‘Tales Along El Camino Sierra Three!’

REVIEW: Ridge Writers on Books

‘Tales Along El Camino Sierra Three!’By David & Gayle Woodruff, B&W photos, 143 pgs., paperback, El Camino Sierra Publishing, 2020, $10.95



On the heels of two engaging collections of Hwy 395 legends and lore, the Woodruffs have produced 39 more tales ranging from delightful to downright scary.

Beginning one chapter, they observe, “If you were born after 1990, long before GPS and cell phones, you may find it hard to believe but people would use these large, poster-size sheets of paper that had lines and writing on them to navigate with…. These antique things were known as ‘maps.’” This leads to the story of “Adventurer, Cartographer, Swashbuckler” W Emmett Hayden whose home has since become the Mammoth Museum at the Hayden Cabin, operated by the Southern Mono Historical Society.

Another narrative traces the rise and fall of brothers Wilfred and Mark Watterson whose concern and generosity won the hearts of area residents, and who joined them to oppose the Los Angeles Aqueduct “water grab,” established several consumer-friendly banks, and ultimately bilked their neighbors out of their life savings. The pair argued that they pilfered the money to keep their business afloat but “not a single penny of the missing funds had ever left the Owens Valley.”

In “Landslide,” nature turns villain just after the winter of 1982-83. A near record-setting snowpack by Lake Tahoe melts when the sun comes out on Memorial Day, the earth roars, and dust billows. A witness in a hang glider sees what “looked like a tidal wave at first and then the whole canyon gathered it up.”

Closest to home, the Woodruffs take us behind the scenes of Inyokern’s beloved Two Sisters restaurant/nightclub (1960s – 1990s) that later became Two Sisters Plus One when Jere Lee joined her siblings, the founders, Sally Porter and Tally Nye. All three had musical backgrounds: Sally a band leader and solo artist, Tally a saxophonist who toured Europe, and Jere Lee an organist and accordion headliner. At its height, Two Sisters Plus One would have reservations weeks in advance to enjoy terrific food and live entertainment.

Read “Tales Along El Camino Sierra” for an armchair adventure, or use it to design a road trip. Pack a lunch if you don’t want to stop at restaurants, then get out in the open air and poke around.

This monthly column is written by members of Ridge Writers, the East Sierra Branch of the California Writers Club. Other than during the Coovid-19 crisis, meetings are held the first Thursday evening of each month at Ridgecrest Presbyterian Church and free programs are offered throughout the year.

Ridge Writers’ books “Scenes from Lives of Service: High Desert Veterans of WWI through Desert Storm” and “Planet Mojave: Visions from a World Apart” are available at the Historic USO Building, Jawbone Canyon, Maturango Museum, and Red Rock Books.

Story First Published: 2020-09-04