Mammoth Lakes Area

Hot Springs at Hot Creek

The Fourth of July week would be spent around the Mammoth Lakes area of California. Diana’s sister and her family would join us along with my in-laws as well. We hiked, fished, enjoyed s’mores, watched fire works, and more.

Wednesday July 3

The truck was packed the night before. Clothes were sprayed with Sawyer’s Permethrin to help keep bugs to a minimum. We were all set as we woke up to enjoy breakfast, pack the last few things and made our way across the Sierra Nevada.

Diana preparing our clothing the day before our departure.

The drive was going to be a long one. We were going to cross over Tioga Pass on Highway 120. For us this meant going up Highway 41 into Yosemite National Park and then connected to Highway 120 eastbound. The total drive time was going to be 6 hours. As we drove through Yosemite Diana was napping and I was trying to make sure Jaden kept looking forward. He gets car sick and I didn’t want to have another incident like I did a couple years back. We were doing okay and driving slow. Our only stop was in Toulomne Meadows. The visitor center was still closed, but you can use the parking area just east of it. It was hear Jaden was no longer feeling good. We powered through “snack time” and was not sure if he was weak from being hungry or if he got car sick. About 20 minutes later we discovered the answer; car sickness.

Puzzled as to how it happened we would soon learn that he was looking down while playing occasionally with his stuffed cat Meowth. Needless to say he felt better and was not hungry. Diana and I ate some snack food and soon were back in the truck heading down to Highway 395. Our destination for the day was a placed called McGee Creek RV and Campground, just a 10 minute drive from Mammoth Lakes.

At McGee Creek RV and Campground

Arriving at our destination we checked in. The host/owner was very nice. She had us escorted to our sight so we would not get lost. Sites 45 and 46 were ours right by McGee Creek. They were prefect sites and quiet. Well at least if you don’t mind the rushing water. Due to all the unexpected snow in May it created a delayed runoff. Thus we were not going to go fishing or play in the creek. Anyway, Jaden was still feeling off and we tried giving him some bread. That didn’t work 30 minutes later so we had him rest for some time. The rest of the family joined in about 5 minutes from when we first drove up into our site. Jaden was happy to see his cousins again, but remember he still was not himself. It took till around dinner time for him to snap out of it. This was good news as he really needed the energy to keep up with his cousins.

Dinner was awesome. Glenda was our chef for the week and the first meal was Frito Bowls. Everyone loved them. Jaden had a fully belly’s worth of food. I had 3 servings myself since I had skipped lunch. Lemonade and tea were the drinks. Soon cookies followed. The remainder of the night was spent socializing, playing UNO, and getting accustomed to the higher elevation.

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Thursday July 4

The first night of sleep was an adjustment for me. Diana too. We both were in the back of the truck on our new mattress while Jaden was with 3 cousins and Aunt Ginger in the tent by the river. I think that was a great idea in terms of natural “white noise.” The kids were not going to hear anything. As I was one of the first people to get up, I walked around and checked on people in the tent. They were all sleeping still. Diana was going back to sleep in the truck, so I made my way down to the camper.

Two people were awake and looking for food. I walked on in and soon was joined by John. He got the hot water ready for coffee while a breakfast appetizer was muffins. When Glenda was up, mostly everyone else was too so a full and filling breakfast of eggs, bacon, and sausage was served. We were going to definitely be energized for our morning hike around the Mammoth Lakes area.

Once we were all ready to go, we drove into Mammoth and stopped by the Forest Service’s Visitor Center. There we met a gentlemen, in full character, outside with a sign stating to ask him a question. A few of us grabbed some free information and join the rest of our group to hear what the man had to say. We learned why the placed was called Mammoth, how big the town was in the mining days, and so forth. It was very interesting but the younger ones were done and ready to move on.

Listening in on the story of Mammoth Lakes.

The next stop was at a fishing store to grab some flies and worms. Our destination was up at Twin Lakes. From there we would hike around and fish. Thankfully as we left the shop they were starting to close part of the main drive down for the 4th of July parade. We spent our time eating a snack at the lake and starting our hiking adventure.

Snack was over and it was time to explore! We went west across the bridge and followed a path that went south along the western side of the lake. It an easy to find trail for a short stretch. The trail disappeared and we were soon in a rather large rock slide.

Fishing off the rock slide.

The rock slide did make things slow going. It also caused some confusion as to where the trail might be. However, the rocks did clear out the brush allowing for some fishing time. JJ, Ginger, and John stayed back to fish while the rest of us carefully made our way through the rock slide. Thankfully we were not far from where the trail resurfaced and the rock slide ended.

Back on the trail and waiting for others.

