Monthly Archives: July 2014

Mammoth Lakes, July 6 – 15, 2014

We regrettably left Lower Lee Vining campground and drove south on 395 for 30 miles to Mammoth Lakes. Our new home for about a week is the Sherwin Creek National Forest Campground about two miles southeast of Mammoth. Our site (#75) is on the Sherwin Creek and we can hear the creek but cannot see it. It was tricky getting into our spot, but Ralph did a great job (as usual). We really liked our site at Lower Lee Vining and our neighbors and initially didn’t like our new home.

As we were pulling in another very large trailer was pulling in at the same time. The roads in the campground are very narrow and it is difficult to back into the sites with a large rig. The large trailer had to back out to the entrance, turn around and then back all the way into the campground to his site (about a quarter mile). That was something to watch! It turns out it was the new camp host who has become our new friend. He is from Southern California and this is his first time as a campground host. We’ve settled in and made some new friends (BJ and our neighbors Mike and Chris) and are enjoying the Mammoth Lakes area immensely.

Once settled, the first thing we did was take the scenic Mammoth Lakes Basin Drive which takes you by most of the various glacier-carved lakes in the area. The area includes Twin Lakes, Lake Mary, Lake George, Lake Mamie and Horseshoe Lake. We also scouted out lakes where we could take our inflatable yacht. Lake Mary and Lake George fit the bill nicely.

Lake Mary

Lake Mary

 The next day we headed up to Mammoth Mountain to catch a shuttle bus to take us to the Devil’s Postpile and Rainbow Falls. The shuttle driver pointed out the many dead trees in the forest. She said there was a “wind event” in 2011 with winds clocked at 150 mph, the maximum reading on the instrument. However, they think the winds were 180 – 200 mph. It took down thousands of pine trees. The Forest Service is slowly cleaning up the dead trees, but it will take years to clean up the mess (or a fire).

Downed trees everywhere!

Downed trees everywhere!

For those of you unfamiliar with Mammoth, it is a ski mecca in the winter and a summer recreation area for boats, hiking, fishing etc. The lakes and creeks in the area are stocked with trout and I hear the fishing is great. In fact, the fishing is so good at one of the lakes, the bears wait until the anglers have filled their fish stringers and then they walk right up and take all the fish off the stringers. And honestly, who is going to argue with a big brown bear? Everywhere we’ve been is considered bear country and the campgrounds have bear lockers so you can lock up your food, etc. The bears go for anything with a scent. We were told a bear was cruising our campground last night around 1:00 am. And not a peep from our watchcats! But I digress…

The Devil’s Postpile National Monument features thousands of columns of basalt formed 100,000 years ago when a lava flow slowed, then cooled and cracked. It rests along the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River at about 7,500 ft. The Monument was established in 1911 and at one time was part of Yosemite National Park. The columns formed as homogenous lava cooled at a uniform rate. The columns have from three to seven sides. The 60-foot high sheer wall was exposed during the last glaciation. It’s really something to see!

Devil's Postpile

Devil’s Postpile

Devil's Postpile - The money shot!

Devil’s Postpile – The money shot!

We hiked the four miles from Devil’s Postpile to Rainbow Falls. The weather was perfect (high 70s) with lots of shade and a nice breeze. Rainbow Falls forms when the San Joaquin River plunges 101 feet over a cliff of volcanic rock. When the sun is overhead on a clear day, rainbows sparkle in the mist rising from rocks below the falls.

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls – See the rainbow on the left?

Rainbow Falls and us!

Rainbow Falls and us!

In this area the John Muir Trail and the Pacific Crest Trails intersect. At the resort (I use the term loosely) near the Rainbow Falls shuttle stop there were several backpackers taking a rest from the trails. Several older people too! A long day for us that ended in pizza in town and the Tigers and LA Dodgers game.

The next day we took a drive to Convict Lake and Lake Crowley a mere 18 miles from Mammoth. From Lake Crowley and Tom’s Place we took the Rock Creek Road up the hill to check out the campgrounds and the pie at the Rock Creek Café. Unfortunately they were out of pies! There are several nice campgrounds that can accommodate our 33 footer.   When we returned to the truck it wouldn’t start; the battery was dead. Fortunately, we had the portable battery we were charging on the way up and used it to jump-start the truck. Next morning Ralph had to buy an overpriced, (i.e. resort-priced) battery for the truck. Back to camp and a campfire to top off another great day. BJ the camp host came by and we talked and laughed past the 10 pm quiet time. But to whom would folks complain? The host was there making the noise too! We shut it own around 10:20…so it wasn’t too bad.

Campground resident

Campground resident

The next couple of days we had relaxing mornings and then took our inflatable yacht out on Lake Mary one day and Lake George the next. Beautiful scenery, nice temperature and cool breezes made for perfect days. Both lakes were fairly busy due to the summer vacationers…and made for some on the water conversations with other multi-mode lake users. There were: paddle boats, paddle boards, kayaks, pontoon boats, inflatables, fishing floaters and swimmers.

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After boating we stopped at Schat’s Bakery in Mammoth for Gelato (Italian ice cream). What a great place!   It had everything; high quality with resort prices, but well worth it! We will be back before we leave the area.

We’ve extended our stay here by three days. Not quite ready to go home just yet. The temperatures in Sacramento are in the high 90s and 100s. We are NOT looking forward to that!

We were advised to visit the Breakfast Club and we weren’t led astray. My Huevos Rancheros was delicious. After breakfast we headed up to the Fault which is a very large fissure in the earth. It’s fenced off so you cannot go down into it. A good idea because the sides are collapsing.

