In 1923, the US Forest Service approved a permit for Walter and Anita Foster to operate a fishing camp on 7 1/2 acres of alpine lake country south of Bridgeport. Virginia Lakes Resort, as it is called, has changed hands three times since then and has grown to include 19 cabins and a main lodge. Carolyn and John Webb bought the property in October, 1974. The couple met while John was attending UCLA to become a facial restoration surgeon, and Carolyn was working with the UCLA Athletic department.
“Lew Alcindor was a really nice young man,” Carolyn said of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. “And he was never seven feet.”
Google maintains Kareem is 7’2”.
John decided he didn’t want to be contained in a dentist’s office, so the couple bought the string of cabins for $80,000.
When they moved up to the resort, they were afraid of animals and the dark. That has changed.
Now, Carolyn and John live to fish. Carolyn writes articles on fishing tips and trout recipes for angling publications, and the 74-year-old Carolyn still chases off bears with her broom when they get too friendly. She and John, who is 76, both have the vitality of people half their age.
The resort opened for the 2019 season on Saturday, June 8. There are ten lakes speckled through the resort’s valley. Three of them, Big Virginia, Little Virginia, and Trumbull Lakes, are stocked weekly with trout.
90% of the visitors here are anglers. The other 10% are those who love the peace and quiet.
“The first question I get asked is, ‘There isn’t cell service here, is there?” Carolyn said.
To help the Webbs service the resort, they hire about 5 international students each season to come stay and maintain the cabins.
One cabin in particular, cabin 5, is tougher to maintain. That’s because cabin 5 is haunted.
Since the Webb’s bought the property, employees have said they don’t like to clean the cabin alone, and many nights the light inside the cabin will be turned on without explanation. It has a crescent moon window above the door.
Robin McKee, who worked at the resort, wouldn’t look into the crescent moon out of fear of what she might see. The ghost of Mae Martin, a long-time visitor of the resort, is said to be the poltergeist of cabin 5.
The Webbs are not only the stewards of these lakes and cabins, but also of the history of the families who have loved Virginia Lakes over the decades.
Mono County Supervisor John Peters was sitting at the bar in the main lodge last Monday chit-chatting while John Webb cooked him a cheeseburger. Peters can be found there often.
“This is heaven on Earth,” Peters said. His family has been coming to Virginia Lakes since the 1940s. They own a cabin in a subdivision of private homes built just above the resort.
The bar he sits at is the social hub of the resort. John and Carolyn serve malts and beers and especially good apple pie to their visitors each night.
A white board next to the bar, at the heart of the lodge, records the biggest catches of each visitor. Each cabin has its own whiteboard for visitors to have intra-cabin competitions. The side of the lodge opposite the restaurant houses a shop with all the fishing supplies and snacks an angler could need.
A door from the bar to the kitchen has the signatures of famous visitors on it: Marilyn Monroe, the 1938 USC football team, and Ken Niles from CBS radio to name a few.
The resort’s history lives with its visitors and with the Webbs. Virginia Lakes feels effortlessly of another era. It’s anachronism is not corny or contrived; it is as authentic as the men and women who sit at the bar.
Leu Riffle sat alongside Peters at the bar. Riffle is the grandson of Mae Martin, the ghost of cabin five, but that is not what he is best known for at Virginia Lakes Resort. His claim to fame is building cabin 3 along with his brothers.
Leu, Stan, and Laird Riffle built cabin 3 in the summer of 1980 free of charge. As repayment, the Webb’s didn’t let them pay for their stays at the resort for 10 years, until eventually the Riffle brothers said enough was enough and started paying their way again.
“You can’t measure good will,” Carolyn said of the deal.
Carolyn and John Webb have no intention of selling the resort any time soon. “We’ll do it ‘til the body falls apart,” Carolyn said.
Judging by the vigor Carolyn showed while walking around her slice of “heaven on Earth,” that won’t be any time soon.