Soon everyone caught back up with us and we continued down the trail. The boys ended up catching a lizard, which was a highlight of the late morning. After a photo of their prized capture, it was time for a release and to continue further down the trail.

Davant with the lizard in hand.

We ended up in a campground that apparently was still closed. There was another small family who hiked in from the other side and that was it. It was just us and, I admit, it was nice that way. Some snow patches lingered and the boys didn’t waste time. Soon a small snowman was made and contributed to the water level of the lake.

We made our way through the campground and eventually to a bridge that crossed back over Twin Lake. We saw Twin Lake Falls while we waited for everyone to catch up. Soon we were back on the eastern side and hiking back to the truck. People were everywhere again but sticking to the nice walking trail most were going in another direction.

Diana and Jaden walking back to the truck.

Everyone was hungry by the time we were back at the truck. This meant we were to drive back through Mammoth and down to our camping spot. However, our vehicle did not go that way. We decided to head up to the ski area to grab our bus tickets for tomorrow’s ride into Devil’s Post Pile National Monument. By the time we figured out the parking and tickets, we were about an hour later and hungry!

Ski area still open!

Now back at camp, it was time for resting. The kids either played outside or teamed up on Minecraft a bit. This gave us adults some down time too. Soon Diana and I were scoping out spots for the 4th of July firework show. We did detour up McGee Creek and saw a beautiful view of the Eastern Sierra Nevada. No complaints there, but it was not going to solve the issue for a fireworks viewing spot.

After about an hour of testing out places, going back to camp to discuss, and then driving out once more, we settled on the old frontage road that paralleled Highway 395. We would just have to wait till later on that day to see if others had our idea. For now it was time to take it easy, but that would not last long as the boys were all outside.

John was splitting wood and the boys wanted to learn. I showed Davant how to break up the larger pieces with the splitter John brought with him. Teaching him some safety tips and some swings later Davant was getting the hang of it. The younger boys were taught how to use the hatchet. Even Jaden wanted in on the hatchet action and so John and I guided/watched the whole operation. Needless to say they all did a great job and we would be ready for s’mores when the time came.

Dinner was soon made and our bellies were full. Now it was time to get some jackets and head out to see the fireworks. Yes, we were not the only ones with the idea to use the frontage road. In fact there were a lot of people but we did a good spot to watch. Otherwise to get up close and personal with the show as $25 a car. This saved us $50 and we still enjoyed it. This would conclude the second day.

Friday July 5

Today was another day planned out time together. We almost could not do it this year, but thankfully the day before Devil’s Post Pile National Monument opened up. Our tickets in hand we enjoyed another breakfast and packed additional food for our journey.

At the Mammoth Ski Area the parking was getting full fast. In fact, we arrived around 9 AM and the lines of vehicles on the side of the road extended back to the letter E. We were not quite so sure on the whole shuttle thing. Diana, Jaden, and Myself ended up looking for a parking spot a couple areas back from where everyone else parked. Thankfully we discussed where we would meet and handed out the shuttle tickets. The rest of our group was about an hour ahead of us when it was all said and done. By the time we arrived, it was time to eat.

Eating and starting the Junior Ranger program

Besides handing out food for everyone to eat, the kids were given the pamphlets to work on so they could get their badges. Our family had done this at every National Park visited. I think Jaden has a nice collection from various places. Anyway, all of the boys whom met the age requirements were working hard at answering what they could. It didn’t take long to where we needed to start hiking to answer other questions so off we went down the trail!

The trail was wide and easy to the first stopping stop. The broken basalt lay before us, but it was not quite the spot I remembered seeing in photos. It was at this point we split into two groups. Diana, Jaden, Davant, Jack, and myself went uphill to the left while the others continued straight. The trail would loop around the iconic feature that lay before us, so there was no worrying about not crossing paths again.

The hike uphill was very quick, maybe 3 minutes, and we were soon on top of the post pile structure. It was cool to be on top and the boys liked it too. The columnar basalt was obvious below our boots. The boys opened their books and started to see if they could answer any questions. It was a good thing Diana remember to ask about it because I think they would have kept on going and missed out on answer a question or two.

It was now time to complete the loop. We met up with Andy and Ginger who said it would be all down hill from our current location. The icon photo was still to be had so we continued on the loop and told them we would catch them on the other side.

The hike was warm and longer then we had thought. Not too long though, but I would say it took us about 10 minutes to get back down to the bottom. A few views of the columnar basalt peaked out on the side, but the main picture I was waiting to see had finally arrived. We were at the spot so many photos are taken of this great geological feature.

Devil’s Postpile

A brief stop for a few photos and then a group photo. We had seen and walked around the postpile. Now it was time to regroup and see what we wanted to do. Our snacks were dwindling and lunch devoured at this point too. Being mid afternoon I think several of us were ready to call it a day.

