I am laying on my bed at the Mt. Williams Motel, in beautiful downtown Independence, trying to send you an update on my trek, day 17, Sunday, April 27.
I decided to continue my trek today from Lone Pine and not travel back to Olancha and start there again. I gave it much consideration and it would have been going backwards, and the bad weather conditions that caused me to go to Lone Pine were just part of my adventure.
I forgot to mention that I actually had a big crises with the Wheelie a few days ago. One of only four bolts that holds it together worked it’s way loose and fell out. The only thing that kept it together was the basket I had attached on the bottom between the frame. The Wheelie is made in Holland and I wasn’t sure if I could get a replacement or even get it it time. Mindee sent an email to the company and they were going to send one out immediately. My friend Dave went on their web site and got the metric specifications and was able to find a similar one, and with some machine work, was able to replicate it so it would fit. Mindee brought it with her yesterday and it worked absolutely perfect. It saved my trek!
Mindee and I went to my now favorite restaurant in Lone Pine this morning. I had loaded the Wheelie and took it into the restaurant and placed it by our table. Two men came over and asked about the Wheelie. I told them where I started and was going. They were to photojournalist, one a retired school teacher, and were making a film documentary about the area which was titled, God, Guns, and Gold. It is going to be about the area and people. They asked if they could film me walking with the Wheelie and then had me sit on a bench in front of a store and interviewed me.
It was strange because a crowd had gather outside the restaurant and a bunch of people were asking me questions. Mindee went inside the store and overheard people talking about what we were doing and speculating that it might be some type of commercial. I think she overheard a beautiful young girl in her twenties say that she thought I was probably some handsome movie star from Hollywood. But her young friend then replied, well if he is a movie star, why is he wearing that straw hillbilly hat? Ok, forget that one, I made it up. But you never know in an area where they have filmed hundreds of movies, someone could think that? Anyway, all the other stuff did happen and someone did come out of the store and asked what we were doing.
So, I was the talk of the town, for two seconds anyway. But wait, there is more! I said my good byes and walked by the store where the owner had offered me a ride back to Olancha. I wanted to thank him again and but he was not there. The young man working there said, “oh, you are the guy pulling that cart thing” I asked if he boss had told him about it? He said no, but everyone in town is talking about it. Somebody said that you are a super physically fit guy and started back East. Somebody said that you are planning to pull that up Mount Whitney. He said rumors were flying all over town about what I was doing. Apparently he also works at the Mt. Whitney Restaurant and hear the rumors there. Wow, I was cracking up! Is that small town America, or something out of a movie?
I had hoped to start my trek early and by the time all this all happened, I did not get started until 10:30. I finally hit the road and the day started nice with the temp in the 70s. The day of rest and not walking had helped my feet heal. Mindee brought me some thicker mole skin and I also warped it with the usual duct tape. My feet haven’t felt this good in weeks. I was amazed that I didn’t have any pain in the heel at all today.
Most of the road was fairly level, with a few uphill slopes but most gradual. Traffic was a little heavy because it was opening of fishing season this weekend, and the ski areas of Mammoth and June Lake got lots of snow, and because the Manzanar Historic Site was having some type of remembrance celebration this weekend.
When I passed Manzanar I saw the remains of an old rock foundation and it brought up special memories of my youth. Manzanar was an interment camp for thousands of people of Japanese decent during World War II. After the war the buildings were removed but some of these foundations were left standing. When I was little, I think around 1958, our family drove up 395 to the Independence area. We didn’t have much money and our vacations would be car trips. We had only emigrated to America the year before and going anywhere was exciting. I remember being in awe of the mountains and desert and it was probably what started my love for this area. I remember it was getting late and because we had no money for a hotel, my parents and two uncles decided to sleep in the car. As it turned out, the place they pick to sleep was within the rock foundation at Manzanar. As a kid it was pretty exciting sleeping in a car and watching the campfire that my uncle started. I still have an old photo of that night with all of us around the campfire next to the foundation.
