If a Memorial Day road trip is on your bucket list, consider a trek through the White Mountains to the charming hamlet of Bishop, Calif. This route would be splendid enough the last week in May if it only offered mountain views and blooming wildflowers. Over Memorial Day weekend, however, you get all that and something extra. Since 1969, Bishop has played host to more than 700 mules and mule skinners eager to compete in its annual Mule Days Celebration.
Heading north out of town along US-95, roll past Beatty and skirt the southern edge of the Nevada Test Site before turning west at Lida Junction. Note the photogenic ruins of a two-story stone house on the north side of the road just past Lida Summit — a relic of the long-forgotten silver mining town of Palmetto. From Palmetto, the road passes into the green alfalfa fields of Fish Lake Valley. After a twisty drive to the top of Gilbert Pass, descend into Deep Springs Valley, home of Deep Springs College, a unique liberal arts institution founded in 1917. Its two-year program, the only one on the country that includes manual labor as part of its curriculum, prepares students to transfer to top-flight universities across the country.
Approaching 7,313-foot Westgard Pass, look for wildflowers among the junipers. Just beyond the pass, turn onto White Mountain Road and enjoy panoramic views of the Sierra Nevada as you follow the paved road up to the Schulman Grove and Visitor Center at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. A short walk leads to some of the oldest trees in the world. Take a gravel road to the Patriarch Grove to see trees as old the Great Pyramid — and still alive.
Descending to the valley floor, check out “The Ears,” the Owens Valley Radio Observatory that is still waiting for ET to call back. The facility offers otherworldly photo opportunities at sunset.
In addition to being “ground zero” for hundreds of mules over Memorial Day weekend, Bishop is home to a couple of renowned food purveyors and outstanding murals. Try savory venison jerky at Mahogany Meats and grab a scone or a loaf of sheep herder’s bread at Schat’s Bakery. Check out the art on walls around town on your way to the Tri-County Fairgrounds for the weekend’s main event.
Fourteen different mule shows include coon-jumping (an event inspired by raccoon hunters), cattle working, chariot racing and gymkhana. Enjoy good barbecue, dancing and country music throughout the weekend. In-town lodging goes fast, so reservations are recommended if you want to experience the greatest mule show on earth. — Mark Sedenquist
Cheat sheet: US-95 to NV-266 to CA-168 to US-395.
It’s Mt. Charleston season again! Short but steep, Cathedral Rock makes the perfect introduction to the lung-busting and highly rewarding sport of alpine hiking. This limestone cliff looms 1,000 feet above the Mt. Charleston Lodge and has unobstructed views of Kyle Canyon. Hikers will meander amidst stands of pines, through the destruction of an avalanche chute, and alongside snow-fed waterfalls, ending atop the sheer precipice. Just watch that last step. It’s a doozy. — Alan Gegax
Here’s some good fortune: You don’t have to hop on a jet this summer to get your chopsticks on some great Asian cuisine. New York’s annual LuckyRice culinary bash is serving up a portion of its festival in Las Vegas: The LuckyRice Vegas Night Market. It’s a one-night Asian food crawl at The Cosmopolitan that’ll offer everything from Beijing-style street food to experimental noshes — from talent such as Red Medicine’s Jordan Kahn and local ninjas such as Lotus of Siam’s Saipin Chutima. Drinking? Local and guest mixologists will sling culinary cocktails Those mixologists will also be playing with a new toy: Bombay Sapphire EAST, a new Asian-inspired gin. The LuckyRice Vegas Night Market happens 8-11 p.m. June 23 at The Cosmopolitan’s Boulevard Pool. Tickets $88-$125. Info: luckyrice.com. — Andrew Kiraly