eastern sierra

The Eastern Sierra means different things to different people.  For visitors, the landscape dominates and is usually the driving force behind the visit to begin with.   I found the landscape combined with the lack of population drove the never ending desire to plant roots on the Eastside to see what would unfold.

Many consider a life here and usually it begins with a leap of faith.  Next up, add in the seasons, love, work, personal callings, and the passage of time.

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It's hard to put an easy answer to what this place means to me, rather, it invokes some rambling and a not so complicated equation: location x (recreation+family+work+passion) = sum of the eastern sierra as experienced by this writer.

The location is one of the biggest factors, we are isolated on the Eastside (most of us by choice) and living in the frontier.  Frontier is loosely described as the extreme limit of settled land beyond which lies wilderness.  With less than 4 people per square mile we are way beyond rural.  This is a land of extremes, pitting geography against humanity in a delicate balance that many take to the limit.  We take for granted our mountains, winter storms, creeks, forests, views, and clean air all available for interface in minutes, for some seconds.

Every day on the Inyo is a day added to life. That’s my motto.

Recreation brings so many to the eastern sierra that it becomes a way of life.  Who's trifecta trumps all - who cares?  With so many interests, some of which compete against each other it is up to the individual to choose.  Snowboarding vs. skiing, skateboarding vs. road biking, and so on.  Some can do it all, other choose to get specific.  My specialties include snowboarding, hiking, camping, dirt biking, teaching recreation, gardening, skateboarding, and cross country skiing (in order).  Then there are so many others, but I am not a mountain biker, climber, snowmobiler, hunter, or trail runner even though I participate in all those activities and more.  This place is about time, so much time, do it all and do it again with the change in the seasons.  When your children grow up recreating here you can also grow up again with them.  Recreationally, (not likely a word) up here you are free to define yourself, from training to race the Mexican 1000 to Bad Water - Mt. Whitney ultra marathon or even laying the foundation to the Olympics.

Family: I've watched our children charge Mammoth Mountain harder than adults, push themselves in cross country races, triathlons, skate sessions, swimming/soccer, and the rest of it.  In no city are the youth allowed such access to our extreme landscape to prove themselves as young warriors of the tribe.  That moment when your child passes you up and their age is still in single digits?  Well, it's a natural side effect of living here.  Embrace it.  Family includes a beautiful spouse, similar to the landscape you can't take her for granted either.

Work: Too many times I've heard that "if I could make a living up there I'd live there" which I can readily counter with "I don't see how anyone could make a living in a city".  Even though everything is more expensive here, the true cost of living is higher in cities.  I would not be able to make a living in a city, but, the cities are alive with millions who do it every day, we only have 4 people per square mile so my point is disproved.  Anyhow, special thanks to the Town of Mammoth Lakes for bank-rolling at least one lifetime in the sierra.  Warning, the rat race and subsequent rut are alive and well in the eastern sierra, take extra hiking steps to avoid!

Buying, selling, holding, trading, leasing, and working land is my passion.  If you are excited about anything to an extent the money will follow.  As a teen and young adult I really enjoyed buying muscle cars (1964-1971 models) to drive, fix up, and sell.  That transitioned into property, as nothing is quite as exciting as buying a remote piece of land, for pennies on the dollar, on the courthouse steps and then to drive out later to discover survey markers.  The great thing about owning land is that it's all about a piece of paper that says you own it, none of us own the land, we may think we do but it's a institutionalized system at best.  Regardless, a deed does allow access and on our first property ever bought we threw together a one room shack (The Shack) on the historical shoreline of the Owens dry Lake.  Many years and milestones came and went at the shack: meteor showers with over 1000 spotted, the magnificent Hale Bopp (I can still see it), birthday parties, trips to the “moon” (dry lake crust), anniversaries, spring-break bashes, even a bachelor party.  Plus countless excursions into Lone Pine, Keeler, Death Valley, Panamint Valley, Darwin, Cerro Gordo, Inyo's, Boulder Creek, Whitney Portal, Horseshoe Meadows, Kearsarge Pass, etc. 

It's great really, a 7 acre property bought at auction for $1,300 springboards us into a different Eastside lifetime of adventure and memories.  Keep that in mind when laying down cash for your first house, property, acreage, cabin or whatever - what are you buying?

Passions aren't complete without mention to reading, writing, cooking -- and eating! 

I'd like to leave you with an original recipe that embodies life in the Inyo - taste it and enjoy with some local beer,
preferably Mammoth IPA 395.

HiltonCreek green-chili avocado salsa

1 pour              olive oil

1                     onion chopped into quarters

a couple           jalapenos

a few                serrano peppers

2                      poblano peppers (or ancho, Anaheim, etc, just no bell peppers)

3-4                   tomatillos - cooked up, these things have the taste you crave

1/2 head           garlic

1/2 bunch         cilantro

4-6                   small limes

2-3                   avocados

2-4 cups           Hilton Creek purified water (your local source will do just fine!)

salt                   to taste            

Directions:  Pour a suitable amount of olive oil into a large pan.  Add ½ the onion, all the peppers, tomatillos, and half the garlic.  Cook well.

Meanwhile as the veggies get their crisp on, fill a blender halfway with water, and add ½ of the chopped onion (raw), ½ of the left over garlic cloves (raw), the avocados, cilantro, squeezed in juice from limes, and a couple generous dashes of salt.  This is your base, don’t blend it yet.

After a half hour or so open the windows so everyone can breath without coughing and add in the slightly blackened contents of the fry pan to the blender.  Before blending the water level on the blender should be an inch or two from the top.  Add more water if needed. 

Blend and eat immediately with chips – we prefer organic corn versus the 'round up' ready corn also known as 'infertilititos' in our household. At this point too you can add more salt or lime juice and re-blend.  You can also refrigerate to cool, this green chili guac will not lose color, ever.

Variations: omit the avocados and substitute a can of chipotle peppers (minus the sauce - save that and combine with mayo for an unrelated treat) for a watery red chili dip.  Pan roasted using no olive oil, more or less raw garlic, green tomatoes instead of tomatillos, addition of a green apple, a habanero, fresh farmer’s market produce instead of supermarket, etc!  We usually double the recipe to include a full blender of red and green sauces.


Sources cited:




"White on white on Whites"