A unique cloud formation is seen over the southern Sierra Nevada near Ridgecrest. PHOTO BY AARON CRUTCHFIELD
According to Wikipedia, Inyokern has the highest insolation of any locale on the North American continent, having more than 355 days of sunshine each year, hence its motto: The Sunshine Capital of America. It is also home to the past and current world champion musical saw players. The Inyokern airport is a popular location for car commercials, with the grand Sierra Nevada as a backdrop. You can also take glider rides here.
Inyokern is close to the junction of highways 395 and 14. There is actually a connecting road about 5 miles long (Highway 178) that goes through the tiny community, which consists of a hardware store, an antique shop, a couple of restaurants, and an art gallery called “Inyo Dreams.”
Ridgecrest is technically not along Highway 395, but it is the largest city between Victorville and Reno and has many restaurant and lodging choices. Ridgecrest lies in the Indian Wells Valley near the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and is near three other ranges, making it a staging point for outdoor adventures of all types.
It is home to the China Lake Naval Weapons Center, and Naval Air Weapons Station, which are the main employers of most local residents. Travelers may visit the Naval Museum of Armament and Technology (www.chinalakemuseum.org), but access to the highly secure base can take up to two hours. Applications for a day pass are taken at the Visitors Center just south of the main gate. The museum is currently building an off-base location next door to the Maturango Museum to remove this barrier to visitors.
Speaking of the Maturango Museum (www.maturango.org), it is easy to find at 100 E. Las Flores Ave., across the street from The Home Depot, and is open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It houses exhibits of natural and cultural history, including ceremonial art by the Coso People, who were known for their petroglyphs of bighorn sheep, antelope, deer, and abstracts. Tours can be arranged at the museum to visit Little Petroglyph Canyon, part of the National Historic Landmark. Modern replicas of petroglyphs from around the world are artistically displayed throughout town, and particularly at Petroglyph Park south of the museum.
The US Bureau of Land Management Ridgecrest Regional Wild Horse and Burro Facility, located just east of town, allows for feeding of the burros. PHOTO BY AARON CRUTCHFIELD
A Petroglyph Festival is celebrated each November (www.rpfestival.com). Mountain biking is extremely popular along the numerous trails (1,470 according to mapmyride.com) in the foothills surrounding the city. Golf is an option for those with access to the base, and bowling and going to the movies are also choices for entertainment in Ridgecrest.
Another point of interest for animal lovers is the Bureau of Land Management corrals east of town on Randsburg Wash Road off Highway 178. The facility sits on 57 acres and workers care for wild horses and burros that have been captured until they can be adopted. Visitors can drive the perimeter on a dirt road and look at the different corrals where horses are separated by gender and age. Inside the facility, one can get information about adopting these survivors of the wild west, or at least pick up a poster.