriyaki chicken, onions, & bell peppers)
So I somehow talked Tizzy and Sergio into booking a hostel for NYE. For me, I have always had great experiences at hostels, mostly though in Europe. So when I saw that there was a hostel in the city of Bishop (with great reviews!), I was not hesitant in booking the place for a night. 

Before heading out to Bishop for NYE, Tizzy had asked a Mammoth local about Bishop, and they advised Bishop is busy during the summer months because of hiking and climbing but not so much during the winter. I didn't really know what to expect, but I knew it was going to be a different kind of NYE celebration this year. So when we got there, the town was pretty dead, but the hostel was bustling with people. The hostel host, Angelo, checked us in (we all had reserved a bed online prior $30/per person), he gave us clean sheets and towels, and showed us around. Once we settled in, we went downstairs to mingle with others. It seems the hostel was booked full for the night. There were all different kinds of people here, mostly a crowd between the age of 20-30 year olds, give or take, and most are climbers. Definitely a friendly bunch! We brought in the New Year with everyone in the kitchen, drank champagne and ate homemade pizza by Angelo (he's Italian and it was probably the best homemade pizza I've ever had!), set off some sparklers & a firework, and just enjoyed everyone's company. This year's NYE was different in a good way!

If you don't mind staying in a dorm style room with a shared bathroom, give this hostel a try, it's a good time:) The next morning we woke up and hit the road for Convict Lake and Wild Willy's Hot Springs....

 Had to take some pics in front of the mountains real quick
 Do you spot a jumping Tizzy?
 Us on a frozen Convict Lake
 Convict Lake
Best friends
That green church
 Welcome to Wild Willy's Hot Springs
 The walkway to the springs
 One of two hot spring tubs
Temps were around 95-100 degrees 

Convict Lake & Wild Willy's Hot Springs
First we got directions for the hot springs from Angelo, the hostel host, and then we hit the road for Wild Willy's Hot Springs. On our way up the 395, we first spotted a sign for Convict Lake, so we decided to head there first. No hiking required to get to the lake, just an easy 2 mile drive off the 395. Both Tizzy and I had seen pictures of Convict Lake prior, but it was a totally different experience when we got there. All the pictures we've seen, the lake wasn't frozen. The day we went, the lake was frozen over. We saw a local putting on skates, and since it looked safe to walk on, Serg, Tizzy, and I, all walked out to the middle of the lake. It was pretty awesome! We walked and slid around for a while, just enjoying being out in nature, then we headed back to the car to go find Wild Willy's Hot Springs.

If you ask anyone who's been to Wild Willy's or the hot springs nearby Mammoth, I feel like they might not actually know that it's called Wild Willy's or Crowley Hot Springs, they will just tell you to turn at the green church, go past 2 cattle guard gates, turn right down a dirt road, go for 2 miles and then you will find the parking lot, and you're there! Well, it's pretty much just that. We didn't have too much trouble finding it, just make sure you're counting the cattle guard gates! And if you are looking for a street name the green church is on, it's Benton Crossing Rd.

The hot springs were really cool! There were a lot of people there when we got there, but everyone was really friendly. We ended up chatting up a group of snowboarders who were in town from Santa Barbara. After we were done soaking, we got out, wrapped ourselves in towels, stripped off our bathing suits and walked to the car. Well the short 5 minute walk to the car caused our wet suits to freeze while walking! Yes, it was that cold out. Definitely a fun experience though! I would say temps of the hot springs were around 95-100 degrees. And then onto our second night in the Sierras, camping....

Our campsite 
What to do when you don't have a 4 season tent.... bring a lot of blankets!
Our view the next morning from our tent

Pleasant Valley Campground (6 miles north of Bishop)
The second night of our road trip we decided to camp. Who came up with the brilliant idea of camping in almost 10 degree weather? Oh, that would be me..... Ok, I have to admit, some of my ideas are not always the greatest lol. I originally wanted to camp in snow, but then I realized at the hot springs it was already freezing in the middle of the day, when night fell, it be worse, hence why we drove back towards Bishop to camp, because it wasn't as cold as Mammoth. I mean, it probably didn't make a huge temperature difference, but at least our tent wasn't set up on top of packed snow:) (Btw, Tizzy never thought camping was a good idea, I should've probably listened to her this time lol) But either way, the three of us survived a night of camping, and it dropped to 12 degrees.

 Hot Creek Geological Site
 Not swimmable 
 Oh the places I take my car and the dirt roads I go on....
 Not a soul in sight
 Mono Lake
 Give me a sexy pose Serg!

Hot Creek Geological Site & Mono Lake
After a night of camping, the following morning we headed north on the 395 to go find Hot Creek Geological Site. We didn't realize it was so close to the hot springs or we would have went the day before, but I guess it was meant to be because there was a light sprinkling of snow that morning which made everything look more magical. To get to Hot Creek we had to take 6 miles of graded dirt road.... my poor car! Definitely not meant for this kind of terrain, but the Mazda took it like a champ. Once there though, Hot Creek is a magnificent sight and it's on the way to Mammoth, so it's totally worth a stop.

Next on our to do list was Mono Lake. You have to past Mammoth to get to Mono Lake, I actually thought it would be closer but it was a good 30-45 minute drive further up the 395. This lake was also worth the stop. The build up of tufa is really cool.

 The M Inn Mammoth 
 She might be in jeans...
Trek back to the B&B

Mammoth Lakes
On our 3rd night of the road trip we finally made it into Mammoth. I booked us a room off Airbnb, The M Inn Mammoth, a B&B and it turned out to be super cute. We enjoyed some sledding nearby, walked to a Mexican restaurant nearby for dinner, and called it a night. The following morning we had a long drive home.

But of course we had to make a few stops on our drive home....

 That Lemon House off the 395
The best floats we have ever had! 

The Lemon House & the ghost town Ransdburg
On our drive home, while Tizzy slept in the back and Serg and I split the drive since, Tizzy had to work that night, we made a few memorable stops. First the Lemon House in Cartago, CA. I don't know what's inside of it, but it's cool looking so I made us stop lol. Next was the town of Randsburg. I read somewhere that there was a general store in this town that still had a working old school soda fountain that used phosphate to make their sodas, so of course we had to go look for it! Serg and Tizzy did give me weird looks when we pulled into this town (population: 30, I asked a local). But it was so worth the stop and they loved the floats just as much as I did!

I didn't realize this was going to be my last major adventure in California when I first started planning it, but then I found out I got a job offer in Seattle, and I am so happy we decided on this NYE adventure. I am going to miss California a ton, and all the people I am leaving behind, but I must start the next chapter in my life....

Until next time, 395!


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