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Once you drive east from the San Francisco Bay Area through California Gold Country and Yosemite, crossing the Sierra Nevada range by way of Sonora Pass via Route 108 or the equally breathtaking Tioga Pass via Route 120, you find yourself in California’s Eastern Sierras. It’s high desert landscape here, home to hot springs and rodeos, towns boasting excellent bouldering and climbing and fishing, mountains fading into valleys fading into mountains. Home to ghost towns like Bodie, a gold mining boom town that once boasted a population of 10,000 in its late-1800s heyday and was quickly swallowed by time and roaming fortunes, so much so that families left everything behind when they moved on. Home to Inyo National Forest and ancient bristlecone pine trees that are the oldest living non-clonal organisms on the planet, trees between 2,000 and 5,000 years old that grow in 11,000-foot-elevation rocky desert mountainside where nothing else survives, trees that have seen the rise and fall of countless human civilizations. Home to pickup trucks and RVs and year-round American flags on every lamppost and saloon. Home to locals and immigrants and restless travelers who found themselves settled along Route 395, home to the town called Independence where the Japanese internment camp called Manzanar was established, home to historic inns and roadside burger shacks and cows that graze and people who live under big rolling clouds at the edges of the world.