I don’t think the family knew where they were, but the interesting thing is that my mother, father, and uncle had been held in a Japanese concentration camp in Indonesia for almost three years during the war. My mother would always tell me later that the Japanese here had it easy compared to the brutality that they experienced and witnesses in Indonesia.
Further down the road I saw a beautiful little creek that I had never noticed before. It crossed under 395 and had clear running water and a sandy and gravel bottom. It was picture perfect and I squeezed between the fence and walked down to look at it. I wasn’t there more than ten minutes when a Fish & Game Warden showed up. He just asked if I was fishing since it was opening season. I chatted with him a while and he pointed out some nice spots to fish. It’s nice to know those little secret fishing spots.
Just before I made it to Independence, Christa, the CHP officer stop by to check on me. Even the Fish & Game Warden said he’d be looking out for me since his whole area was all the way to Bishop. It was nice to know that she and the other officers were watching over me.
I made it to Independence fairly early and checked into the Mt. Williams Motel with the help of Mindee, and my son Colin, who had Googled motels in Independence. As it turns out this is one of the motels that many outdoor enthusiasts stay at, especially the rock and mountain climbers because of its location near Mt. Whitney and Williams. The owner made the mistake of telling me there was a guy from New Zealand, Erik, who was staying there who had just skied and hiked down the mountain. I had to go say hello. Very interesting man. He is an extreme skier/mountain climber. He had special hiking boot that were designed by him that could attach to skis. He had backpacking gear and had planned to backpack and ski from Mt. Whitney to Mammoth Mountain in about two weeks. He ran into the same bad weather as me and had nights at that he estimates were at -30 degrees with the wind chill.
I found myself talking to him until late at night and headed to the Still Life Cafe, the only real restaurant open, other than Subway. Apparently it’s run by a quirky French married couple and their hours change routinely. It opened at six and I got there about 7:30. It was really a nice place with paintings and posters on the wall and jazz music. I said to myself, I am going to enjoy this. There was one other couple eating there. The owner and waiter was like an old French guy out of the movies (there goes my movie analogies again). White apron and slow moving and talking. Great menu, from hand made burgers to very fancy specials. Wine list and everything. I ordered a drink and my dinner. I was sitting there sipping my drink when the owner walked over and locked the door just as two other customers walked up to the door. I heard him say they were closed but it was only 8:00. I told him that him that I must have been lucky to be the last customer, to which he replied, “enjoy your drink, you might not get dinner.” What?!
A good twenty minutes went by and the couple that was eating there left. He then came over and said he was sorry but there were some woman problems and the kitchen was closed, and there would be no dinner. If I was at home I probably would have been very unhappy, but I laughed to myself and said this is just another adventure in my trek. He then came over and sat at the table and started telling me about his wife of twenty plus years and how much trouble she is, and her daughter, and etc., etc. I did not quite get everything he was saying but I was just cracking up to myself thinking of some weird movie scene where a French waiter, with a white apron on, is sitting there telling me his wows, and I am starved.
Just then Erik walked up to the door and the owner walked over and told him they were closed. I acknowledge Erik, so the owner let him in. The owner said it was fine if we stayed there and he told Erik he could have a drink but no food. We ended up sitting there until 9:20 just chatting until we realized how late it was. As we left the owner told me to come back and bring my wife and hopefully things would be better, that is if everything was ok with that woman.
The Subway was directly across the street but was closed by then and we walked over to the mini-market and I got a banana and an apple for my dinner. Not much for energy food after a long days walk but I surely wasn’t going to break out my stove and cook in the room at ten at night. Now it’s late at night, well past my bed time, and my brain might be too drained to finish this update tonight.
It was a funny how my day started and ended too. I guess that’s what has made this such an adventure for me, everyday something weird or funny happens, and that’s what this trek has been all about. I have just been trying to remind myself to roll with it and take it as it come.
Hope to update you tomorrow.
Best wishes to all, and please keep sending me your good thoughts, blessings, and prayers,