Rediscovering Mammoth Lakes

Sadly, before my recent trip, I hadn’t visited the Mammoth Lakes area for a long time, having been a regular winter visitor when I lived in Southern California. Back then I saw the mountain, the condo, the restaurants and the clubs. It had never occurred to me that this was also a wonderful summer recreation area. Boy, was I surprised.

If you stand on top of Mammoth Mountain and are not obsessed with skiing down in one piece, you can take the time to look around, and what you see is the 10-by-20 mile Long Valley Caldera.

In learning about how this was formed, I discovered that Mammoth Lakes is a thin-skinned community. No, I don’t mean that the locals are overly sensitive; it’s the land beneath their feet. There’s this thing called the earth’s crust, sort of like the crust on your apple pie. And like the pie, the crust rises when the stuff below it is hot. Turns out the crust around Mammoth Lakes is only about three miles thick, compared to between five and 20 in most places.

I discovered that after a recent spate of trail building, the area now has 300 miles of trails, some paved for biking, others dirt tracks for hiking or mountain biking.

Honestly, I never thought about the name, Mammoth Lakes. There must be at least a dozen of these, nestled in the woods, below towering cliffs. I’m a kayaker, so these lakes have certainly got my attention. And, on the subject of lakes, I finally got the chance to paddle Mono Lake, just a half hour north of Mammoth Lakes.

It felt like being in a place where time had stood still eons ago, the absolutely still lake, surrounded by silent ridges.

While I usually camp, and there are many campgrounds around, on this last trip I stayed at the Westin, more luxury than I’m accustomed to, more than enough to spoil me.

The Village is a short walk from the hotel, with lots of places to eat and to buy the stuff you bring home to family so they don’t mind so much not being included.

I don’t fish, but some of my friends do, and they were all smiling at the end of the day, which I assume meant the fish were biting or nibbling or whatever fish do.

I’m heading back next summer with my outdoor buddies in tow, and we’re bringing hiking boots, kayaks, bikes, and our cameras. We’re going to settle in for a week or more, so I hope the brewery is open for business.

Meade Fischer
Watsonville, Santa Cruz County