Approaching from the west, your eyes drawn to the mountains’ drama and grandeur, you barely notice this belt of low hills, generally no more than ten miles wide, marking the transition from Central Valley to Sierra. Yet once within them you feel cut off from the outside world, especially on secondary roads such as White Rock or Ben Hur, which follow the dips and contours of the land.
What these roads lack in people, they make up in wild life, especially birds. Get out of your car, and you are in a symphony of songs and calls.
If you are driving (or bicycling) these lower foothill roads, two enjoyable destinations are actually over the line into Madera County. Eastman Lake offers fishing, boating, hiking, picnicking and camping. Coming from Mariposa County on Ben Hur Road, you can park at the relatively undeveloped north end of the lake, where a hiking and equestrian trail leads over the hills along the east shore. Since so much of the foothill area is fenced ranch land, this is one of the few opportunities to get out and hike through the grasslands and blue oaks.
To reach the boating and camping areas by car, you will have to drive around through the town of Raymond. Look for Raymond on the map and you will immediately be struck by the number of roads radiating from it into the hills. In 1885 the railroad reached Raymond, which thereby became the starting point of numerous stage and freight wagon routes, including the famous “Cannonball” stage to Yosemite. The Mariposa Pioneer Wagon Train, June 10th, 11th & 12th, celebrates the old stage, although it now runs into the town of Mariposa. Raymond today is a quaint town where you can enjoy a refreshment before returning back into Mariposa County.