Days : 52-55
Our original idea of using the East-West pass through the middle of Yosemite to reach Mammoth Lakes had been foiled – yet again our plans were thwarted by snow!
The pass, which is at 9945 feet, is closed due to snow over the winter, is usually re opened by end of May. However, thanks to such high snowfall this winter, the pass still had 20+ feet of snow and is not lightly to be open until the end of July!….
So after driving back into Yosemite, (the long way around, thanks to the continued road closure that had effected bus the day before) to enjoy the photo opportunities at Glacier Point, we headed north. It was mid-afternoon before we actually left the park, to drive the 350 miles around the top of Yosemite, to get to Mammoth Lakes.
As it was a long drive and would involve the Sonora pass, which Ed did not want to do in the dark, we decided to make a random over night stop en route. We decided on a small town called Sonora. It turned out to be a perfect choice. It had a cute main street which was home to a surprisingly wide selection of restaurants – Mexican, Thai, American, fondue, Chinese, an alehouse, amount others – we opted for sushi!
And for the first time, we actually beat the snow – the East-West pass from Senora to Bridgeport (which at 9628 is only 300 feet lower than the one through Yosemite) had been cleared of snow on the day we arrived in Senora – meaning we could use it the next day. The snow was piled 15 feet high on the side of the road at some points. It made for a memorable drive, with a stop for snowballs!
We arrived in Mammoth Lakes and checked into our cabin – yes, a cabin – not the tent! I had convinced Ed that Mammoth was too high (around 8000 feet), too cold and would have too much snow on the ground for us (i.e. me!) to be in a tent. I had managed to book a cute little “camping cabin” on a campsite for 3 nights. It was basic – but it had a roof & heating! It was totally the right move – there was still snow on the ground at the campsite.
We loved Mammoth the moment we arrived. The mountain scenery is beautiful, the town is totally unpretentious and the vibe is fun and relaxed. And I have never encountered a bunch of happier people! Everyone we met was friendly and utterly upbeat! I am not sure why – perhaps they put something special in the water – but it is certainly working!
Happy to get back on the bikes we had a wonderful ride around Twin Lakes and Mary’s Lake which were still partly frozen. We had to use the roads as the bike paths still had several feet of snow on them.
We tried to get to Horseshoe Lake – but the snow defeated us!
As soon as we had arrived in town it had become apparent that some of the ski slopes were still open! The resort has had the biggest snow season ever, the pistes were still covered and they were running 6 of the lifts.
Never in my life had I anticipated being able to enjoy a days’ skiing on June 16th in the Northern hemisphere! Izzy and I decided a days’ skiing (or snow boarding in Izzy’s case) was a must do.
We gathered together all our warm clothes, hired some kit and headed up to the slopes. I was wearing Texas Gortex – i.e. demin and Izzy had borrowed Ed’s camo waterproofs. We looked like a pair of complete ragamuffins but we didn’t care – we had a fabulous time!
For some bizarre reason Ed and JJ chose to go fishing instead!
We could have stayed longer but after two fun filled days in Mammoth Lakes it was time to move on. I’d love to head back to Mammoth in the winter ski season to check it out.
What Ed says: We were very fortunate that the Senora pass had just opened for the season. It was a blessing as the alternative route would have made for a very long drive. Driving the pass over to Mammoth and seeing how much snow there still was did make me capitulate on the camping cabin option. Mammoth is well known for its skiing but it also has some exceptional mountain biking which was the main driver to visit, however most of the trails were still snow bound! The upside of limited biking (and at an 8000ft elevation the mountain biking was a tad harder than expected!) was that the trout fishing season had started at Twin Lakes. With Justine and Izzy off sliding down the slopes, JJ and I headed for a peaceful day fishing with a late lunch at the Mammoth Brewery.
No luck with the fish this time, but The Mammoth Brewery is well worth a visit. Their IPA’s are outstanding and, according to JJ, so is their non alcholic root beer! Top IPA was the 395.
Next Destination: 812 miles East – California to Wyoming