Some hikers swear there are no more beautiful trails than in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Others will tell you that you haven’t seen alpine beauty until you have traipsed through the Alps. But I have to side with John Muir. For my taste, the dramatic peaks surrounding jewel-like lakes and the glimpses of Owens Valley shimmering in the desert, thousands of feet below, satisfy my wanderlust like nothing else.
We docked the Wanderlust in a sheltered campsite in the tiny Willows campground, at just over 8,000′ above sea level. The Owens Valley below was a toasty 100 degrees, but here, nestled beside a clear, fast-flowing stream it was comfortable in the seventies or low eighties. After the six-hour ride in the back of the SUV, the dogs were ready for some activity and immediately plunged into the stream, quite unaware of how deep and strong the flow was. Neither of them are aware of the fact that they can swim and were alarmed when they were swept off their feet and carried downstream a bit. Molly quickly found her way to a place where she could haul herself out but Sadie was more panicked and floundered at the steep bank. I quickly called to her from an easier exit and she made her way to the safety of the grassy bank, shaking the cold water from her coat.
Sally and Rhonda had arrived ahead of me, having made better time not being restrained by the 55 mph speed limit imposed on vehicles towing trailers. The campsites in Willows are available on a first-come-first-served basis so, I was relieved to find they had claimed a beautiful, level site for me, directly across from their own. Their campsite was in the trees, near the stream, and was much buggier than mine, which offered a light breeze and a view of the craggy peaks above. Also, being more open, my site afforded a better view of the Milky Way when the moon finally set.
We made a pit stop at the Manzanar National Historic Site.
I had visited the site about 35 years ago when there wasn’t much left of the camp; but now, it’s been turned into an historical site complete with visitor center, replica barracks, latrine, and canteen.