Day 3: Mammoth Lakes
I awoke following the hike up Telescope Peak and was surprised. The feeling of creeping doom that had washed over me the day before was gone. My only sensation was that of being rather fatigued. Strangely I didn’t feel that I’d crippled myself with the hike. My legs were sore, but I could stand and walk without pain. I’d feared that I’d ruined my entire trip on just the second day.
Over breakfast Howard and I agreed that today we’d take it easy. “No more than 4 miles of hiking,” Howard said. “And something nice and level,” I added.
As we packed up I finally got to soak in and fully appreciate the view across the street from our hotel.
As we packed up we discovered a truly gigantic insect outside our room.
Well, we left the big bug alone and hit the road. We were both pretty lethargic and thankfully the road was straight and the scenery stunning.
We stopped in Bishop about mid-morning. I’d read about this bakery that produced some truly excellent bread. Erick Schat’s Bakkery. Unfortunately the place was a tourist trap which wore on our tired nerves. It’s too bad it was mobbed. The place was charming, and I would have liked to explore some more. We escaped with a loaf of shepherds bread.
Our plan was to get a campsite near Mammoth Lakes, a ski resort famed for having prodigious snowfall each winter, and do a very little hiking. Along the way we enjoyed the mountain views a little more…
Further up the road we made our way past Lake Crowley. Named after Father John Crowley the lake is a reservoir for Los Angeles. Father Crowley went up and down the valley convincing the despondent residents to stay when the reservoir was approved. The small semi-seasonal lake which existed before, known as Owens Lake, had been slowly decreasing in volume as local farmers tapped the tributaries for irrigation. With the creation of the reservoir, the farmers saw no future in the valley. Father Crowley convinced many to stay with the promise that Lake Crowley would be a tourist destination for pleasure boating and fishing. Turns out he was right and now the lake bears his name.
We drove on to Mammoth Lakes. After securing a campsite from the “camp host,” we decided to explore a little. A museum would be easy walking, right?
The Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort was the dream of one man, Dave McCoy. This guy and a dedicated crew spent each summer building lifts, buildings, whatever needed to be done. Then each winter they’d ski like madmen.
In the 2010-11 ski season 661.5 inches of snow fell on the mountain. That’s over 55 feet of snow!
Howard and I wandered over to the ski museum, a small, but informative and interesting place.
The most striking thing, other than the biography of Dave McCoy, was the collection of ski gear and primitive snowboards.
After enjoying the museum we had lunch and planned out our afternoon. In a local activity guide I found a listing for an abandoned mining “town” that was a 1 mile loop hike. Perfect!
The Mammoth Consolidated Gold Mine operated from about 1927 to the early 1930’s. Records suggest about $100,000 in gold was taken out of the mine, but this was barely able to cover costs. The owner made more money taking tourists to Devil’s Postpile about 10 miles away, and so he closed the mine.
Most of the cabins were either showing signs of vandalism or full of refuse from the camp.
Some of the cabins looked quite strong. A good cleaning and you could move in. However, some looked like a stiff breeze might knock them down.
Some of the ore processing equipment was still on the site. A 100 horsepower single cylinder engine was used to drive a belt that powered a variety of processing machinery like crushers, shakers and sorters.
Further along the trail we found a display of some historic artifacts and among them was a payroll page from 1931. The pay rates were very diverse. Laborers, like Al Frick, or truck drivers, like William Burge, were paid $5.25 a day. The cook, William Spann, earned a flat rate of $75 a month. The superintendent, C.R. Johnson, earned $100 a month, and he didn’t have to pay the $1.25 a day for room and board like the other workers.
Still quite fatigued from our Bataan Death March(what Howard and I had taken to calling our hike up Telescope Peak) we returned to town to check out the local brewery: Mammoth Brewing Company. I tried their seasons offerings, but I think my body chemistry was still out of whack and none of their offerings appealed to me. However, their brewer was originally from Pennsylvania and made a killer root beer. Ah, a little bit of central PA in the high Sierra Nevada mountains…
We purchased a jug of the root beer and went back to our campsite to settle in for the evening meal and a good night’s sleep. The camp host told us that we might get bears in the camp that night. Her suggestion was that if we couldn’t get them to go away we could call 911. The cops would come out and shoot the bears with bean bags or taser them.
We almost hoped to see a bear.
After sunset we enjoyed the fire and the stars quite visible through the trees.
The day was a success. Howard’s knee was sore, but he didn’t feel too much pain. I was able to eat three gradually larger meals(still not quite my normal appetite though). We were not completely physically exhausted. Check, check, check.