Lone Pine, CA
Looking to the west from our RV park you can see Horseshoe Meadows Road going steeply up the side of a mountain in a series of long switchbacks. Many times during our stay here we have said that we needed to drive up that road at least once to check out the view and drive through the campground located up at the top.
As we drove through the desert on Horseshoe Meadows Road on the way back from our hike to the Ashram, Dave suggested we go up and explore the road (Sue was hoping we would drive this road without her since she isn’t a fan of narrow roads with long drop offs.). It was only mid-afternoon and the sky was clear so up we went! It wasn’t long before we could look back at Horseshoe Meadows Road as it made its way across flat desert from the Alabama Hills towards us.
The views as we gained elevation were breathtaking. With the clear, sunny sky we could see for miles to the north and south through the Owens Valley. The Horseshoe Meadow Road is an incredible engineering feat that was constructed for a proposed Disney ski area. When the Wilderness Act was passed in 1964 the ski area concept was abandoned.
Below us we could see the huge area of Owens Lake. Owens Lake held significant water until 1913 when much of the Owens River was diverted into the Los Angeles Aqueduct, causing Owens Lake to become dry by 1926. Today, some of the flow of the river has been restored and the lake now contains some water. But most of the lake bed is dry and, as of 2013, it is the largest single source of dust pollution in the United States.
Close to the top is a memorial plaque dedicated to Walter Millet who was an employee of the contractor on the first phase of construction of the road. His job was to fuel the pioneering equipment (bulldozers, air compressors, etc.). Walt was reported to be a very personable and friendly guy and perhaps the favorite of all the men on the project. One day, at about 9,000 feet of elevation, he stepped down off a bulldozer and fell to the ground, dead of a heart attack. The spot is now a famous take off spot for hang gliders and forest service helicopters.
After a drive of fifteen miles and a six thousand foot gain in elevation the road ends at Horseshoe Meadow, a vast meadow 10,000 feet up into the mountains surrounded by lodgepole pine forest. Three campgrounds are located in the Horseshoe Meadow Area. Many of the trees in the meadow look amazing.
There are a number of hiking trails that begin near the campgrounds. But the trails are very long and our time here is short, so we decided to save them for another visit.