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These are the results of one week spent through California parks and desert, from LA to SF, driving North on Highway 395.
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Going North on Highway 395
One week through parks and desert, between LA and SF.
During late summer 2008, I spent a week driving alone through California parks and desert, from Los Angeles to San Francisco, stopping only to sleep in motels and take photos during the day. I drove more than a thousand miles this very week, looking at landscapes so beautiful and diverse I had to struggle with the urge to stop every ten minutes.
Here is what I saw.
I have left Los Angeles to spend the weekend in Santa Barbara. I do not know yet the precise list of places I will hit during that week, though I roughly estimated how far I have to drive each day. A thousand miles in a week; arrival in San Francisco. First stage: Lake Isabella, for which I have to go to Bakersfield first, hence driving through Los Padres National Forest.
The first peak. Now I understand what that guy meant when he told me this trip is as beautiful as PCH. I have never seen such landscapes before my eyes. And the rest is yet to come.
Even on the wider roads, the traffic is almost inexistant. I do not feel alone though, I cannot keep my eyes off the distant mountains, the trees, the river. I have driven past Bakersfield and heading to Lake Isabella.
This is Kern Canyon Road on the way to Lake Isabella. I just passed a flock of Harley Davidson. Behind that rocky hill is the lake around which I should find a motel to welcome me for the night.
Lake Isabella. The sun will probably set in less than an hour. Meanwhile, this guy is quietly fishing on the lake.
The sun is about to set. I have hurried myself back into the car to drive past the mountains surrounding the lake to get this shot.
It is almost night time. The light breeze has cooled the ambient temperature by several degrees. I am heading back to the motel to spend the night.
Day two. Not so early in the morning, I hit back the road.
Driving around the lake and past it, I drive past this little town with watered lawns, basketball courts, and this strange house atop the hill.
The Kern river I have been following since yesterday's afternoon.
The road is now climbing up again, into Sequoia National Forest.
The highest peak I will drive through. Nine thousands feet, outside temperature of 65° F and lots of sequoias, pine trees... The car made it gently to the top and the reward is worth it: I do not remember being able to see so far away.
The giant sequoias. A plaque by the trees explains they are not the widest here (that's National Sequoia Park) but the tallest. Indeed.
Exiting the forest, here is what I stumble upon. Desert, and a long curvy road down to the 395 running below. The scenery change is drastic. Every half mile or so, the temperature meter goes up a unit.
Now driving on the 395. Now the temperature is 95° F, though I cannot resist to go in and out of the car to take shots of the surroundings.
The sun has started to set; I am still heading north and I have to stop in Lone Pine for cookies and juice before the night.
That's Owens Lake I am driving past, not knowing when I will make it to Mammoth Lakes.
The next day. I spend almost three hours walking around Mono Lake and the tufas. I overslept this morning and tried to go for a hike in Mammoth Lakes first; switching the car for a tour bus proved inefficient so I finally decided not to.
It is late afternoon now and the heat adds a salty scent to the shore: it smells like I am on a fishing boat in open ocean, and the heavily salty water is so quiet it looks like a mirror.