|Population: < 4,000 people|
The main and the only town of the least populated county of the most populated American State. Figuratively speaking this is a capital of California villages, lost in the wooded branches of Sierra-Nevada (northern and western part of the county) and lifeless expanse of the mountainous Mojave Desert (in the south and in the east). The notorious Death Valley is located in one of the basins of Mojave. It is named so after a party of gold hunters got lost and died in that place in 1849. By the way, the gold was never found there. Death Valley spreads over 250 kilometers between Amargosa and Panamint ridges and is one of the deepest (85 meters below sea level – the lowest point in America) and waterless cavities on Earth. It is one of the hottest places on the planet. In 1913 the temperature record for the western hemisphere was set – 56.7C above zero. There’s no drinking water in Death Valley. The coulees are white from salt. Lake water is also salty. Hence there’s definitely a reason to call the lowest point on the continent Badwater. Even nowadays when civilization reached even this corner of California tourists visiting Death Valley national park are advised to take at least 4 liters of drinking water per person with them. In summer the temperature of the surface covered with salt reaches 93C. Guide books discourage not only from going for a walk along the canyons, but even from pulling from paved roads while driving. For all that Death Valley, also called the devil’s golf field for it’s fantastic, unearthly views, is one of the most beautiful and mysterious places in California. Take for instance stones that in some unknown way move along the desert surface leaving long trails in the sand.
But people remain people and the most reckless of them are willing to try their strength with the devilish valley. Since 1988 an ultra-marathon annually takes place in Death Valley. It is considered to be the most difficult marathon on Earth – 135 miles in the desert, with elevation changes of more than 3 kilometers and all this happens right in the middle of summer. In 2000 Russian runners participated in the competition for the first time and surprised everybody by becoming winners both in the individual and group championship. In 2002 Pam Reed caused a real sensation by setting a new record for women and even leaving men behind. The time difference was 4 hours and 42 minutes!
But in vicinity of Bishop there are not only memorials of death, but ones associated with life as well. To the North of the town, in the Inyo National Forest, there is a group of pines with bristly cones aged about 4,600 years. These pines are considered to be the oldest form of living on Earth.
Bishop and Inyo County are also known for their sights that are related to Pajute Indians (reservation, culture center and museum) and to the first settlers who came over to these places in search of gold. It is likely that nowhere else in California there are so many ghost towns every one of which is a memorial to the era of gold rush.
Bishop is also known for the annual mule show organized since 1969. In the days of the show up to 700 participants, mules, take part in more than 150 kinds of trials in front of more than 30 thousand fans. At a first glance this looks like circus, but this is an important event for America. It is not only connected to history, but to the present day of the country, and to Southern states in particular.