The arrival of the rain today allows me to sit inside and watch God water my plants for me. It also gives me a chance to catch up on
housework writing more posts about our ski-turned-hiking holiday.
So, after two lovely days of skiing we decided to swap our skis for hiking boots – drastically more comfy footwear to be sure!
The internet is frustratingly tuned into either winter ideas or summer ideas for Mammoth and its surroundings. The Red Meadows and Devils Postpile (an inland version of our Giants Causeway – stacks of hexagonal rocks that crystallized slowly from magma) are the main ones that search engines throw out, but the road to there is closed to traffic during the winter and only accessible in the summer via a bus. Cars are simply not allowed into that valley. The braver and more hardy could walk the 7 or 8 miles to the trail heads, but we were warned against doing that. Apparently the November snow is still lying in the valley.
In the end we had to get our information the old fashioned way. We drove to the tourist information office. Finding the actual address for it online was a tedious task given that the internet for the room was patchy, but in the end we got it. We managed to talk to a real human being, which helped immensely seeing that I was getting dizzy on the merri-go-round of
“Where can we hike?”
“Devils Post pile, but the roads are closed”
“So where can we hike?’
We got a newletter, on real “newspaper” paper and it had great deal more information for us. This information is probably online but to find it you’d have to ask the right questions or at least type in the name of a feature like “Minarets Vista” to get some snippet of information embedded in a vast array of info on The Devils Post pile. If you don’t know first where to hike then all you get is Devil’s Postpile. See the problem?
I’ve noticed this “tourism tunnel vision” before. For example, even though there are lots of gorgeous places to visit in the Sierra’s, Yosemite is pushed to the forefront every time – forget the rest! And Yosemite IS fabulous, but there are other things to see in California. Just like there are other things to see besides the Devils Postpile in Mammoth.
So we persevered. We established what was feasible to do in the conditions we had and planned to hike three days and ski on the last day.
Minarets Vista is a 3 mile round trip from the Mammoth Inn. Not a huge distance for our first day hiking but it was at an elevation of 9000ft.
And the road was covered in snow most of the way.
It was actually a cross-country ski trail but the skiers had to turn back where the snow stopped. But we could keep going. And, oh boy, was the view worth it!
At this stage we were agonizing over the decision to walk the 8 miles to go see the Devils Postpile (and then there was the 8 miles back too.) Should we get up early the next day and try it, or would there be too much snow?
Would it be foolish and dangerous and would we end up on the evening news in an embarrassing rescue scenario?
The road down from this point looked clear and we walked to the corner to see how it looked beyond that – the same.
It was tempting to keep going but my gut reaction said no. Plus, I wasn’t sure what was happening with bears at this time of the year, especially with the funky winter conditions we were having. The 8 miles uphill was not welcoming either. Too late to go for it today we turned back towards Mammoth Mountain.
Can you see how it got its name ? I think it looks like a big slouchy mammoth.
Still intreged by getting to the Devils Postpile we decided to see if we could drive to the trailhead for Mammoth Pass and get to it from there. Every single resort employee and local we talked to said that it couldn’t be reached… but still… with this lack of snow…
We only got as far as Twin Lakes, which were completely frozen.
The road was clear of snow but closed. It was a few miles to even get to the start of the pass from here. It was not an option, it seemed. So we decided that we’d use the remaining daylight and to go see the hot springs at Hot Creek, and we left the frozen lakes behind.
Hot Creek gets its name from the geothermally heated water which joined the creek.
Once upon a time people were allowed to bath here, but seismic activity increased on the mid 1990s and some people were badly burnt, some even died as a result of flash temperature increases.
There are “safe” paths so you can explore the area. Pretty cool at sunset as the air temperature drops and the steam rises dramatically from the pools and underground vents.
It must have been amazing for the native people to find an area like this, especially in the winter where they must have been able to put it to some use keeping warm.
I know these things cost money and impact the environment, but I’d love to see an interpretive center here complete with bathing facilities. It wasn’t until I got back home and was fact-checking for this blog that I found out about places where you could get into the spring’s water in baths. Again, a big secret and hard to get information on in the village and resort!
There is a fish hatchery here. It may be of interest to people who like fishing (if they let you fish).
But despite our frustrations at feeling like we were not “allowed” to do things due to a conspiracy of withheld information (or just pure dumbness at finding it out on our behalf) we headed for our hotel looking forward to soaking in the bath. At least I could find the hot tap.
As we left the dirt road that leads to the Hot Creek we spotted these locals. Cute!
More Mammoth hiking to come…