Stories from California: Bishop

I realized that my living in California is not a matter of chance or coincidence. There is a purpose for being where you are, doing what you do, meeting the people you meet. Thus I’ve taken upon myself a new mission - to speak with, discover, and deliver the voices of amazing people I meet in various cities in California.

In this blog, I bring you three short stories from Bishop.

BISHOP

Bishop is a small town in the Eastern Sierras, California. The Sierras is short for the Sierra Nevada mountain range which dominate much of central California; it is also the mountain range which hosts the tallest peak in the United States outside of Alaska, Mt Whitney (14,505 feet). The Sierras is also home to Yosemite National Park, one of the most visited national parks in the United States (4 million visitors annually), famous for its breathtaking natural beauty, clear lakes, granite cliffs, giant sequoia groves, waterfalls, mountains, and diverse wildlife; Yosemite is also the iconic birthplace of American rock climbing and the most famous climbing area in the world. Many legendary rock climbers including Tommy Caldwell, Lynn Hill, Alex Honnold, and Kevin Jorgeson contribute to putting Yosemite on the rock climbers map.

Bishop may seem like a small town, but it is famous among outdoor enthusiasts for being a rock climbing haven outside of Yosemite. The boulders located several miles outside of Bishop is a highly coveted destination by novice and veteran climbers. Bishop is also a pit stop for hikers en route the 2,659-mile Pacific Crest Trail.


My husband and friends snowboarding and skiing at Mammoth Mountain, I drove by myself 40-mins south to Bishop. I had intended to climb at Buttermilk Boulders located outside of Bishop but forgot to bring a crash pad, so I asked around town and found a running route along a canal.

Spectacular sight of mountains driving from Mammoth to Bishop.

Spectacular sight of mountains driving from Mammoth to Bishop.

Herds of cows graze along the canal.

Grazing cows along the canal.

Grazing cows along the canal.

Then I spotted a young man sitting next to a parked truck by the canal. He sat under the cool shade of a tree, a guitar in hand, and strumming.

Teddy Ryan playing his guitar under the cool shade of a tree along the canal.

Teddy Ryan playing his guitar under the cool shade of a tree along the canal.

Ted, 27, has just finished serving in the Marine Corp in Boise, Idaho. He now lives in Bishop, where his dad is. He hopes to secure a job in the nearby power plant because it pays well. Noticing a Midwestern accent, I asked him where he's from originally. His dad's from Missouri while his mom’s from Tennessee. I asked him what was he doing out here at the canal under a tree playing the guitar by himself. He says he likes it here. It's his quiet and happy place. He comes out here a lot. I asked him why. His friends sleep in till 1.00pm so he would come out here, play the guitar and write some songs. In the afternoon he would meet up with his friends to play music together. He's into country music now and was in the midst of writing a new song. I asked him if he would play something for me. He shrugged and said why not. Here's his original and beautiful song.

I asked him what the title is. He said he doesn't have one yet. I suggested Sweet Little Babe. He smiled. We shook hands and bid farewell. He said if I was in town next, let him know. I said I will, we’ll go running together (he used to run long distance by himself along the canal).


Zander, 12, was fishing at the canal when I met him. He usually fishes with a friend, but his friend was out of town for the summer holidays. His parents usually wouldn't allow him to play outside by himself but in Bishop they do because it's a small and safe town.

Zander, an extremely bright, eloquent, confident and mature 12-year-old.

Zander, an extremely bright, eloquent, confident and mature 12-year-old.

Zander attends Home Street Middle School in Bishop. Born in Greenville, he lived in Sacramento and Fresno before moving to Bishop. His parents run the Trees Motel in Bishop. His dad holds a second job in a furniture shop to supplement the family income. The furniture shop pays better so his dad works there a lot while Zander and his mom run the motel, checking in the guests and cleaning the rooms.

I asked him if he liked living in Bishop, after having lived in bigger cities like Sacramento and Fresno. He says he likes it here, although it was hard at first, adjusting to a suburban life. He eventually found new things to do, like fishing. Actually he has been fishing since he was 18 months old - his dad introduced the sport to him.

Zander loves fly fishing. He catches a lot of brown trouts, rainbow trouts, sea bass and canal snakes. He throws them back into the canal because the fishes in the canal are not safe to eat. What do you use as bait? Oh, I buy or make baits that look like actual flies - the fishes can’t tell the difference but the baits I make are heavier and would sink the rod in the water - real flies are too light and wouldn’t sink.

I told Zander he's very eloquent and outspoken. He says it's because his parents raised him up among adults. When I spoke with him, he was done fishing and was waiting for his mom to pick him up. He said he would be back in the evening to fish again.

As we spoke, a siren went off town-wide - I thought it was a tornado warning, turns out, according to Zander, it was 12 o'clock. The siren comes from the town’s fire station and goes off daily at 12pm and 12am.


After my run, I popped into McDonalds to buy a cup of ice cold coffee. I noticed several large, bulky backpacks and hiking poles resting on the ground next to two thin, bearded and sunburnt men. They seem to be in a deep discussion but undeterred, I introduced myself and asked where they were hiking to.

To Canada, replied Ben, a German.

No way! I said. Canada was over 1,000 miles away, by foot.

Yes, we started from New Mexico, said Ben.

Oh, you’re hiking the Continental Divide, I chirped excitedly.

The PCT, Ben corrected me.

Oh wow, the Pacific Crest Trail, I gulped. The 2,659-mile Pacific Crest Trail.

I was stumped and happy to meet fellow outdoor enthusiasts so I carried on asking more questions, more specifically if an extrovert like me would do well hiking solo for five months. Prior to meeting them, several years ago, I’ve researched into the PCT and found that most people hike averagely 16-20 miles per day, and completes the entire trail in approximately five months. Though I cycled across America in 1.5 months, I did so with company. I can’t imagine hiking alone for five months.

Oh, you’re never alone, Ben said. Dan, an Englishman sitting next to Ben, nodded in agreement.

Ben continued: There are over 4,000 hikers on the PCT. You’re bound to meet people along the way. I love it. I’ve been making new friends along the way since I started in New Mexico on April 25 this year.

Ben the German met Dan the Englishman in the desert of New Mexico and they have been hiking together on and off since till they go to Bishop. In McDonalds, they were having a discussion whether to skip the upcoming Sierras because of a heavy snowstorm which had killed two people. Many hikers pass through Bishop. Ben and Dan have met several PCT hikers who decided to quit the trail in Bishop because of the snow. Ben and Dan were determined not to give up. They considered skipping the Sierra section because of the snow, get back onto the trail in Tahoe till they get to their final destination in Vancouver, Canada, and return after that to complete the Sierra section they would have skipped.

As we were chatting, another bearded and sunburnt men joined us. Justin is from Baltimore.

Left of pic, in blue: Justin, from Baltimore. Right of pic, in grey: Ben, from Germany. To Ben's right is Dan, an English.

Left of pic, in blue: Justin, from Baltimore. Right of pic, in grey: Ben, from Germany. To Ben's right is Dan, an English.

I suggested taking a photo together because I wanted to remind myself that if these guys could do it, I could to, someday. I got their email addresses and hope to check in on them in the coming weeks.