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To Bishop And Beyond Part II: Volcanic Tablelands

2004 Toyota 4runner And Toyota Land Cruiser
Kevin Blumer | Writer
Posted November 1, 2012
Photographers: Jaime Hernandez

One Area, Many Personalities

Last time, we pontificated about Bishop, California’s possible status as the ultimate base camp for adventure. This time we’d like to drive the point further home.

Adventure starts on the very edge of town in the form of the Volcanic Tablelands. Formed 760,000 years ago when a nearby volcano erupted, the Volcanic Tablelands are made from a rock type called the Bishop Tuff, which was the result of hot volcanic ash having cooled and solidified in place. The Bishop Tuff is about 3,000 feet thick.

Though volcanism gave the Tablelands their start, Native Americans, plant and animal life, mining, and recreation give them the personality they offer today.

Route finding in the Volcanic Tablelands is at least two notches foggier than what we experienced on our way to the Champion Spark Plug Mine. The Champion Mine sits in a distinct canyon. By contrast, the Tablelands stretch for many square miles and feature routes and trails radiating in several directions. With Highway 395 to the west and Highway 6 on the Tablelands’ eastern border, it’s impossible to get extremely lost, but it’s still possible to burn up a lot of time trying to reach an elusive point of interest. Guidebooks are helpful, but we’d suggest supplementing them with a map. Two guidebooks and one map are listed in the source box at the end of this story. They’re not the only sources of information out there, but they’re ones we’ve used and can recommend.

There are no services in the Volcanic Tablelands, but since they’re so close to Bishop, you can explore the Tablelands in the morning, break for lunch in town, and head back out for the afternoon. Did we mention that Bishop might just be the ultimate base camp?

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