Bishop, California

Photos and Text by Amanda Sandlin

What’s brown and white and rocky all over? Bishop in December. Nestled in the desert of Eastern Sierra Nevada, this little western town houses hills dotted with chalked-up boulders that people travel to from around the world to climb.

After finishing an early Friday at work, I made the 7-hour trek to Bishop from mild and rainy San Francisco. Pulling off a winding, icy back road to catch some sleep in Mammoth Lakes, all was black, except for the clearest sky full of stars I’ve ever seen.

I woke next to a desert meadow covered in a thin layer of fresh snow. Sliding out of the backseat, a wall of cold, sage-scented air snapped me awake faster than any espresso could.

The rest of the weekend went like this :: Eat. Drink coffee. Say “Wow, this is freaking beautiful.” Drive to boulders, climb all day. Eat more. Keep climbing. Eat again. Get warm. Sleep. Repeat.

The only aspect more notable than the Mars-like landscape was the eclectic mix of personalities. Think …  eager out-of-towners (hailing from Ecuador to LA to Bellingham) to hairy local boulderers living out of vans. Add a scrappy community of dogs — Boxers, German Shepherds, mutts, one precious Italian Greyhound puppy. Now that’s a great crowd.

A few personal takeaways from my weekend in Bishop:

  • Climbing crash pads make great sleeping pads.
  • It’s better to be too warm than cold. Bring a heavy sleeping bag and proper insulation.
  • Never underestimate the power of a hot cup of coffee.
  • The Burger Barn has the best black bean veggie burgers in California. Yep.
  • Those little pocket hand warmer thingys are brilliant. Bring them.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Save money and stay healthy by shopping at grocery stores for 2 out of 3 meals a day.
  • No matter how far you travel, or how hard you climb, or how fast you run, you cannot escape your life. It follows you. There is no shame in dealing with emotional and mental issues while on the road. In fact, the road can be one of the best places to find the answers, because it shines light on some spots that may be neglected in daily life. Read more about this lesson in my recent blog post here.

Photos (C) 2015 Amanda Sandlin

Amanda Sandlin is a graphic designer, photographer, and East Coast transplant, now rooting in San Francisco. Some of her favorites pastimes are bouldering, sitting around fires, and cuddling her cat, Sloane. You can find her here :: At Wild, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.