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I say "site" because it is not there anymore. The buildings were abandoned and then demolished, so that now all that remains is a decaying street.
I say "site" because it is not there anymore. The buildings were abandoned and then demolished, so that now all that remains is a decaying street. Little Lake, however, is still marked on maps and listed on destination road s. And there is, in fact, the "Little Lake," the Lake itself, that lies across the highway from the village site. Approaching Little Lake form the north, we see Littel of the Sierra Nevada mountains on the right and the Coso Range on the left.
Directly ahead on the left is the volcanic cinder cone of Red Hill.
The mountains seem to draw together ahead, and they do. It makes for the Little Lake Gap. Little Lake already existed from springs, but the Los Angeles Aqueduct project in enhanced the Lake by adding embankments to the south.
This picture is from July I do not have photos in Little Lake itself because I was so shocked and demoralized by what I found, or didn't find, that I did not feel like taking pictures. My reaction was the result of Littpe good bit of history.
In the late 's and early '50's my parents liked to drive up to June Lake in the Sierra to go fishing. There wasn't much in the way of air-conditioning for cars in those days, and the drive up to the Owens Valley can be a hot one. On my July drive, temperatures were over o in the area of Little Lake. In such circumstances, people might stop for a break, for something to drink, and to cool off.
Little Lake was just the place for that, with the welcoming stone-built Little Lake Hotel. I remember walking into the building with my father.
It was air-conditioned and cool. There was a bar, with a Hamm's Beer on the wall, which had an animated waterfall, to illustrate the Hamm's slogan of "From the Land of Sky Blue Waters" i. Paul, Minnesota. It all seemed very magical and enchanting. I lwke my father bought something for us to drink, but I don't remember that part.
In the 's I remember traveling up to the Owens Valley several times, the last of all in Septemberright before I went away to college. I didn't pay much attention to Little Lake on those trips. It was just there, as a landmark on the way. I didn't particularly notice Little Lake on that drive either. It was some years CAA I returned to the area. Passing through Little Lake, I noticed several things. One was that the road, now a four lane divided highway, bypassed the town.
This may have been done earlier I read that it was around [or ?
Placed between the town and the Lake, it looked like the new highway had ,ake into the Lake, and of course interposed a barrier between the Lake and the town. This destroyed part of the appeal of the place.
The other thing I noticed, after having lived in Hawaii for three years, was that much of the landscape was volcanic. To the east of Little Lake, above the Lake and helping to constitute the Little Lake Gap, was a massive cliff in what was clearly a formation of deep and multiple lava flows. Sharp and Allen F. Red Hill, north of Little Lake, was clearly a volcanic cinder cone.
Elsewhere up the Valley were other cinder cones and lava flows. None of the others, however, was quite as red as Red Hill, which looks much redder to the eye than it seems in the photo above. It was a curious and startling experience, to see something that had always been there, the volcanics, but never ly having recognized them for what they were.
There seems to be a lot like that in life. I don't remember noticing anything about the town. However, either then or on my next drive up the Valley, when my wife and I drove up to Lake Tahoe for our wedding anniversary inI did spot the old Hotel, and I was unsettled to see the roof broken and the windows empty, as though the building had been abandoned.
Now I learn that there had been a fire inwhich destroyed the second story of the building. The first story remained inhabited for a while. My next drive up the Valley was not until Septemberand I was in Litle a shock. As I drove by Little Lake, I didn't see anything. And if I had wanted to check it out, I didn't see how to get there. So the mystery of the empty space would have to wait. It waited until July I was determined to see what had happened at Little Lake.
Destination s announced the off-ramp for Little Lake. So I got off. I immediately noticed how bad the road was. And then, when I got to the center of town, there was nothing. No buildings.
No ruins. No foundations.
No nothing. There was one large stone on the ground where the Hotel might have been. I couldn't believe it. Stunned and appalled.
What happened? Well, now I learn that the post office closed in And the remaining buildings were demolished some time before Little Lake, where the Hotel had been built inceased to exist.
Unlike other Ghost Towns, like Ryolite, where something of buildings or ruins remains to mark the place, Little Lake has nothing but Litttle decaying street to show it was ever there. Well, it's my own damn fault.
Driving by and not stopping, time and time again, is the very reason why the place withered. I had just seen something of the sort in Nevada, where "Coaldale," marked on the map, had turned out Lihtle be a collection of abandoned and gutted buildings. It certainly didn't help that the highway bypassed Little Lake the way it did. And I now did notice that, northbound, the way to get in to the town was to turn across the median. US there is not a limited access highway, and a bit further north from Little Lake the southbound traffic needs to turn across the median to get to the Rest Stop on the east side of the road.
It looked a bit dangerous, but at least it was well marked. It was not marked lame all at Little Lake, where access was only obvious from the southbound side. My shock at the disappearance of Little Lake goes with a curious counterpoint. After seeing that Hamm's Beer in the Little Lake Hotel so many years ago, and Littlf the conspicuous presence of Hamm's in television commercials at least as late as the 's, I had long been under the impression that Hamm's had ceased to exist.
As it happens, just days before learning the fate of Little Lake, I was at the pizza place run by my cousins in Hermosa, South Dakota.
They were selling Hamm's Beer. In fact, I think that is the first time since becoming an adult that I was able to see, buy, and drink a Hamm's. Although no longer the family owned business of St. Paul, Minnesota, and the pawn of multiple beer business mergers, Hamm's still exists, with its own lxke club and enthusiastic devotees. This does not redeem the death of Little Lake, but it is nice Littpe know that not all memories of childhood are about things that die and disappear.
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