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A Weekend in Mammoth makes for Big Memories
September, 2017 - Issue #156

"We drove the van down from our cabin early Saturday morning, snagged a prime lakeside parking spot and spent the morning PADDLEBOARDING. We glided across the calm water, watching trout dart across the bottom."
Three days. Three activities. Our plans for a weekend in Mammoth were that simple.

Hike. Bike. Paddle.

By noon on Friday, April and I were on task. Lacquered in DEET, we headed into the Little Lakes Valley from the aptly-named Mosquito Flat Trailhead.

We hiked at the moderate pace mandated by the altitude. The trail starts at 10,200 feet and climbs gradually from there. It almost feels like cheating - driving into the heart of the Sierra and skipping a lung-busting hike to reach its alpine scenery.

We paused often to take it all in. Wildflower-dotted meadows. White swaths of snow blanketing the flanks of saw-toothed granite peaks. Jagged, knife-edge ridgelines punctuating the jewel-blue sky. Frothy cascades carrying water from one lake to the next.

Record-setting winter snow means this summer's mountain soundtrack is water. Gurgling under rocks, trickling across the trail or roaring along a creek, snowmelt makes itself heard every step of the way.

At Long Lake, just enough had melted to open a 12-inch wide ribbon of wet dirt along the shore between the retreating snow bank and the lake. Past the turnoff for Chicken Foot Lake, about three miles in, we encountered an eight-foot-high wall of snow blocking the trail.

We took that as our cue to turn around. We retraced our steps, returned to the van and then headed to Mammoth where we had booked two nights at Tamarack Lodge & Resort.

Set on the shore of Twin Lakes, Tamarack proved to be the ideal base camp from which to launch our other two weekend activities. We drove the van down from our cabin early Saturday morning, snagged a prime lakeside parking spot and spent the morning paddleboarding.

A half moon on its way down lingered above the pine-topped cliffs that backstop the west side of the lake. We glided across the calm water, watching trout dart across the bottom. I fell in behind a coot, following the wake of its lap around the far shore. Seemingly annoyed, he turned his white-billed head around frequently to see if I was still tailing him.

When the wind came up, we broke for lunch. The cabin's kitchenette made it easy to pack our own food for the weekend, so we enjoyed a lazy lunch in the Adirondack chairs on our deck.

Ready to ride, we left straight from the cabin, following the lodge's service road right out to the Lake Mary Bike Trail. The paved, well-marked path climbed switchbacks and carried us past the fragrant corrals of Mammoth Lakes Pack Outfit. We paused at the top of Twin Falls, watching the water rush from Lake Mamie down to Upper Twin. At Horseshoe Lake, we opted for the dirt trail that winds among the pines around the back side of the lake. Stubborn snow meant more hiking than biking for several long stretches, but it added to our adventure.

Food always tastes better when you work for it. And, after playing outdoors all day, it's OK to indulge at dinner. So that's what we did at 53 Kitchen and Cocktails in the Village, starting with the fried chevre. It's goat cheese rolled in something crunchy, likely bread crumbs, and deep fried. Basil vinaigrette, balsamic and toasted bread accessorize the gooey goodness.

It's every bit as indulgent as it sounds, which is probably why we opted for the kale salad for our next dish. You know, to bring some nutritional balance to our meal. But that went out the window when we skipped the main to go straight for the pecan pie.

So, not everything went according to plan during our weekend in Mammoth. But that's OK. It happens sometimes. You just make the best of it. And console yourself with homemade whipped cream.
Eric Harnish lives in Castaic.

Make Some Memories
Little Lakes Basin

www.insidescv.com/littlelakes

Tamarack Lodge & Resort
www.tamaracklodge.com

53 Kitchen and Cocktails
www.53Mammoth.com
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