Following The Dharma Bums To Matterhorn Peak (Pt.1)

As described in this post The Dharma Bums has always been a special book for me and it ranks right up there with On The Road and The Town And The City as one of my favorite books of his. The description of the trip to Bridgeport in the eastern Sierra Nevada and the ‘big mountain climb’ of Ray Smith (Kerouac) to Matterhorn Peak together with Japhy Ryder (Gary Snyder) and Henry Morley has had a big allure to me for a long time. Consequently, a visit to Bridgeport was only a question of time. In October 2014 I finally had the chance to make that dream of mine come true.


After arriving in Bridgeport, I found the town to be a lot like Kerouac describes it in the book. It still is a rather small town set in the Bridgeport Basin with the Sierra Nevada to the west and a population of about 600 people. The first point of interest for me was ‘the grass of the school’ Japhy Ryder and Ray Smith were sitting on, watching the traffic on the Highway (Hwy 395 which cuts through the town) and waiting for Morley trying to buy a sleeping bag (‘that most remarkable man who was probably the only mountain climber in the history of the world who forgot to brings his sleeping bag’). However, finding the schoolhouse wasn’t such an easy affair. According to the Mono County Historical Society, the elementary school (which I assume was and is the only school in Bridgeport), was moved from its previous location, which is about a block away from Hwy 395 (so it wouldn’t have really been suited to watching the traffic and going-ons on the Hwy), to the present one, where it now serves as the Mono County Museum. My suspicion is that he actually meant the Mono County Court House, which is located right next to the Hwy 395. For that reason, I have included photos of both structures here.

School house, Bridgeport, California

The former elementary school-house


Mono County Court House, Bridgeport, CA

The Mono County Court House  

The following photos show Hwy 395 ‘running down from Bishop way up to Carson City, Nevada’ where ‘the young Indian hitchhiker pointed north’

Hwy 359, Bridgeport, CA

Hwy 395

Some of the very few shops I saw in Bridgeport, so I guess Morley was scouting (unsuccessfully) in them for a sleeping bag.

Hwy 359, looking south

Hwy 359

The Bridgeport Inn. It’s not mentioned as such in The Dharma Bums, but as Kerouac is writing about a rather more luxurious restaurant with a bar on one, and a restaurant on the other side (both of which the Bridgeport Inn has) so I guess it’s highly likely he meant it. I didn’t see any other place in Bridgeport that could possibly have fitted that description.

Bridgeport Inn, Bridgeport, CA

Bridgeport Inn

To be continued …


3 Responses to “Following The Dharma Bums To Matterhorn Peak (Pt.1)”
  1. Great! I enjoyed that. Dharma Bums is also in my top three Kerouac novels. Cheers

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  1. […] what mountain he refers to when he writes of the “matterhorn”, and it looks like this blog writer is off to find out (his site claims that more is on the […]

  2. […] Following The Dharma Bums To Matterhorn Peak (Pt.1) […]

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