Manzanar and Mountain Light

Trip Start Sep 20, 2010
Trip End Oct 26, 2010

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Flag of United States  , California
Saturday, October 23, 2010

We learned that an adjustment in our travel plans needed to be made. We had hoped to meet Nancy's nephew in Yosemite but were told the eastern entrance into the park, Tioga Pass, had been closed this morning.  This was very disappointing but a large storm system bringing snows and high winds was predicted in the Sierras; we had seen new snow on the peaks yesterday so we resolved to get through the mountains as quickly as possible being unprepared for snow travel.  With that in mind we packed up and after breakfast moved north.

A recommendation from the hotel receptionist sent us across the street to the Alabama Hills Café for breakfast, a small café off the main street; it was packed but we arrived at a good time and only waited a few minutes for a table.  The bakery case was full of incredibly delectable looking temptations and the cinnamon rolls looked particularly sinful.  The two waitresses were scurrying between the kitchen and tables bringing large plates of breakfast delights.

George ordered French toast on homemade cinnamon bread and for Nancy the Erroll Flynn breakfast of scrambled eggs, chilies and salsa with hash browns and homemade whole wheat bread.  The portions are large and George had to help her finish the eggs, which were delicious, but Nancy couldn’t stay away from the toasted thick slices of homemade bread with real butter. Neither of us ordered bacon, sausage or ham from what we saw delivered to other tables they also looked wonderful, thick slices cooked to perfection.  This is a 5-star café for a hearty breakfast.  We were even to full to think about a bakery treat for later, maybe a mistake but we waddled out happy.

We were so happy that we had not tried to drive to Bishop.  This little town sits right at the base of the Alabama Hills and Mt. Whitney and had we not been so concerned about the predicted snow would have liked to explore, maybe another visit.  Trout fishing and hiking seem to be the main draws and while we didn’t see the streams the mountains are certainly tempting.

Upon reading the area guide we discovered that Manzanar was a short distance down the road so a short detour from our morning travel was in order.  For those who are not familiar with Manzanar it was an internment camp for Japanese Americans during World War II and a shameful part of our history.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor President FD Roosevelt signed an Executive Order authorizing, without due process, the transfer, under military guard, of everyone of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast, to one of ten hastily built relocation centers.  These people were given only days, some just 48 hours, to decide what to do with their homes, farms, businesses and other possessions.  Some abandoned their property now knowing where they were going or for how long.  Others were able to sell belongings at significant loss or rent their properties to sympathetic neighbors.  Families were assigned an ID number and loaded into cars, buses, trucks and trains taking only what they could carry.

Manzanar held 10,000 of the 120,000 men, women and children who were interned.  The government claimed that it was not only for national security but also for the safety of the Japanese Americans as fears of sabotage, the government, the press and the public inflamed racial prejudices.

Approximately two-thirds of those interned at Manzanar were American citizens by birth.  The remainder were aliens, many of who had lived in the U.S. for decades, but whom, by law, were denied citizenship.

The Manzanar Historic Site is still a work in progress but does a good job of presenting was life was like for the residents.  The ranger who led our tour was good about trying to take us back to that time.  This is still a very emotional topic.  Nancy asked a question about some of the young internees enlisting in the military.  The ranger related a couple of stories of internees serving and being highly decorated.  The stories brought tears to her eyes and to Nancy’s. 

Practice tolerance; learn from the past to make a better future and if you are in the area take the time for visit Manzanar, there is much to learn.

We had also read that photographer, Galen Rowell’s studio and gallery, Mountain Lights, were Bishop CA along our route.  We stopped in the gallery which is beautiful and presents a good representation of his work, well worth a stop if you are near Bishop or check out the website for a sample of this amazing photographer’s work.

It was a long day of driving but we made it to Bridgeport CA without incident and thoroughly enjoyed our visits to Manzanar and to Mountain Light Gallery.
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