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Finding Gold in the Eastern Sierra - A Fall Guide to HWY 395

Updated: Oct 27, 2021

I.LOVE.FALL. Every damn thing about it. The leaves, the smells, the hashtags. #autumnvibes


I’m the first to order a PSL from Starbucks and my closet looks like it took a trip back to the 90s - overflowing with boots, flannels and Nirvana CDs. (Hello Angela Chase, it’s been a minute.) Yes, it’s fair to say that when it comes to this season I'm nothing short of basic.

A basic fall bitch in her natural environment.

As a Michigan transplant here in San Diego, I’m somewhat spoiled when it comes to that seasonal foliage. Sorry - Palm trees and 80-degree temps just don't scream October. 🤷


But all is not lost for people like me living in Southern California. There’s a magical place that is beautiful this time of year. In the mountains, along windy roads, there are trees of gold and one perfect route that will get you there.

HWY 395 - Is servin' up all the goods needed for that perfect fall road-trip.[Scenery with a side of weird] So throw on those ‘ugh’ boots bitches - we’re off to the Eastern Sierra!


Wait Wait Wait!

*Blows out Pumpkin Chai Candle*

Okay, let’s do this.

 

STOP 1:

INDIAN WELLS BREWING COMPANY - “The biggest little brewery in the world”

2565 California 14, Inyokern, CA, US

Just before you enter the Eastern Sierra Byway (South End) there's a stop sprinkled with a little Gold Rush history but mostly sugar.


Indian Wells Brewing Company is a microbrewery that uses pure artisan water from its own spring! It's also a bottling plant for the chain Rocket Fizz producing over 100 different sodas with a WIDE variety of flavors. Ever wondered what dirt tastes like? There's a soda for that.


LESTER'S FIXINS - THE REAL WTF WIN

How much do you love ranch? This bubbly concoction will test your true love for the popular dressing. Did I try it? Hell No. Did I buy it? You betcha.


Lester's other flavors include:

*Pumpkin Pie

*Peanut Butter & Jelly

*Buffalo Wing

*Bacon

*Sweet Corn




STOP 2:

GOLDEN CACTUS GHOST TOWN MUSEUM

10400 Sterling Rd, Olancha, CA 93527-3002

$4 will get you the most random tour of some guy’s brother’s junk collection. You will not find historical buildings here but aged shacks that have been half-assed to look like an old western town.

This house made of 'pop' cans that I'm pretty sure didn't exist in those mining days

Had my best friend Laura not joined me on this trip, I would have driven right past this place. Though the entrance resembled the innocent beginnings of a cheesy horror flick, I felt confident that no one would mess with two girls from Detroit.

It didn't take long for the regret to set in though. The silence of the desert mixed with the oddities of this property left me to my own imagination as I walked around it. This wasn't a Ghost Town in the old-timey sense...it was a Ghost Town because we weren't leaving here...alive. I became convinced that at any moment someone would jump out, a rusty old machete in hand (ooooh, antique?)....

"Please don't kill us" I would beg. "We haven't seen the fall colors yet!"

murder-y

Fast forward 15 minutes (that's as long as we could take) and we left the tour unscathed and still breathing. As we drove away I had to ask myself...was I being too dramatic? Yes. Waste of money? Probably, but I did have to give that guy a little cred. His goals of owning his own museum are alive and well and who am I to judge someone's dreams?


Conclusion:

I'm not saying you should stop here, but I'm not saying don't either.


STOP 3:

MAHOGONY SMOKED MEATS

2345 N Sierra Hwy, Bishop, CA 93514

Last stop before we hit the scenery. If you're doing some serious hiking, and you're not vegetarian, you know jerky is good pack food. This place has the best so stock it up! Their smoked cheeses are also good for you non-meat eating peeps.


My personal fave? The Habanero. If you're a spice wimp don't go near this one. It will set your mouth ablaze.





 


 

"There's gold in them thar hills!"

STOP 4:

CONVICT LAKE

Formerly known as Mt. Diablo Lake, Convict Lake was renamed in 1871 after a shootout ensued between a group of escaped convicts and a local posse lead by Sheriff Robert Morrison. Morrison was killed in the battle leaving the largest peak above the lake to be named in his honor. The lake is naturally formed with crystal clear waters creating a perfect backdrop for photographers.


 

The Colors of Mono County California


 

STOP 5:

THE VILLAGE LODGE AT MAMMOTH

1111 Forest Trail, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546

This is not even glamping, it's straight-up luxury. The property itself is gorgeous and if this alone didn't spoil me the free upgrade sure did. I'm never leaving. Look at this room!


Fireplace. Balcony. Towel Animals! The roughest part of this stay was jumping out of the hot tub in 20-degree weather. The Village is lined with cute shops and restaurants too. You can definitely channel those ski resort vibes while walking around the area.


Starting the day properly with a PSL

STOP 6:

JUNE LAKE LOOP: My Love

State Route 158 off HWY 395

We spent a day, I could have spent a week. This 15-mile drive is all that and then some. Stop at all 4 lakes within the loop, take lots of pics, and enjoy every minute of it.


STOP 7:

LATTE DA COFFEE CAFE

LEE VINING

Find yourself a bestie who's just as basic as you #fallbitches

Coffee/Picture/Pumpkin Break. Nothing to see here.


STOP 8:

MONO LAKE

Near the town of Lee Vining

OK, I'm a little salty about Mono Lake. I just don't get the hype.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't check it out for yourself though!


COOL FACTOR:

One of the oldest lakes in the western hemisphere.


UNCOOL FACTOR:

Alkali flies. Gross.


ATTRACTION:

The 'Tufa Towers'. What's a tufa? Some limestone rock formation thing (Earth science was never a strong point)


PHOTO TIP: This area looks cooler during magic hour so I'd suggest if you do visit with a camera, come when the sun is setting and not midday as I did...(twice).


STOP 9:

DEVILS POSTPILE NATIONAL MONUMENT

Devils Postpile Access Road, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546

I can't tell you all the details surrounding the formation of this beauty (cooling lava played a role) but what I can say is that it's worth the small hike to see in person.


TRAVEL TIP: Get here early! Parking lot fills up fast.


STOP 10:

ERICK SCHAT'S BAKKERY

763 N Main St, Bishop, CA 93514

HA! I know. Once you get past the immaturity you'll find yourself hopping on this tradition train. You just can't drive HWY 395 without grabbing a loaf of their famous sheepherder bread! At least I can't, and I always stop and grab one before heading home.


It's not the only thing in town that's Schat. (had to)

*Aaron Schat's Roadhouse - A BBQ joint also located on Main St. in Bishop

*Schat Communications - Wireless Internet Co.


STOP 11:

TWILIGHT ZONE FILMING LOCATION

Close to the town of Grant, CA

You can hear Rod Serling's voice just by looking at this place! The year is 1847. In the episode "A Hundred Yards Over The Rim", a wagon leader's son falls ill and he is tasked to go looking for supplies "over the rim". He instead finds himself in modern-day New Mexico in the year 1961.


There's not much surrounding the building so keep your eyes peeled as you get close to the town of Grant.

 

Before we say goodbye to this beautiful landscape there is one last thing I must mention.


If you're looking to trade in the hustle and bustle of the city for the peace and serenity of the mountains you might want to think twice about visiting in the fall as you will not be alone.


There are hundreds of us, flocking to the sounds of crunchy leaves and the smell of crisp fresh air while drinking that hot cup of *insert favorite fall beverage here*.


People like you. People like me. Because let's be real here, we all can be a little basic sometimes.


Happy Fall Y’all! 🍁

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