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Summer 2021, Eastern Sierras

Updated: Sep 25, 2021

Crisp, clear air and rushing water races in a heated landscape.

Amazing colours in these desert areas, both subtle and intense. The air is perfumed with the heady fragrance of sage and Pinon Pines.

It had been more than five years since my last trip to California and was a big relief to be able to make the rounds and see and reconnect with my loved ones.

I arrived at the end of May in Santa Monica which is always temperate and not so different to NZ temperatures at that time of year. Living on my boat or in rural areas of New Zealand, I was unused to the crush of humanity and busy bustle of LA and its unending sprawl. Fortunately my sister bought a house in the Eastern Sierras earlier in the year and we were able to escape to Bishop, California for some breathing room.

Bishop, CA as seen from the Druids, the green area is just a tiny fraction of what it was before the LA water board bought up the water rights
Convict lake

New Zealand is a humid place so the altitude and dryness of the Eastern Sierras came as a bit of a shock. Bishop, at 1265m, is extremely dry and when I arrived we entered into an extreme heat wave, unusual for the time of year. Rather than cowering inside with the swamp cooler running full bore, we would go up into the mountains for walks to escape the main heat of the day. It took me a full month to acclimatise to the dryness and heat but I can't say I ever really got used to 105°F.

View from the highway between Bishop and Mammoth

Bishop itself is a small town with an old-time western feel. I felt immediately at home and was made welcome by the friendly inhabitants everywhere I went. One can easily make do with the lack of access to big shopping in order to live in such a nice community. It felt like the California of my childhood—long since disappeared from todays Southern California. The surrounding mountains and deserts with easy access to outdoor pursuits makes it especially attractive to active people and nature lovers.

A minuscule Tiger lily, see hand for scale. I didn't pick it but someone went around that water race with a weed eater... too sad

My hiking boots literally disintegrated on my feet about a mile into the hike. Only the laces and insoles salvageable. They were 30yrs old. Fortunately I had spare shoes in the car and we go to enjoy a nice hike at Lake Sabrina (oddly pronounced Sa-bry-na) afterall

Even orchids grow in the 'desert'
Blackberry jam

Elizabeth discovered a large area of brambles (blackberries) growing along one of the numerous water races on one of our usual walking routes, the berries were just ripening. We managed to pick about 3kg of berries and I made several jars of jam. Continuing on the homesteading theme... Sabrina the neighbour provided many litres of delicious goat milk from her small herd of pygmy Nigerian goats, an extremely creamy and rich milk. I made halloumi, ricotta and cream cheese - it was delicious.

Some of the mob relaxing in the shade

I had intended to do a lot of sourdough baking but it heated the house up too much so I opted for sourdough English muffins, from Chad Robertson's book Tartine - a must for anyone wanting to learn to make sourdough. The muffins are cooked in a frying pan in either clarified butter or coconut oil (vegan) and freeze well.

You'll never go back to store bought once you have tasted these
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