What started as an effort to educate those on the front-lines of Inyo’s tourist-based economy about local attractions, has blossomed into a series of tours open to anyone and everyone interested in some of the area’s more overlooked destinations.
Based on the success of the Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce’s “Frontline Tourist Providers Tours” in August, which saw hotel, visitors center and other service industry employees taking advantage of the opportunity to better assist tourists, the Chamber has launched a similar program for the public at large.
The Chamber will kick off the first of a series of weekend tours that will chauffeur residents and visitors to some of the Owens Valley’s most popular and most overlooked attractions, such as the breathtaking scenes atop Old U.S. 395, Convict Lake and the Laws Railroad Museum.
“‘Off the beaten path’ is a great phrase” to describe these tours, said Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tawni Thomson. “We have heard from so many people who just pass through driving up to Mammoth, but if all you see of the Owens Valley is off of U.S. 395, then you’re not seeing much.”
Each tour will be led by Certified Tour Guide Joe Pollini, who has extensive knowledge of local history, geography and geology.
Thomson said on the way to tour destinations, Pollini will point out some of the historical roadside markers along the route and, rather than stopping and having people read the plaques themselves, Pollini will tell the tale of the markers, explaining the history behind each one.
“In addition to the scheduled stops, we have a certified, knowledgeable tour guide narrating your entire trip,” Thomson said. “Joe paints a picture and tells you what happened there. It’s more than just a bus ride to a cool location.”
The first tour, scheduled for Saturday, will take passengers up Old U.S. 395, Round Valley and Laws Railroad Museum.
The second tour, scheduled for Sunday, will visit Round Valley, Convict Lake Resort, Hot Creek Fish Hatchery and McGee Mountain, where residents and visitors will learn about the area’s ski history and get to see the original location for Mammoth Mountain Ski Area.
“The tours, in the next series, will be heading to Southern Inyo, with many stops in between,” Thomson said.
The Chamber is currently working with the U.S. Forest Service to obtain permits to lead tours in some of the county’s most popular destination areas, such as Whitney Portal.
When that process is complete, Thomson said the Chamber will be able to offer a wider array of tours.
Those who are interested in taking the tours are encouraged to wear comfortable shoes, as they may want to wander around at tour destinations. For more information, call the Chamber at (760) 873-8405.