In Bishop, find murals, mules and more on a California weekend escape
I’ve stopped in the Sierra town of Bishop for fuel, groceries and supplies since the late ’60s when Dad would pause here on the way to Mammoth. But Bishop as an extended stay? No way. Last May my husband, Paul, and I rewrote that script. We found good eats, funky shopping, friendly folks, evocative murals and, just north of town, historical gems. The tab: $149 a night, excluding taxes and fees, for a spacious balcony room overlooking the stream at Creekside Inn; $100 for food; and $20 for museum donations.
Creature comforts abound at the upscale Creekside Inn in Bishop, where the water gently flows between the lodging and the pool/spa. Our large king room was furnished with an inviting pillow-top mattress, elegant reading nook, luxurious bathroom and a balcony with patio chairs overlooking the gardens — and well-positioned for sunset viewing with a glass of wine. Other perks: Paul had several helpings of the freshly baked cookies set out at 7 p.m.; I appreciated the hallways full of dynamic landscape photos by the late Galen Rowell. The complimentary hot breakfast buffet was generous and hearty.
We are fans of Mountain Rambler Brewery. My lunchtime Thai meatball sub with peanut sauce, pickled watermelon and jalapeño slaw was a delightful change. The pub blends into a bland commercial strip, but inside you’ll find lots of personality and people, with communal tables and a small stage for occasional live music. The Great Basin Bakery would be easy to miss but for the line of locals. The aromas here are as welcoming as the staff: Try the freshly baked sourdough, molasses spice cookies, muffuletta and Mt. Tom turkey sandwiches and local Black Sheep coffee.
We took a trip through Owens Valley history on a “mural walk” displaying 15 creations on walls and storefronts throughout downtown. Most intriguing to me: the Bishop Mural Society’s self-described controversial work called “Drain,” which references the loss of Owens Valley water to L.A.; “Celebrating the Sierra,” a hand-sculpted ceramic tile and mosaic mural spotlighting local flora and fauna; and “The Slim Princess,” depicting Laws, a railroad depot just north of Bishop, at the turn of the 20th century. The gold-mining demonstration at the Laws Railroad Museum and Historic Site, an 11-acre re-creation of the 1880s railroad town, piqued Paul’s interest. Train rides ($5) on a historic Death Valley Railroad car are offered several times a month.
THE LESSON LEARNED
There’s still a lot of Old West here. On Memorial Day weekend we joined the crowd along Bishop’s Main Street for the family-friendly Mule Days Parade, part of a week-long event celebrating the sure-footed pack animals that helped westward expansion. (This year’s event is May 21-26.) We didn’t end up at the adopt-a-wild-burro offering but are smitten enough to try again this year.
Creekside Inn, 725 N. Main St., Bishop; (760) 872-3044
Mountain Rambler Brewery, 186 S. Main St., Bishop; (760) 258-1348
Great Basin Bakery, 275 S. Main St., Bishop: (760) 873-9828. Open daily.
Laws Railroad Museum and Historic Site; (760) 873-5950. Admission by donation. Open year-round.
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