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theksmith

August 2020 COVID Cabin Fever Relief / Family Vacation in Mammoth Lakes, CA

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we made the last minute decision to get out of town for a little change of scenery before Brady got too far into the new school year... so we headed off to Mammoth Lakes, CA for a week.

 

 

Friday

 

it took us nearly 10 hours to drive from Phoenix through the Vegas route, but we were rewarded with the much cooler weather due to the nearly 8k feet elevation, some great 4x4 trails in the nearby Inyo National Forest, and plenty of natural wonders to see!

 

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we stayed in a little condo rental in The Village Lodge Mammoth - which was convenient because there's a whole slew of restaurants, bars, and shops in an outdoor mall style arrangement. 

 

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most of the area restaurants were open for outdoor dining. one of our favorites was Shelter Distilling - their Black Unicorn Coffee Liquor was excellent (still not quite as good as the Coffee Moonshine @Ladybug gets back east)!

 

 

Saturday

 

Saturday we hit the grocery store and just explored around town.

 

 

Sunday

 

our friend Kevin (@KtroubleA) also joined us on this trip. since he's kind-of a Jeep newbie, we took him on a fairly easy run Sunday to get his feet wet and see what sort of tolerance he had for trail adventures! ;)

 

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the Laurel Lakes Road trail was rated "moderate", but i'd say all except one crazy switchback was easy for any stock high-clearance 4x4.

 

Kevin's brand spanking new 2020 Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon JL didn't have any trouble, and Kevin seemed to be eager for more trails!

 

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on the way back out of the dead-end trail, we stopped for lunch in a little Aspen grove by a creek.

 

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Monday

 

our other good friend Chris (@defectivemonk) had made the 12 hour drive down from Portland, OR to join us as well. his black 2013 JK Unlimited Rubicon has a mild AEV lift and an integrated Ursa Minor J30 "pop-top" camper.

 

but, i found Gadget with a dead battery Monday morning, so we all drove down to the Autozone in Bishop for a warranty replacement and planned to hit the Sand Canyon trail afterwards.

 

i got confused on which number the trail was in the Wells California Book, and so we ended up at the end of the easy Buttermilk Country trail instead. but a trail is a trail, so we just ran Buttermilk in reverse! it was a very diverse trail with some great scenery, though i could have done without the last couple miles of washboards! 🥴

 

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Kevin took this photo when we stopped for a little break in the tall pines at the western tip of the loop:

 

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we finished Buttermilk early enough everyone agreed we had time to still do Sand Canyon - so we headed towards it. on the way however, my TPMS started barking and i watched my driver-front tire pressure drop quickly.

 

turns out i had sliced a sidewall somehow on that easy trail - no idea where exactly. we put the spare on and then called a few tire shops in Mammoth and Bishop about getting a replacement.

 

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(photo from Chris)

 

after striking out on the first couple calls, Kevin found a Diesel & RV Repair/Tire shop in Bishop that was able to get the correct size Cooper STT Pro for me the next afternoon.

 

with Gadget having been a very bad girl, and without a spare - it was time to just head back to Mammoth and hit the distillery!

 

 

Tuesday

 

most of Tuesday was just a nice lazy vacation day. Chris, Kevin & i headed down to Bishop around 2pm to get the new tire - Brady and Aimee (@aimee) stayed back to relax more and explore near the condo.

 

the shop was interesting and off the beaten path, but they were very fair about the price of the tire as well as the mount & balance - nice folks!

 

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once Gadget was back in business, we headed over to the natural Stone Columns at Crowley Lake.

 

there was a mix of pavement and little dirt roads to get near them, and were excited we could see the columns once we hit the end of a trail. they looked reasonably close and so we scurried down to see them right away.

 

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the limestone formations were really neat up-close. here's Kevin by the first ones we encountered:

 

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obligatory selfie:

 

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the sky began to look ominous as we headed back.

 

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we never did get any real rain though - instead it was the hike back up to the Jeeps that tried to kill us...

 

we had been so excited to get to the columns, we didn't realize how steep the sandy hill climb back was going to be. i was in flops, of course, but all 3 of us had to stop and gasp for air multiple times. 

