It's that time of year again. We have been notified that the new Warren Miller movie is playing in early December so that means that it is only a matter of days before we are in the snow ourselves.
Our family likes Mammoth Mountain. We fly to Colorado and Utah but the drive up the 395 has a certain comfort because it is such a familiar road traveled over the years. In Mammoth we like to stay at the 1849 Condos right across from the Canyon Lodge. I can smell the spiced apple cider in their lobby already.
The road to Mammoth is a pleasure all in itself. Our journey starts when we load up our Rocket Box, take the 91 east to the 15 north up the Cajon Summit. We talk about what Mt. High conditions must be like off to the left side of the car. We take the 395 cutoff up past Adelanto, and always say that we should stop at the Cocky Bull Bar/Restaurant which has closed and re-opened several times. I always think that they must make a great burger and Bloody Mary for some reason. Then up to Four Corners and we talk about the futuristic solar collectors off to the left. Then it's onto the high-desert two-lane no-pass hilly section that the kids liked to go fast on when they were young to get that funny feeling in their stomachs. There are not many roads left where you can get that. Then we enter the rough, wild west mining areas that always make us wonder what that life must be like. The Silver Dollar Bar there must have been something in it's heyday. The 395 then joins the Hwy.14 - the other alternative route through Los Angeles. We debate if one route must be faster than the other. We then see Brady's Mobil, the only gas station that used to be around for miles when we first started traveling to Mammoth. Next is Pearsonville where I got a huge speeding ticket once.
Then, for miles we start seeing signs for "Really Good Beef Jerky". Not great or excellent but "really good". We really need to stop in Olancha once and find out for ourselves. We pass the Ranch House Restaurant where I have stopped with my fly-fishing buddies on other trips. We pass Cartago and see all the abandoned hotels and buildings and wonder why they are no longer there. Seems that there should be ghosts there. Up further we see the huge dry Owens Lake and think about what is must have looked like filled with water and if it will ever be filled again. Then it's Lone Pine and Mt. Whitney. We say that we should climb it some day....not. And then the best thing about Lone Pine - Frosty Stop Chalet. We always stop for ice cream there. I once got a cherry-dipped jumbo cone that made my lips red for the rest of the trip up. Then Manzanar, Independence, Big Pine and the Ancient Britlecone Pines - which we did visit once.
When passing through the small towns after dark I always remember the fish-shaped neon lights of the sporting goods stores and all the fly-fishing trips that I have been on in the Sierra.
When we get that far up on the trip, we start looking off to the left to see how much snow is on the mountains and have hopes that in Mammoth we will find epic conditions. When we get to Bishop there is Schotts's Bakery, Jack's Restaurant and the sign for Mule Days. We think that Mule Days must be like a County Fair only with prized mules as the attraction. Once we get to Bishop we always stop for gas at the Shell station on the north end of town. We know that it's not much longer now. If it has snowed we ask at Shell about the road conditions ahead and begin to think about getting up the Sherwin Grade. We leave the Shell and pass Tom's Place, McGee Mountain (where Dave McCoy built his first lift), then Lake Crowley, Convict Lake, the airport and finally get to the Hwy. 201 turn off to Mammoth. On the 201 we notice that the snow banks are getting much higher.
If we arrive early enough, we stop at the Canyon Lodge and transfer our skis and gear from the Rocket Box to a locker so that we don't have to carry it there the next day. We check in at our beloved 1849, and when we finally get some of that spiced apple cider, we are certain that it will be another wonderful trip to Mammoth. There is nothing like being there, making a fire and all being happy to be together in Mammoth once again. Our family has many wonderful memories of our times in Mammoth. Warm memories that one day our children will create again with their children.
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