July 3, 2003

By Michael Strickland

Onion Valley

When I first heard of Onion Valley, and was told it was found somewhere off Highway 395, I didn't have high expectations. I'd never heard of the place, and its name implied some flat, agricultural monotony like the San Joaquin Valley. Furthermore, its location near the 395 reinforced an impression of arid wasteland. Having driven to Mammoth Mountain countless times up the 395, I've spent many hours traveling through the desert of Owens Valley. In short, I expected to spend the Fourth of July weekend camping in some dry chaparral, the only water that which we brought with us.

I couldn't have been more wrong. Driving up a mountain road from Independence, California, a homely town in the middle of Owens Valley, we found ourselves in the middle of an idyllic alpine valley at the end of the road. Onion Valley Campground sits at 9,200 feet, where a trail leads up the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada range to Kearsarge Pass, the eastern entrance to Kings Canyon National Park. From Onion Valley, pine-covered slopes rise to jagged peaks, down which cataracts of snowmelt pour in cascading splendor.

Though we didn't hike all the way to Kearsarge Pass, we ascended well over 10,000 feet, past several alpine lakes and into the John Muir Wilderness. In one of the lakes, Gilbert Lake, scores of golden trout continually leapt from the water, undoubtedly feasting on insects buzzing the surface of the lake. Patches of snow still speckled the craggy peaks, feeding the lakes a continuous supply of ice-cold water.

Though the temperatures were quite mild, I couldn't resist a dip in the rapid flow of one of the streams we encountered. I hollered uncontrollably when the icy water covered me, but I emerged into the warm sunshine quite refreshed.

I did not see a single legume growing in Onion Valley, and the landscape couldn't have been any more different than the arid desert I expected. Truly, the place shattered all expectations, and made me wonder why I haven't spent more time exploring the Sierra Nevada.

Photo credits: Lory Perfect


©2003 Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

What is "The Daily Strick"?

I have long called myself a writer, but too often I don't do what a writer must do daily: write. So you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my resolution to make a positive change in at least one area of my life. Every single day of this new year (almost), I will write something, anything, and post it here. It is my intention to use this daily exercise to jump-start my too-long-dormant creative energies, and perhaps generate some worthwhile material this year. Hopefully you will find at least an occasional amusement or insight in my daily musings.

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July Columns:

7/21: Hiatus
7/17: Death Ship
7/16: The Da Vinci Code
7/15: Bad Moon Rising
7/14: Adios, Compay
7/13: Ty Odeh
7/10: Muse
7/6: Memories
7/4: On the Road Again
7/3: Onion Valley
7/2: Happy Independence Day
Previous months in The Archive

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