Having driven through Owens Valley on this trip we know it’s at the northern end of the valley.
And we know that the Sierra Nevada range is west while the White Mountains lie east of town.
Rock climbers gravitate to Bishop for the over 2,000 volcanic tuff and granite challenges.
Wikipedia fills in the main hiking and climbing attractions.
“Numerous peaks are within a short distance of Bishop, including Mount Humphreys (13,986 ft.), to the west, White Mountain Peak (14,242 ft.) in the northeast, and pyramidal Mount Tom (13,658 ft.) northwest of town.
Basin Mountain (13,187 ft.) is viewed to the west from Bishop as it rises above the Buttermilks.”
Bishop promotes itself “The Gateway to Eastern Sierras” and as the “Mule Capital of the World.”
For almost half a century Bishop Mule Days celebrate the contributions that pack mules made to settling the area every week leading up to Memorial Day.
“More than 700 mules compete in 181 events and the largest non-motorized parade in the United States.”
But, mules aren’t the only draw.
Tourists come for an arts and crafts show and a country and western concert.
And maybe, Bishop should celebrate cattle too.
First of all, the town’s named after a creek that’s named after Samuel Addison Bishop.
Was Sam the first to inhabit the northern Owens Valley location?
Here’s how Wikipedia sheds light on Bishop’s Native American heritage.
“The Bishop Paiute Tribe, formerly known as the Paiute-Shoshone Indians of the Bishop Community of the Bishop Colony is a federally recognized tribe of Mono and TimbishaIndians of the Owens Valley, in Inyo County of eastern California.”
As of the 2010 Census the population was 1,588.
More recently, the tribe counts 2000 enrolled tribal members making it the fifth largest in California.
Five elected members govern via a tribal council.
“The tribe has its own tribal court and many programs for its members.
For economic development, the Bishop Community created the Paiute Palace Casino and Tu-Kah Novie restaurant in Bishop.”
In the winter of 2013 the Los Angeles Times reported that stolen petroglyphs were recovered.
“Thieves stole from an Eastern Sierra site sacred to Native Americans about 15 miles north of Bishop.
Vandals used ladders, chisels and power saws connected to electric generators to remove the panels from cliffs know as the volcanic tableland.”
The sheered slabs measured 15 feet above ground and many were two feet high and wide.
“Native Americans had carved hundreds of lava boulders and cliffs with spiritual renderings: concentric circles, deer, rattlesnakes, bighorn sheep and hunters with bows and arrows”.
Covered by the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, the site supports sacred ceremonies local Paiute Native Americans, so …
“they are priceless to Native Americans, who regard the massive tableaux as a window into the souls of their ancestors.”
Who were the first non-Native Americans to roam the northern end of Owens Valley?
The Bishop visitor center named Kit Carson, Ed Kern and Richard Owens, as well as, Samuel Bishop as early explorers and settlers arriving in the middle 1800s.
Kit Carson had become a celebrated “Indian fighter” by then.
Carson, Kern and Owens mapped the Eastern Sierra territory.
Kern County and Owens Lake and Valley drew their names from Ed and Richard.
But, what about the core founding story of Bishop?
Bishop came into being due to the need for beef in a booming mining camp some eighty miles to the north, Aurora, Nevada, (Aurora was believed to be on the California side of the border at that time and was the county seat of Mono County, California).
“In 1861 cattlemen drove herds of cattle some three hundred miles from the great San Joaquin Valley of California, through the southern Sierra at Walker Pass, up the Owens Valley, and then through Adobe Meadows to Aurora.”
When Bishop and his wife, and a few trail hands drove 600 cattle and 50 horses on that long journey from Fort Tejon in the Tehachapi Mountains into the valley they experience an epiphany.
Why not just settle there instead, raise the cattle and sell their beef to the miners and businesses selling to miners in Aurora?
The McGee brothers joined them as the first white settlers in the valley.
“Remnants of these early settler’s stone corrals and fences can still be seen north of Bishop along Highway 395 in Round Valley (barbed wire fencing was not invented until 1873).”
Enough of that.
What about present day?
What happened to the lifestyle that took flight?
The one BOF lifestyle to say goodbye to Bishop, said hello to three Colorado and three California mountain resort towns.
The 11Y1T1 30-44, Midlife Couples, ditched Bishop’s Wireless Resort, Maturing Resort community and possibly migrated to:
Mammoth Lakes, California
Tahoe City – Sunnyside, California
Telluride, Colorado or
Frisco – Copper Mountain, Colorado.
So keeping things local, let’s now turn to Mammoth.
20) Pivot. Maybe the lists of best places don’t appeal to you. Where can you go to make a fresh, new start? Don’t limit your imagination. Think anywhere — across the globe. Where do you really, really want to live, work and play? Why not live where it’s a vacation all year round?
26) If you know the zip code you can discover the lifestyles living in the community. You can compare your profile with theirs to estimate your degree of fit.