 

Crowley Lake is at nearly 7k feet elevation and the app on Kevin's phone said we climbed around 400ft more of elevation in only 200ft of distance!

 

 

Wednesday

 

we all met up at the Devil's Postpile National Monument on Wednesday morning.

 

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it was a short easy hike to the base of the postpile.

 

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Kevin & Brady also hiked up to the top (photo from Kevin):

 

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then they conspired to get Aimee, Chris & myself to climb up a little ways to see another view of the formations:

 

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on the way back into Mammoth, i dropped Aimee & Brady off at the Main Lodge so they could ride the Gondola up to the top of the mountain.

 

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us boys decided to go run that Sand Canyon trail we'd never made it to on Monday.

 

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the trail was rated moderate with killer views and several types of terrain. we crossed a very small section that looked to have recently burned.

 

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a difficult rated spur trail, Wheeler Ridge, juts up the side of a mountain about 2/3rds of the way into the Sand Canyon trail... i convinced the other guys we should check it out at least!

 

it turned out to be a very tight twisty little boulder strewn climb. though Chris's JK is less modified than mine, and Kevin's JL is bone stock - we spanked it! Chris & Kevin even get extra credit for no whining ;)

 

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for time's sake we only visited the viewpoint on top instead of following the entire ridgeline. my GPS said we topped out at 10,949 feet!

 

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pano from Kevin at the viewpoint:

 

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this is Chris's JK on the way back out to rejoin the original Sand Canyon trail - the sign said "Most Difficult, Skilled drivers with modified 4wd vehicles"!

 

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feeling accomplished, we then finished up Sand Canyon which dead ends at a little lake which needs mowing (photo from Kevin):

 

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a steady downhill in sand for several miles, the ride back out was an ass-haulin good time.

 

after these 2 great trails, Kevin's ear-to-ear grin told me he was hooked on Jeepin!

 

 

Thursday

 

we all drove down to Mono Lake to see the other-worldly Tufa formations Thursday morning.

 

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next up was an easy 2wd loop around the Obsidian Domes.

 

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we all agreed that @Ladybug would love to have one of these huge boulders of volcanic formed black glass - i couldn't lift any of them though!

 

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we pulled out the chairs and had a nice leisurely snack in the shade of the pines before finishing up the loop - sort of a last day trail goodbye.

 

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(photo from Kevin)

 

 

Friday

 

we made good time driving back. it took about 9 and half hours to come home via the CA 395 and the I-40 as our major roads this time.

 

there's never enough time, and so several things near the 395 are still on my bucket list - the Reward Mine, Alabama Hills, and maybe the Bodie ghost town. i also still need to take Aimee & Brady to Yosemite someday. we  weren't able to get last minute passes despite trying online every morning as they opened up a few.

 

this was as great way to escape the Phoenix heat and we all had an awesome time - i highly recommend the Mammoth area!

Edited by theksmith
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I loved your trip report and pictures! I've been to Mammoth before, but in the winter to ski. So, I've wanted to go check out the nearby trails and points of interest for a long time. I didn't even know about the post pile or the obsidian dome, what neat places! Looks like you had a great trip.

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28 minutes ago, dzJeepChic said:

I loved your trip report and pictures! I've been to Mammoth before, but in the winter to ski. So, I've wanted to go check out the nearby trails and points of interest for a long time. I didn't even know about the post pile or the obsidian dome, what neat places! Looks like you had a great trip.

 

i'd been there once in the winter too - with several friends that could all snowboard and they wanted to teach me... but i got sick including a sinus infection right before we went, so i was pretty miserable that whole time!

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VERY Much enjoyed seeing and visiting the area again, via your posts and trip report.  thanks for sharing...  ;)

 

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Great trip report Kris.

Thanks for posting it

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Thanks Kris, enjoyed the pics.

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And there is NO Doubt that having one of those obsidian boulders would be so very cool!!!  

smiles, ladybug

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Aimee took this photo while her & B were on top of the mountain on 8/12/2020:

 

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turns out i had stood in almost the same spot to grab a photo back when i first visited Mammoth on 2/26/2006!

 

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Edited by theksmith
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“Great minds think alike”

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And what great pictures and report you have here!!! Just wants me to go there!!!  You want to schedule this for next year?!

smiles, ladybug

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