South on 395 Through the Eastern Sierras: Part One

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Our journey through the Eastern Sierra Nevadas really started in Lake Tahoe, but connectivity has been sketchy, so we’re starting here now, with high hopes of being able to continue a series.

Here on the eastern side of the Sierras, it looks much like Nevada – a dry, near desert landscape with various mountain ranges surrounding the wide valleys that makes up the Great Basin.

Early morning on Golden Gate Rd., Walker, CA

At the moment, “here” is Lee Vining, California, the town closest to Mono Lake. “Then,” a couple of days ago, was Coleville/Walker, CA. I’ll just take this post to revisit our travels based out of there. We parked at the Meadowcliff KOA, right between Coleville and Walker, in beautiful Antelope Valley. The campground and motel have just recently joined the KOA gang, so you know what that means about the price. But the owners are taking great care of the place, doing much landscaping and rearranging. Everything is very clean and pleasant. It’s nestled at the foot of a massive cliff that provides much appreciated late afternoon shade, and catches the early morning light too.

It’s a sparsely populated area, devoted mostly to ranching and fishing on the Walker River, renown for its trout.  Both towns are kind of spread out through the valley, so you get very little sense of them being “towns,” but there are a few good solid restaurants to recommend. The one right at the Meadowcliff KOA is great for breakfast and lunch (try the cinnamon rolls), and the Mountain View BBQ is a friendly hangout that serves up some yummy BBQ, coleslaw and local Mammoth beer at dinner time. Say Hi to Jeff for us if you stop by. Also the Walker Burger is a classic. All three are very homey and seem to be run by people who care a lot about the quality of their establishments, food and service.

We were in Walker for a little over a week and made a bunch of day trips.  On the first morning I was up at dawn to explore the area. After checking out Mill Canyon and Golden Gate Roads in Walker, I ended up at the Topaz Lake Recreation Area where there is a campground, a boat launch and a few trails to hike.

Topaz Lake
One day we drove Monitor Pass/Rt. 89 from Topaz Lake over to Markleeville…