27) Estimate how well suited you are for the resorts. Refer to “Profiles-at-a-Glance” comparing 2008-2009 and 2013-2014 for changes in Life Stages – Singles, Couples, Families, Midlife, Empty Nests, Baby Boomers and Seniors; Ages – 20-29, 25-54, 30-44, 45+ 45-65, 55+ and 65+; and mix of Lifestyles in neighborhoods. Does the resort still offer the age, life stage and lifestyle profiles you prefer?
28) Which lifestyles profiled in the western resort towns during 2008 – 2009 remained five years later in 2013-2014? Which disappeared entirely? Why? Which new lifestyles emerged, grew or moved in to shift the neighborhood mix? Have longtime locals been forced out by escalating property valuations and sky high property taxes?
An excerpt from Book Five in “The Knowledge Path Series” dedicated to helping you find the place of your dreams in the Sierra Mountain resorts.
Round fire in Sierra Nevada destroyed 40 homes and structures and 250 residents from Small Meadows and Paradise were evacuated.
Worse did come to worst… 5 years later.
For the vast majority of Swall Meadows residents in the winter of 2015.
Two lines in Wikipedia summed up the devastation succinctly.
On February 6, 2015, Swall Meadows and the neighboring community of Paradise were ravaged by the Round Fire, which burned 7,000 acres.
The fire destroyed 40 homes: 39 homes in Swall Meadows and 1 home in Paradise.
Word got out.
Variations of the Associated Press account were picked up by the New York Daily News, US News & World Report, and the Los Angeles Times.
Round fire in Sierra Nevada destroys 40 homes and structures, is 50% contained – Los Angeles Times
More than three dozen homes and buildings were destroyed Saturday by a wildfire in the Eastern Sierra that has forced the evacuations of two towns and burned more than 7,000 acres.
Cal Fire said the wildfire, dubbed the Round fire, was 50% contained as of late Saturday afternoon.
The blaze broke out just after 2 p.m. Friday, and was fueled by strong winds that had made containment difficult.
But a strong storm system moving through the area Saturday brought rain that helped firefighters gain the upper hand, officials said.
An evacuation center has been established at the Crowley Lake Community Center in Mono County.
SWALL MEADOWS, Calif. — Associated Press
Ira Hanson milled around an evacuation center near tiny Swall Meadows on Sunday afternoon, not quite sure what to do after learning that the dream home he and his late wife had built 30 years earlier was damaged in a wildfire that consumed 40 homes and buildings.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Hanson, 79.
“It’s like having a nightmare and you’re going to wake up any minute and it won’t be true.”
Fire crews increased containment of the wind-driven wildfire that ravaged communities along the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada, but they said Sunday that they still didn’t know when the roughly 250 residents evacuated from Swall Meadows and nearby Paradise would be able to return home.
It blew up when 50 to 75 mph winds whipped through wooded areas near the two communities for about three hours, turning the flames into a “freight train,” Brown said.
The relatively affluent community of Swall Meadows, which boasts sweeping views of the snow-covered Sierras and is home to retirees and outdoor enthusiasts, was hit hard by the blaze.
Thirty-nine homes were destroyed there while one burned in the community of Paradise, Brown said.
A three-year drought across California has created extremely dry timber brush that fueled the flames and pushed them all the way up the Sierra slopes to the snow line around 8,000 feet, she said.
The cause of the fire was under investigation.
Meanwhile, officials running the evacuation center in Crowley Lake said they received an outpouring of support.
Pizzas, fresh fruit and a birthday cake collected on a folding table, while a white board filled up with the names and phone numbers of people who had volunteered their homes for displaced humans and pets.
So many had opened their homes that nobody stayed in the shelter overnight.
“This is one of the most resilient communities you’re ever going to find,” said Mono County Administrator Jim Leddy. “They know how to take care of themselves and take care of their neighbors.”
Drought, Wind and Fire
SWALL MEADOWS, Calif. (AP) — US News & World Report
An incoming storm caused the winds to constantly shift direction, making it tough for firefighters to contain the blaze, she said.
“We had to take defensive positions to protect as many structures as we could while protecting ourselves,” Brown said. “We did what we could.”
She said Swall Meadows was hit hard by the blaze — 39 homes were destroyed there while one burned in the community of Paradise.
Firefighters gained the upper hand when rain moved in, and have contained 50 percent of the blaze.
Brown said even rain wasn’t enough to put out the fire because a three-year drought across California created extremely dry timber brush that fueled the flames.
Captivating Photos, Conflicting Emotions
“ROUND FIRE” RAVAGES EASTERN SIERRA HOMES – February 7, 2015
Please know that it is not my intent to romanticize the event or as you say, congratulate the fire.
Its true that I viewed the fire with the conflicted perspectives of an artist, journalist, former wild land fire-fighter, and personal friend to several of the families whose homes were both lost, and directly threatened.
I am deeply saddened by the tremendous loss the fire has caused the members of this tight-night community of climbers, skiers, and fellow mountain lovers.
It is not my intent to focus on the misfortune they have experienced, or exploit the “human wreckage” as you so sensitively wrote.
I do apologize if any of my words have offended those who were actually affected by this tragedy.
We are coming up on the anniversary of this life changing event.
