More Mammoth Action

Hmmm… that title could really be misinterpreted ;-). As I mentioned in my last post, I got to spend some time up in Mammoth Lakes, CA. I’m fortunate that my parents own a condo there and graciously allowed me to use it for a bit this summer. Now, Mammoth is primarily a ski town. In fact, I used to come up here every winter with my family for exactly that before I went off to college. There’s also stuff to do in the summer, but only really if you’re into the whole outdoorsy-mountainy thing (fishing, horse-back riding, mountain biking, camping, hiking, etc.).

For those of you that have never heard of Mammoth , rest-assured, you’re in the majority. Despite being a really, really nice place to ski, due to a quirk of geography, during the winter the place is really only accessible by car to people from Southern California (Mammoth is located on the eastern side of Sierra Nevada mountains, so Northern Californians can‘t cross over the most direct routes, as they‘re closed in the winter, and the one available route goes through Lake Tahoe, so they just all stop at the ski resorts there. Southern Californians can just drive around the southern end of the Sierras and go up the eastern side from the get go, no snowed over mountain passes involved). So Southern Californians are all up in that piece (year-round), while no one else really knows about it, or if they do know about it, it’s still too hard to get to so they won’t go. And I’d even go so far to say that the majority of those Southern Californians are actually from San Diego (as opposed to LA/OC/Inland Empire).

The above fact alone makes Mammoth an interesting place just to people watch, its like a mini-San Diego in the mountains… the clothes people wear, the way people talk, the cars they drive, etc… the whole feel screams San Diego (for those of you that live, have lived, or have visited San Diego for any length of time, you know what I’m talking about). It was just fun to sit back an observe, because even though I’m from there, I don’t think I really share too many of those traits anymore (aside from ultra-laid-backness… other than that at least I don‘t think I do too many other stereotypical SD things… and you can correct me if you think otherwise).

Anyhow, my impeccable timing kicked in for the positive as one of the weekends I was there coincided with the Mammoth Festival of Beers and Bluesapalooza (which is exactly what it sounds like). Two old friends of mine (one of which I’ve know since elementary school) came out for the party. I wish it was solely because they just really wanted to see me after a long time out on the road, but I’m sure the free place to stay for the festival didn’t hurt. And the festival provided the perfect excuse to do what old friends do when they get together… get drunk. The general flow to the whole thing was that there’s a large area with stages where bands play (stay with me here) the blues, while craft breweries from all over set up tents and you walk around sampling their beers. Your entrance ticket includes a (small) cup and the beer is free (save for standing in line). Now, another little known fact, San Diego has one of the largest craft beer brewing scenes in the country, so most of the breweries slinging beer were from San Diego. That, plus 80% of the people there being from San Diego, exemplified the whole mini-San Diego in the mountains/forest feeling I was talking about earlier. Of course there were people from all over, but I kid you not that 80% of the people I spoke with were from SD.

Of course it turned out to be a great weekend (kinda hard to mess things up with that kind of combination). In addition to the festival, we even managed to get some hiking in the night before everything kicked into gear. We might even come back again next year as my friend’s band was invited to play… we shall see. Yes, that’s it… no crazy stories (that I can tell here anyhow), no broader point, just reporting on a good weekend out in the mountains. Oh, and some photos of course:

Hiking near Mammoth...

Hiking near Mammoth…

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Devil's Postpile National Monument...

Devil’s Postpile National Monument…

Scene of a forest fire in the 90's...

Scene of a forest fire in the 90’s…

Our destination...

Our destination…

Looks smaller from above (that's my friend Shaun standing next to the bottom of the falls)...

Looks smaller from above (that’s my friend Shaun standing next to the bottom of the falls)…

Yours truly swimming under the falls (very, very cold and very, very fun)...

Yours truly swimming under the falls (very, very cold and very, very fun)…

One trail starts near the ski resorts parking lot (you may have noticed the Mammoth)...

One trail starts near the ski resorts parking lot (you may have noticed the Mammoth)…

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General ambiance of the festival…

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Shaun starting in a Drunk Level 2: Feeling Good (DL1 being Just Chillin’).

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What fun is a festival without costumes…

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More costumery (and a good brewery)…

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Shaun, Ryan and I reaching DL 3: Feeling Great.

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Everyone at DL 4: Acting Foolish, later that night (yes, I had face paint on as well. no, I don’t have a picture of it. Where did we get face paint anyway?)

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Ryan reaching DL 5: Done For The night.

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One of the passes that gets closed in the winter (on my drive out of Mammoth to San Francisco), and why very few Northern Californians get out to Mammoth.

 

California’s Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

Whoa… no posts for quite a bit of time. I’ve been spending quite a bit of time floating around California… spending time with family and friends mostly. I have managed to get myself out and about a bit, although maybe not as much as I would have liked. One place I did manage to spend quite a bit of time in was Mammoth Lakes, CA; a small mountain/ski town in the Eastern Sierras. As it’s summer, there’s no skiing, but plenty of outdoor summer activities (fishing, mountain biking, hiking, etc.) if you like that sort of thing (I think you know that I do… well, at least hiking anyhow).

On the drive up from San Diego I saw a sign touting the “Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest” and thought it might be worth checking out. A week or so later, after some intrawebz investigating, I found myself driving back down from Mammoth for a solid afternoon of exploring. Now, the attraction here is that forest contains the oldest living tree on the planet (named Methuselah, the tree is an amazing 4,484 years old as of 2013… smartly, but also sadly, the actual tree is unmarked for fear of vandalism). That, plus, as you will see below, these trees look amazing. As you might expect, the forest itself is pretty remote (this whole region of California is pretty remote and sparsely populated) so it took sometime to wind my way up into the mountains get there, but it was well worth the effort. I’ll bore you with some of the details I found interesting before getting to the pictures. There’s two main groups/groves of trees, one you can get two via a paved road. The other is 12-miles away on a dirt and gravel road (it took me 45 minutes to go 12 miles one way). Both groves are up pretty high elevation-wise, but the one at the end of the dirt road is above 11,000 feet (3,350 meters for you metric thinkers). Each grove has some small hikes, but the lower one has a nice 5-mile loop that will also take you by an abandoned mine. I went to both areas and did the big loop as the sun was setting, which made for some really nice views (given the light) and ensured I had the place almost all to myself (only one other car in the parking lot when I left). It’s hard to explain how majestic the place felt…maybe the photos can convey some of it. All in all, a very good way to spend a day.

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Abandoned mine building…

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Abandoned mine shaft… note, that it looked entirely possible to worm oneself around that grate.

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These trees seem to grow right out of solid rock…

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Who’s national forest you in? I’m inyo national forest… sorry, could not resist.

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