“Roof down?” Jamie asked as we headed out of South Lake Tahoe. But it was a rhetorical one as he pressed the button to expose ourselves to the elements. Despite the blue skies, the cold air rushed into the car and I pulled my hat on. It was below freezing outside!
Today we had a 137 mile journey south to Mammoth Lakes, a ski and outdoor recreation resort under the shadow of Mammoth Mountain. Our route took us alongside the Sierra Nevada range, guaranteeing amazing scenery for the entire journey.
We had left Lake Tahoe pretty early, meaning that we would have time to explore our new destination before checking into our room.
After a few hours driving, and a stop at the small town of Lee Vining for a cheeseburger at Nicely’s, we arrived at the picturesque lake.
Looking at the mountains reflecting in the still blue waters, you would never guess that this lake was once the backdrop for a bloody shoot out.
In 1871, escaped convicts from nearby Carson City were in hiding here when they were caught by the local sheriff, Robert Morrison. The Sheriff was killed in the gun fight and the mountain was named in his honour. The convicts were recaptured near the town of Bishop.
We walked around the shoreline and watched a man sail out to the middle of the water before dropping his fishing line. It was such a tranquil place, with only Jamie, myself, and the man in his boat. It was the type of scenery that makes you wish you were good at painting.
We drove through the ski resort following the signs for the Devil’s Postpile, not quite sure what to expect. We came to a toll booth and after paying a small fee, we were given a map and waved on our way.
“Caution! Bears!” the sign in front of us read.
“Cool, I’d love to see a bear,” Jamie quipped. “Here beary, beary, beary…”
This enticement didn’t work, so we pulled into the car park and set off along the path on foot. During the summer months, the site is so busy you have to get the shuttle here from the ski resort. You can see why, as the road is quite windy and narrow in parts.
We rounded the next corner and saw what looked like a pile of rocks. We looked up and saw the strange vertical formations that make up the monument. The Devil sure has a lot of junk mail and bills.
These shapes are made of basalt, created when lava slowed, cooled and cracked into hexagon shaped columns.
The area was once part of Yosemite National Park, but after gold was found nearby in 1905, the boundary of the protected area was changed. The Devil’s Postpile was protected again in 1911 by the 27th president, William Howard Taft.
We also found a very sweet looking chipmunk who loved the camera a bit too much. Here he is modelling for us with his nut. I hope that the bears Jamie was trying to summon before didn’t turn up and find this little guy, but I’m sure he had more things to worry about, like owls and foxes.
We left the bears, chipmunks and the Devil, with his epic pile of post, and headed back into the town. It was a strange time of year to be here. The ski season wouldn’t kick off for another month or so, and the summer crowds had long gone, with the temperatures starting to drop.
This meant the resort and the town were eerily quiet, especially in the late afternoon, early evening when we arrived.
We called into a nearby supermarket (an expensive one at that) to buy some supplies for tomorrow’s trip to Yosemite. After a busy few days, we also decided to buy some pizzas and Texas Toast, which was like a weirdly sweet version of garlic bread, and called it a night. After all, we needed to rest before the big hike tomorrow.
Other things to do in Mammoth Lakes
Mammoth Lakes really is a paradise for people who love the outdoors. There’s plenty of hikes, bike trails and lakes to rent boats on nearby. In the winter, the resort is really popular with skiers and snowboarders. The town also boasts a virtual golf simulator, with a choice of 30 courses.
McGee Creek and Rock Creek are also less than 12 miles away. Both offer dramatic scenery and some excellent hiking trails.