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Mules, mining and railroads built a reputation for Bishop, Calif.

Many RVers have never heard of Bishop, Calif., and may have never driven along California Hwy. 395. If you fit into this category then you have missed an interesting small town and a view of the eastern slope of the Sierras, plus the White Mountains to the east.

For those who like to RV into less crowded and sparsely occupied spaces in the great west, put Bishop on your list.

RVers and tourists, may see Bishop as a blip on the trip from Los Angeles to Mammoth Hot Springs or north to Lake Tahoe, both of which are fine destinations, as well. Those more knowledgeable, may stop briefly at Erick Schat’s Bakery in Bishop, which is almost always filled with customers.  www.erickschatsbakery.com

Fewer, more hardy souls, may have seen Bishop as a supply depot for their backpacking trip along the Pacific Crest Trail located on the ridges of the Sierras. RVers and campers may stock up on essentials before camping or RVing in one of the 90-plus campgrounds in the Inyo National Forest.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog I was totally unaware of Bishop and surrounding wonderlands until my youngest daughter, Tammy, became the senior engineer at Inyo, which is  headquartered in Bishop. Since then, thanks to her guidance, I have enjoyed some splendid hiking experiences on Inyo trails. Hundreds of miles of hiking trails and roadways weave through and among the awesome peaks of the Inyo National Forest.

Of some interest to RVers and tourists is the fact that US Hwy. 6 begins in Bishop and terminates in Massachusetts after extending eastward across the western and midwestern states. No, it is not as well known as Route 66, but it is longer and more scenic in many locations.

Gorden - Law's museum mule shoes

Mule Days

While talking with my dentist in Sun City, Ariz., I mentioned that I had been to Bishop recently. He exclaimed that he had bought his mule at Bishop during the annual Mule Days. He then described the festive event and rodeo that is held there on Memorial Day weekend.

Since 1969, Mule Days has been located at the fairgrounds and attract as many as 30,000 fans to view 14 shows featuring more than 700 mules. RVers are very welcome and music, parades, barbecues and dances complement this popular event. The next Mule Days, which takes place May 24 to 29, is now on my bucket list. www.muledays.org

Earlier, one of my blogs describe the hiking, camping and recreational opportunities in the Bishop area. Nearby are the Keough Hot Springs, which was built in 1919 and today boasts the largest natural hot spring pool in the eastern Sierras. Campsites are available at the hot springs.

Gorden - Brill Car

Laws Railroad Museum

Also of interest to many is the Laws Railroad museum and historical site. It is located a few miles east of Bishop on Hwy. 6 in Laws, Calif.. This museum has more than 45 exhibits including gold mining equipment, narrow gauge railroad engines and cars, historical buildings, school and antique farm equipment. The Brill car from Death Valley provides rides on selected days. There is ample space to park RVs in the museum parking lot directly across the street.

For those unfamiliar with the towns of Bishop and Laws, the name of Laws Railroad Museum may be confusing for two reasons. The museum is more than a railroad museum and actually is a historical museum site where many of the buildings and artifacts have been moved into the museum grounds from Bishop and the surrounding area. www.lawsmuseum.org

Secondly, the museum has nothing to do with the legal aspect of law, but rather is named for the town of Laws, a town that virtually died and only remnants remained after the railroad ceased to operate along Hwy. 6.

However, when people visit the museum, walk through the grounds, view the railroad engine, cars, many antiques and other artifacts, they have a sense of respect and admiration for the citizens who have helped develop and maintain this museum.

This is obviously a labor of love for and with fond memories of life in Inyo County more than 100 years ago.

Basically, components of the Carson and Colorado rail line operated from 1882 to 1960 as a narrow gauge line. An engine and freight cars from that era serve as a centerpiece for the museum. On either side are rows of buildings which functioned as commercial, public and private buildings and are now set up as they may have been in their prime time.

I really enjoyed strolling through the buildings around the farm, mining and railroading equipment. My problem is that so many of the items on display that are antiques to some visitors are very familiar to me and represent the tools and equipment that my family and I used every day as we worked our farm in northern Indiana when I was a young man.

The fee of $5 per person is well worth the meander down memory lane at the Laws Museum and Historical Site.

In summary, Bishop, Calif., in Inyo County and surrounding Inyo National Forest, have much to offer casual visitors, railroad and historical buffs or avid hikers and campers.

Manzanar National Monument

Before leaving the Bishop area, travel south of the city on Hwy. 395 to the Manzanar National Monument. This monument is dedicated to the thousands of Japanese American citizens who were imprisoned at this site during World War II simply because of their nationality.

Manzanar is a free site to view, with a small visitor center and several exhibits of what the camp/prison looked like during the 1940s until the end of World War II. www.nps.gov/manz

From the Manzanar National Monument, or from Bishop, you can continue the adventure by taking highways to the east and enter the Death Valley National Park from the west. www.nps.gov/deva

About Dr. Bob Gorden

Dr. Bob Gorden is an RVer, hiker and writer. He has a PhD in microbial ecology from the University of Georgia in Athens. He is a retired research scientist from the University of Illinois Natural History Survey. He has owned and operated more than 55 RVs of various types, and has visited every state, except Hawaii, in his RV. He also traveled by RV in New Zealand, Canada and Mexico. He currently owns and travels in a 1978 GMC 26-foot Class A and 2013 Thor ACE 30.1 Class A motorhome. He has a compelling desire to be “On the Road Again!”

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