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.
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).
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!
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.
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.
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.
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…