Our group was waiting for us near a bridge crossing. I believe on the west side (opposite of the post pile) that is where the Pacific Crest Trail and John Muir Trail reside. The small detour across the bridge would allow other hikers to see the postpile. Anyway, we walked over the bridge and then turned back to head to the shuttle. Everyone was tired and ready to go back to camp for some relaxing. The shuttle ride was standing room only so most of us stood all the way back up the road. Once at Mammoth Ski Area we were able to figure out the shuttle system and had an easy ride back to the truck.

Once at the truck we decided to have a fuller meal by going out to lunch. Glenda recommended Schats Bakery. It was a great choice and the fresh baked bread for sandwiches was absolutely delicious. There was a long line but it was worth it. Everyone enjoyed the meal before heading back to camp.

Sunset at Camp

Dinner was snacks, but dessert was going to be S’mores. The boys were excited to have a campfire too. Soon the marshmallows were out, the chocolate and grams followed, and everyone enjoyed the experience. Each boy got to roast there own. Some would spend the time making that perfect golden brown marshmallow for an adult. We didn’t mind.

Saturday July 6

Saturday was going to be our final day exploring the eastern side of the state. Morning was relaxing and breakfast was whatever you wanted to grab. The boys played Minecraft afterwards while the adults got things ready. We were going to hit up two more attractions that day. One was going to be Hot Creek and the other was the Obsidian Dome.

The drive was short to Hot Creek. It was just up Highway 395 by 5 miles and then down a road for about the same distance. It is a popular fly fishing creek to the west of the geothermic activity. Once parked you can easily look down on the site to see the bubbling water, blue water, steaming water, and the occasional smell of sulfur.

Now as for Obsidian Dome, I had not been there in 13 years. The last time was on a geology field trip. I did see the sign and looked up directions before this vacation. The boys seemed restless still, but the dome would do the trick. Our drive was probably about 20 minutes to the site. We turned off of 395 once more and took a dirt road to the area. A nice wide turn out allowed us all to park together and out we went to see the dome. Huge boulders of obsidian lay around let alone the entire mountain. The boys enjoyed exploring and climbing all around them too.

Alas it was almost lunch time and so, once again, we would head back down to camp. The afternoon though would be spent doing a different activity. We were going to go fishing. I heard of spot from the fishing store a few days back that would be good to try out. The late snow melt did leave many of the creeks and rivers high for July. This did not detour us though so John, Davant, and myself went to Little Lakes Valley for fishing.

Rock Creek in Little Lakes Valley

While we were up high and fishing, the ladies decided to capitalize on the McGee Fishing Pond with the other boys left behind. It was at this point Jaden caught his first fish. The boys all together caught enough fish for everyone to have for dinner. I was excited for Jaden when I returned. Unfortunately for us, the river was too swift and the fish were too small for anything. We got skunked!

Although we did not catch anything for dinner it did not mean all the fish the boys caught were going to go to waste. The gentlemen at the pond gutted the fish for the boys and wrapped them in aluminum foil. They took the fish back to camp where we soon were adding the seasoning and cooking fish over a fire. The fish was delicious and everyone enjoyed a fish or two. It was a great way to finish off the last evening of camping together. Tomorrow we were going to say our goodbyes for now and make our way home.

Sunday July 7

The sun rose and we were off to an early start. It was time to break down camp, have a final breakfast, and begin our journey home. We were going to be heading north through Tioga Pass while the others headed south down highway 395. At 10 AM we parted ways and said our goodbyes. Diana came up with an idea to stop in Mammoth once more to grab three deli sandwiches for lunch. It was a great idea.

As we approached the eastern entrance into Yosemite National Park on highway 120 (Tioga Pass), we were greeted with a long line of cars. I was surprised to see so many cars just waiting to get in. I think the line was about a mile or two long and it took us about 30 minutes to get to the entrance. There was a Park Service person who asked folks what they needed. If we had an annual pass, we could take a short cut in line and drive on the other side of the road. Thankfully we did so we were able to skip ahead of a few cars. The views were beautiful and soon we were hungry.

Lunch at Tenaya Lake

We drove past Toulomne Visitor Center to avoid some of the crowds for lunch. The hunger was growing so we pulled over in a wide turn out by Tenaya Lake. It was a great spot for lunch and we soon were out of the vehicle chowing down. The lunch was very delicious. We took our time to let the food settle too. Nobody wanted to get car sick on a full stomach! Anyway we were soon back on the road and our next stop would be Reimer’s for ice cream in Oakhurst. After that we were home sometime mid afternoon and that completed our family vacation trip.

View of Tenaya Lake at lunch.