We will hang around camp, write for the blog, rest, go back to Schat’s and start packing up for the trip home. We should be home on Tuesday, July 15.

Until the next trip…

A boy and his cat

A boy and his cat

A boy and his cat too!

A boy and his cat too!

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Lee Vining California, June 26 – July 3

Lee Vining California, June 26 – July 3

We left the morning of June 26 to make the 38 mile drive south on Hwy 395 to Lee Vining. The elevation here is 7871 ft and the weather ranges from lower 50s at night to mid-80s during the day. We are in an Inyo National Forest campground 2.5 miles east on Hwy 120. Hwy 120 leads to the east entrance to Yosemite National Park which is 10 miles from here. We are camped in a pine forest right next to a creek. We can hear the roaring creek all day and all night. You would never know there was a drought in California. It is green here with wild flowers blooming everywhere and an abundance of streams, creeks, rivers and lakes. We had rain again this week. LOVE IT.

The next day we visited the Mono Lake Scenic Area Visitor Center. The visitor centers are a wealth of information on the area and what to do while visiting. We watched a movie about Mono Lake and the fight with the Los Angeles Water and Power District (DWP) to save the lake. I’m remember when I moved to California in 1979 I would see Save Mono Lake posters and bumper stickers. I didn’t know what it was about at the time. Now I do…

DWP was taking so much water from the fresh water streams that fed Mono Lake that they literally almost killed the lake. Twenty years ago the California Water Resources Control Board stopped the DWP from taking too much water by implementing reasonable policy and Mono Lake began to heal itself. It is a unique biosphere that is three times more salty than the Pacific Ocean and feeds many birds. It is a sister lake to the Great Salt Lake and left over from the vast inland sea that split the country in half millions of years ago. Unfortunately as a result of California’s three year drought the lake is at an 18 year low. The low lake level reveals the bottom of the lake in some areas and exposes the tufas that would normally be on the lake bottom under water. The tufas are a combination of salt and baking soda and fresh water from the natural springs that feed the lake and form calcium carbonate (a form of limestone) in towers. It was an other-worldly experience to walk on the former lakebed and amongst the tufas.

We went to the South Tufas area of Mono Lake for sunset and it was the perfect time to go. The woman at the Mono Committee Information Center in Lee Vining suggested we go at sunset instead of the heat of the day and she was soooo right. Take a look at what we enjoyed.

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Ralph is working The Good Cat, AKA Fred, on a leash and is having mixed results. We find the ol’ spray water bottle is the punishment for misbehaving (i.e. chasing chipmunks) and cat treats are the reward for saying on the patio mat. We are doing our best to turn young Fred into a cat with dog-like qualities. Fred likes to do the backward boogalou (again Ralph’s name) when he gets to the end of his rope…so to speak. Fred can get out of his harness if he wants too. But he doesn’t want to run…like Simon who runs and hides when outside.

We headed east on 120 into Yosemite National Park and of course got in free with our Lifetime Senior National Park pass…surely one of the best things our government has to offer and one of the few silver linings of being 62+! The eastern part of Yosemite is less visited and therefore less crowded. We went for a hike shortly after entering the park. It was forested, green and lush and full of mosquitos…all swarming Ralph. I was walking behind him and could see the swarm. They didn’t come after me at all! Don’t know what to say about that.

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So we cut the hike short and drove further into the park stopping at many places along the way. We were checking out the campgrounds (for future reference) and overlooks, hikes etc. My favorite place was Olmsted Overlook. HUGE boulders and rock formations. We walked out to the edge and this is what we saw. I hope the photos do it justice.

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This is the 150th anniversary of Yosemite becoming a National Park. In June, 1864 the efforts of a handful of dedicated individuals inspired the United States Senate, Congress and President Abraham Lincoln to provide governmental protection of the spectacular scenery of Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. This law granted the State of California the authority of managing and protecting Yosemite Valley. This became known as the Yosemite Grant and was the beginning of the State Park system in California. Eight years later Yosemite became a National Park. Yosemite has some of the most spectacular landscape in this country. If you ever get a chance to visit, don’t miss it!

We tried to find a lake to launch our inflatable, and found many lakes in the June Lake area, however, the winds were blowing 17 mph and we only have a small electric motor. Not good conditions for our little yacht. We just brought out the camping chairs and the cooler with our lunch and had a wonderful lunch by a beautiful lake. I’d say that’s making lemonade out of lemons!

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The Good Cat is being renamed to Houdini. He let himself out of the rig last night by opening the window screen. We called and whistled and he never responded. In the morning I woke up at 5:00 am and looked out the window and there he was sitting under a tree outside the rig. I opened the door and he bolted up the stairs looking for breakfast. I thought he was gone for good, Ralph thought he’d come back for food. I’m sure glad Ralph was right. Poor guy would have frozen to death this winter.

Bridgeport is the place to be on the place to be on July 4th…so that’s where we are headed. North on Hwy 395 for 38 miles (Ralph looked it up on his phone, which BTW is the only phone with a signal…need I say which carrier I have?) Thought not…

The festivities start in the morning with a parade, then many activities and ending with a rodeo and fireworks. I want to attend the rodeo, Ralph not so much but he agreed to go. I told him, “You know I used to be a horse woman”, to which he replies, “Sometimes I have a sore throat and my voice sounds like that too.” It’s a constant comedy store around here.

I’ll let you know what good American fun we had on July 4th in the next post.

Welcome Summer!

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