We travel most of the year. When asked where I live I usually say California, the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains in a high desert valley that is also the deepest valley in North America. Between Death Valley and Yosemite. That description usually draws blank stares and at that point I say Bishop California about forty miles south of Mammoth, the more well known ski resort town. In actual fact, Bishop is Paula’s home and last year for the whole of 2007 I spent a minuscule 9 days there. Four days at Paula’s childhood home and five days at the Highlands RV Park living in our 36′ fifth wheel trailer.
As a helicopter pilot flying international contracts, my work takes Paula and I around the world. This time last year I was completing a contract in the dry heat of southern Nevada and planning to start the next assignment in the slightly cooler Mediterranean warmth of Athens, Greece. That was the plan. Plans change and a week later we were hauling our 5th wheel out of storage and trucking up the West Coast to Vancouver Island, Canada. Grab the winter bag and check the contents. An extra rain coat might be handy and rubber boots can replace the snow boots. Two bags for two seasons. Thats how it goes when you work around the globe.
We are currently working in sub tropical Belize. Summer bag country in a place where the locals wear T shirts and pants and the tourists wear T shirts and shorts. You have got to like a country where the dress code means that you have to be dressed in something and the multi millionaire and the vagabond sailor are often one in the same person.
We will be returning to Bishop, California in about a month or so, driving up the west coast of Mexico and hitting the Eastern Sierra Nevada in springtime. Its a winter bag/summer bag time of year and is one of the reasons I love the Owens Valley and the Sierra Nevada mountains.
I remember my first flying assignments into Bishop. It was early Spring then as well. I often picked up hydrographers in the foothills of the western Sierras and moved them into the mountains for snow and water surveys or across the Sierras to their offices on the east side.
We must have been a bizarre sight to non local flat-landers as we climbed into the helicopter on a warm 70 degree rainy day wearing our parkas and wind pants. Climbing out of the San Joaquin Valley for Bishop a mere 70 miles east we would ascend into pelting wet snow, heavy flurries and freezing buffeting winds as we crested Piute Pass descending into the lake country above Bishop and minutes later break out into the sun and heat above the desert floor of Bishop.
Snow that had accumulated on the helicopter would be sloughing off and a melt pool settled on the helipad as we idled down in the 76 degree heat. Total flight time 35 minutes.
Bishop in early Spring is a very diverse climate. Mornings are frosty clear, hurt your eyes blue skies, as you climb the steep grade east on Line street into the Sierras and all that snow. Ski, snow shoe, tobaggon, slide or hike. A few hours later its a quick twenty minute downhill drive, throw on some shorts and have lunch outside sipping iced tea at 70 degrees in the sun. After lunch a swim at Keoughs, in the Olympic size hot spring pool, while you watch snow dump in the 12,000′ mountains almost right above you. The Eastern Sierra rain shadow keeps you in the sun and warm as just a few wispy clouds, their moisture spent in the Sierras, drift across the valley towards the equally high White Mountains.
Evening comes quickly in such a deep valley and its back to jeans, jackets and logs on the fire. Temperatures can range more than 40 degrees on many Spring days in Bishop. A winter bag/summer bag/winter bag day.