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Mammoth and Yosemite, June 2012

Monday, December 25th, 2017 by

Hey I had a baby! …18 mpnths ago. There are lots of photos of that elsewhere. Some five and a half years ago, however, I drove up with Nathan and his parents towards the mountains. Man, I miss the California mountains. This was one of our last few trips before moving to New York.

In which we doddle around the Sierra

Nathan’s parents came to visit and we went on a bit of a California trip. We started our trip just heading north up the 395, past all the normal things we do. We stopped briefly at the Whitney visitor’s center and got a nice view of the mountain. It was hot and windy in the eastern valley, but a gorgeous day nonetheless. We kept heading northwards, stopping for drinks, and then heading to Manzanar. It was really such a super windy day that we were leaning over just on the walk from the car into the visitor’s center!

View of flag plus Mt. Whitney from the visitor center.

Arriving at Manzanar

The exhibit was just as powerful as I remembered, but I definitely got bored before Nathan’s parents did, as I had been there several times before, so I wandered back and forth a few times between the exhibit and the gift shop, out the back of the exhibit, back to the gift shop, back forward, and so on. From when we arrived to when I was wandering around, I noted that they had lowered the flag out back to half-mast – turns out a rescue ranger had died up in Washington state, and they were lowering it in his honor.

After leaving Manzanar, we continued on our drive up to Mammoth with no real further delay. We had rented a condo up towards the north of town, with what would be easy access to one of the ski slopes had we been there in winter. As we were not there in winter, the place was a lot less expensive and a lot less crowded. It was a two story, two bedroom place, and nathan and I had the very nice upstairs loft. After making some dinner, we largely just sat around talking and playing some Dominion, and overall had a pretty relaxing evening.

Diorama display inside Manzanar of what it was like when it was still built up

So dusty and dry. Imagining being here to be pummeled by the hot winds in summer and cold winds in winter, taken away by the government is…chilling, at best. Powerful place to visit.

The next day we headed up and towards Yosemite – such an easy drive to the eastern entrance of the park from Mammoth! I do so love it. We checked out Tuolumne Meadows, and Nathan and I headed for the top of Lembert Dome – something I’ve never done despite my may other trips to the park. We started from the meadow, starting out with his parents, but they had to drop off rather rapidly. We then cut around the north of the dome, and looped back into the east side, where we started up the rock part itself. Along the way there, there were woods, some lovely lakes, and general scenic splendor not a mile from the road.

Yosemite views never really get old for me

Good place to store someone?

The walk up to the top of the dome quickly stopped being trail and mostly was “walk up the rock face”, which is fine. It was pretty clear which way was up. First you go past just general big pieces of granite, and then there are some slabs to overcome, and then it starts actually being a bit steeper and more exposed, though still pretty doable. The day was super mega epic windy though, which definitely made it more “interesting”. Nonetheless, we easily made it up to the top and were rewarded with absolutely stunning 360 degree views, to the wilderness north of Tuolumne, of the meadow itself, of the Tioga Road, of the Cathedral Range…just everything so amazing. And of course, also windy 😉 We got some nice pictures, and just sat and enjoyed for a bit, and then slowly began edging our way down. I must admit, I was a bit nervous going down. The granite was plenty grippy, and there was no real danger, but it still felt pretty dicey, and I was pretty happy to get a hand as I headed down. Admittedly, as soon as I dropped out of the main gusts of wind, it felt a lot better.

Go up that

It was a tad windy

Great view though

We headed back down and met back up with Nathan’s parents. We had some snacks and ice cream at the Tuolumne grill, and then went down the road just a little bit and walked for a bit on the trail near the Lyell Fork. We stayed around the rocks in the river for a bit and just super enjoyed how amazingly gorgeous the whole area is. From there, we meandered our way back to the car, and did the drive back. We stopped at a couple of points on route 120 out of the park, and then headed down toward Mono Lake.

People on Lembert

In the river, as it were

I’d been there several times before, but Nathan’s parents had not. We walked down to the lake and did the little bit of trail along the edge. The tufa views were great as always, and the colors of the day were bright and vivid. I think his parents really enjoyed seeing the lake, and I never really tire of it. I love, just *love* that area, the way the desert feeling is surrounded by mountains, and road, and feelings of space. From there, we headed back towards
Mammoth, but we had a few more stops to make.

Multiple landscapes

tufa block

The first was at the very evocatively named Obsidian Dome. I will admit – I was expecting a single upthrust of obsidian. But as we wended our way through the dirt roads in the woods, following occasional signs, and getting at last to a small parking area, all I saw was a giant jumble of rocks. From satellite, however, you can clearly see the shape of the rocky upthrust : http://goo.gl/maps/LsM4x We played around at the base, and noticed that the rocks were, in fact, made out of obsidian, as one would hope they would be, based off the name! Looking up reviews now, I totally missed that you could take a trail to the top. Alas. Perhaps next time I am up in the area I will be able to take advantage of that opportunity, but it will have to wait for that next time. After that, at last, we headed back into Mammoth and settled in for the evening.


big heap

The next day we headed over to Mammoth Mountain itself. It turns out that you can always pay to take the ski lift to the top, so that’s what we did! I had never done that before, so it was pretty cool. First off, it’s a pretty long lift ride, and if takes you all all all the way up to the serious summit of the mountain, with 360 views, looking out over to the desert in the east, and to the Minarets and Yosemite to the north, and the general Sierras to the west, looking down into the valley that contains the Devils Postpile.

It was windy and really unwarm, but it was pretty amazing. There are also some warning signs up there about looking for unexploded ammunition! I guess they use things to mitigate snow levels, but being warned about it is always a little surprising. That was just the bonus frisson of entertainment on this magical, amazing view from up there. We then went and checked out the small exhibit at the building, and had a snack at the restaurant before heading back down. And then we headed further down from town, and headed over to the Hot Creek geological site. The warning signs for *that* were pretty impressive. However, I suspect they are adamantly correct, as the very bright colors and steam coming off the springs do warn of the heavy metals and high temperatures.


wind in one’s face


The bright colors really were eye-catching, and the stream itself stood out in the landscape that was already turning into desert, being just far enough down into the rain shadow of the eastern sierra. The views of the landscape studded with scrub and scattered trees, with the creek running through it, and the high mountains in the background was truly impressive. After we finished there, we started our drive back home.


bright colors; mixed landscape

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