Our home burned to ashes.
We have come a long way since the early days of deep shock and we no longer break into tears when someone says they’re sorry or utters a kind word.
We are rebuilding.
Our community and especially the people at my church have encouraged us a great deal.
We are affected every day by our loss, continually having to “let it go.”
I think that we will feel much better when we again have a home of our own…looking forward with hope.
Each winter for five years as we chugged our way up Sherwin Grade, after the LA Times published the fiscal checkup article but, before the Round Fire, I’d squint to see if I could catch a glimpse of Swall Meadows.
In much the same way as we drove through Owens Valley past the signs to Cartego near the Crystal Geyser bottling plant, I’d keep my eyes peeled for any sign of Scott Palamar’s award-winning home and sustainable desert community.
About a year before the Round Fire in the Malibu Mountains, he too lost everything and chose not to rebuild.
“All I managed to do was get the cat and clothes, and grab computers and important papers and that’s it,” Palamar said.
One neighbor did stay for another hour, and watched as the vegetation around Palamar’s home caught fire. Palamar’s home, which he’s lived in for nine years, burnt to the ground, with nothing left standing practically, except a mailbox.
Each attempt to pick out Swall Meadows failed.
It’s especially difficult – nearly impossible climbing up US 395, because the downhill lanes block your view.
Sadly, it wasn’t until a week after the 2015 fire, on our way to our yearly ski and snow boarding trip to Mammoth.
We could see the blackened devastation covering the entire Mule Deer migration trail from mouth of the Round Valley canyon up into the narrowing canyon slopes.
Each resident faced gut wrenching choices.
Fight or flight.
But, to where?
We introduced this section with a story about building a life on your own terms with Whitefish, Montana residents figuring it was time to move on because of their property tax burden.
We put together a “Birds-of-a-Feather” lifestyle list of possible communities across western states.
And we narrowed the choices to the Rocky Mountain states, specifically Colorado, before visiting and sizing up towns in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
For our Swall Meadows family we honestly don’t know how the next chapter of their story unfolds.
But their lifestyle profile opens up their relocation options to the same communities we profiled.
We can speculate.
Meanwhile, officials running the evacuation center in Crowley Lake said they received an outpouring of support.
Swall Meadows falls within the broad Bishop zip code, unlike Tom’s Place, Rock Creek Lodge, McGee Creek and Crawley Lake which claim Mammoth Lake’s zip code.
If they planned to rebuild (hopefully their financial planner made certain their fire insurance coverage was current) and needed to find a temporary home in the area, they probably chose either Bishop or Mammoth Lakes.
In both places they will find neighbors who fit their lifestyle and share their values.
Mammoth School District employed the husband as a math teacher.
Choosing Mammoth would certainly cut their commuting expenses, while like their other neighbors, they rebuild.
But, first the “from” before the “to”.
(33) When you move, will your established neighbors share your same values? Does your new home have potential over the long-term to develop into a high appreciation real estate investment while being affordable for mid-life or empty nesters? Do the weather patterns in winter or summer make you want to live there year round, or only on a seasonal basis. Does your new community offer a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities?
But, in less than a decade their son will be college bound and they’re afraid they’ll go broke shouldering his tuition and room and board.
And roughly seven years later dad will be retiring followed by mom a couple of years later.
Have they squirreled enough away for those two rainy days?
They can manage their current nut, but …?
No more television for you my mom used to say when I misbehaved.
In their case the couple willingly cut that $40 a month cable package out of their budget and bought insurance policies with it instead.
On top of their expected pensions, they agreed to sock away $10,000 a year into two Roth IRAs.
“Few people realize they can also use Roth accounts to pay for their children’s college expenses, given a few restrictions,” the planner said.
It’s one of those good news, bad news things.
Their son …
will probably need financial aid when he goes away to school and some colleges may provide less financial aid to families that have 529 accounts to cover higher-education expenses, the planner said.
No easy choices for a couple used to carrying no debt except for their mortgage.
The planner got them to see their challenge from a different perspective.
“People will lend you money to go to college, but not to retire.”
Working out a diversified portfolio, giving standard planning returns and savings rates, and recommending Roth contributions of $10,000 a year, when the husband turns 65 the accumulated savings will reach $331,000 even after college expense.
The planner calculated the first year of college to run $16,000 and grow to $19,000 by his senior year.
What about retirement?
They can count on a pension for the husband of $77,000 a year and $7,300 in Social Security for his wife for a total of $84,300.
With reasonable withdrawals to make up for any short fall in retirement, the planner calculated their savings should last until both are in their mid-90s.
Completed in 2005, the house could be worth as much as $350,000 to $400,000 in 2010.
“This is our forever house,” the wife said. They even kept in mind the possibility of becoming infirm as they age. “We built it with one story so we can just roll in our wheelchairs,” she said.
(30) Review headlines and relevant news as far back as you can find online to surface each community’s unique pulse and identify information necessary to make your decision. Is there a “ticking time bomb” issue you may uncover that eliminates the resort from your bucket list? Search on topix.com.