Why Convict Lake? So there I was, thinking about my dad and a road trip we went on back in 2004. We had driven from Southern California all the way to the land of his birth: a small town named Argyle, MN. I realized that it had been eight years since our road trip. I did hike to Monument Peak with him in 2009, but even that was too long ago.
So I emailed him a list of places I thought he might like to go. Some destinations on that list included Mexico, Hawaii, British Columbia, Montana, and Colorado. He chose Convict Lake Resort, a sleepy set of cabins tucked into the Eastern Sierra Nevada, just off the 395, but a world away from everyday living. It had everything he wanted: amazing scenery, cabins, horseback riding, boating, hiking, and great food. Those were the same reasons it was on my list, too. So I called the resort up and booked it. We were pumped.
Before we left, we were unclear which car we would drive, my Tiguan or his tiny Z3. We had ridden in the Z3 for the 5,000-mile road trip in 2004 and, to be honest, it’s a little smallish on the inside. When my dad arrived in his car and started fixing his GPS, I knew immediately he wanted to drive the Z3. That was fine, although I was really looking forward to it, too, this trip was truly for him.
We got everything sorted out and loaded into the tiny trunk and headed off. The weather was beautiful as we headed north out of the Santa Barbara area. We stopped for a bit in the Red Rock Canyon State Park. It was beautiful and hot. We chatted with a ranger about the battle to keep the California State Parks open and he gestured around him, “How do you close 27,000 acres of desert? You might as well just keep it open.” I’ve also heard the argument that it would be more expensive to keep some of the parks closed than it would be to at least keep a skeleton crew and still charge admission. I would definitely like to come back and visit Red Rock Canyon.
In Lone Pine, I asked my father to pull over at the Visitor Center. I cannot resist taking a picture of Mount Whitney from the 395. It is a special place for me.
We continued north and the Sierra Nevada rose up to our left. We started to get hungry, so we aimed for the Paiute Palace Casino in Bishop. Papa wanted to do some gambling and we figured that we could also eat there. He had a great chili size and I had a great sandwich called the White Mountain, in honor of a peak that I wouldn’t be able to summit on this trip. It was easily the best rye bread that I’ve ever had. I bet they got it from Schat’s Bakery down the road.
Before long, we were on our way to the Convict Lake Resort. We checked in at the general store and picked up plenty of groceries for the coming days. We drove around the lake and immediately saw a deer in the brush. We stopped to take pictures, not knowing that we’d be seeing deer all over the place for the remainder of the trip.
We had a wonderful dinner at the Convict Lake Resort Restaurant. We weren’t roughing it at all. I had veal scallopini marsala and a leek, jalapeño, and pepper bisque that was incredible. Seriously, it was fine dining without the posturing.
The next morning, we rented a boat, and spent the first part of the day drinking some beer and enjoying the quiet lake, the surrounding mountains, and each other’s company. We headed into Mammoth Lakes for lunch and drove to Devil’s Postpile National Monument and hiked to the Postpile itself. It was so close to Mammoth Lakes, I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t been there before.
The next morning, we went horseback riding and I ended up being able to wave to Calipidder from atop my horse. We had tried to meet somewhere, but the timing just wasn’t right. We rode around to the far side of the lake and stopped to enjoy the view from that side.
A scary moment happened on the ride when my horse went down and I had to leap off its back to land on a boulder. [over a month later, and I am still bruised on my leg from something.] It all happened so fast, I am surprised my reaction time was sufficient to feel it falling and bail out. I guess I’ve read enough Westerns to know the perils of being trapped under a fallen horse.The horse was fine and probably got a few days off from carrying people.
That night we got some pizza at the Lounge and enjoyed some wine and played Rummy. We did a lot of other things during our time there, like chatting, snacking, napping, and reading.
Overall, it was quality time with my father, without a full agenda. We played it by ear and had a great time. We watched the sunset over the sierras and shared the area with many families of deer. The smell of pines and chaparral and the sound of water lapping on the shores of the lake were part of our shared experience. We couldn’t really ask for anything more.