The time has come and gone to secure being Camp Hosts again for the most spectacular place ever: Lake George in Mammoth Lakes California.
We will not be Hosting this year but our dear friend Mona WILL be!
Lake George is NOT the same as other campsites in Mammoth.
I wanted to give you a few pieces of advice to ensure you have a VERY FUN AND RELAXING STAY.
First Come, First Serve.
Don’t bring an RV. They don’t fit and the campground was not paved for RV’s. Sites are graded for one tent. Max occupancy is enforced.
You will MOST LIKELY experience BEARS. Be smart: put EVERYTHING in your bear box. Putting it in your car is not a bear box and they WILL open the door to get the food. They can actually lift the handle and open the door OR they can bash out your window. Either way, your car will not be left in good condition.
DO NOT LEAVE FIRES SMOLDERING. You SHOULD have a bucket of water next to your camp site before you even START a fire. If you leave a fire smoldering you will have the privilege (which is what it is) of staying there revoked. The Camp Host is NOT an enforcer, it will be the Authorities on your case and they don’t mess around with this risky behavior.
There are winds and the best sites to avoid them are #16 and #15.
You get ONE CAR per camp space. Additional cars can be parked in the lot, no problem. You just can’t occupy another spot without paying for it. You get a Car Pass when you pay for your site. Be sure you post it on your rear view mirror.
I have no idea what the camp fees are going to be this year (2018). Check the Mammoth Welcome Center to find out if the camp is open (it was delayed in 2017 and did not open until July 17th.
Be nice to your Camp Host, she can accommodate most needs but the reality is she can only do SO MUCH.
The worst days to try to get a camp site are Thursday,Friday, Saturday. The best days are Sunday (when everyone is leaving) or Monday.
Checkout is NOON, don’t bug occupants for make “side deals”. You can take your sweet time packing up and leaving! Relax and ask anyone that bothers you to speak to the Camp Host. You paid for your stay and we want you to get every ounce of the experience.
Check In is 2pm. You must PAY for the site and OCCUPY IT. You are not allowed to pay for sites and not actually camp there. Don’t ask the Camp Host to break the rule for you. If your site isn’t occupied with YOUR GEAR then we are obligated to give it to the next person ready to move in. This is a big issue: people believe they can reserve/save spaces but you are not allowed to do that.
We do not have a Credit Card machine. Cash only. I forget if you are allowed to write a check (I don’t think you can).
You can stay in a site 7 days MAX. In 2017 the rule was you had to vacate your site before you could come back. That means there may not be a site after you leave so plan ahead. There are Walk-Up sites in Lake Mary and Twin Lakes. Be NICE to all Camp Hosts if you want help finding things.
Clean up your campsite when you leave. We understand that in the night you drop things and it’s tough to navigate around BUT in the morning when you are packing up you can definitely see your trash, fishing line and greasy messes left on the tables and bear boxes. DO NOT LEAVE A MESS, we are Hosts not your maid. Be a respectful guest and try to leave the place NICER than when you arrived.
Do NOT come to Lake George to get high, drunk, fight or play loud music. Seriously. The Mammoth PD patrol often (every day) and will remove you. PLUS people go to Lake George to get AWAY from this stuff. Want to “party”? There are plenty of other camp grounds you can find.
There are no showers at Lake George, only bathrooms with toilets and sinks. No electricity either. Oh, and the visitors to Lake George use the restrooms too (and mostly they keep it clean but they are also mostly guilty of leaving trash all over the place including fish guts).
You are not allowed to clean your fish at the water spigots. OR YOUR BODY.
There isn’t cell signal at the campsites. YAY!
Closest showers are Lake Mary or in town.
There is a small store at Lake Mary that has essentials (most of the time).
We usually had firewood for sale, $7 a bundle. Bringing exact change helps of course. I think the grocery store sold it for less.
Grocery shopping in Mammoth? READ YOUR RECEIPT if you shop at the only grocery store in town (big box). They overcharged me REPEATEDLY and it wasn’t until I’d been in there a lot of times complaining that it seems this behavior changed. I personally suspect they know people are only there for a few days and won’t take the time to fix the mistake. So BEFORE YOU LEAVE scan over your ticket and make sure it is exactly what it should be. If you see an error just go to the front desk and they will refund your money INSTANTLY when you tell them you were charged for items you did not have on the belt. I was told that this grocery store is #1 in the country for $$$ sales. They also are in the Top 5 of Shoplifters being caught.
Before you get to Lake George (or any site) grab a map of the area if you plan to hike because there are no maps provided up here. You can get maps at the Welcome Center.
Be nice to your neighbors, they are probably amazing people that you’d like to stay in touch with years to come.
Be nice to your Camp Host! The pay is terrible and the hours are SUPPOSED to be 3 a day (that’s all we are paid for). We get woken up in the middle of the night for LOTS of reasons (none of them great), we get yelled at, people are disrespectful of the rules, WE HAVE TO CLEAN THE SHITTER! Give us a little kindness because it makes a difference and just feels nice.
If you would like to be a Camp Host, check out the company that we worked for: California Land Management. The pay is terrible but you do get to park your “house” on site for no charge. As a Host we did have “Full Hook Up”. The pooper was a mascerator (poop puree system) and had to be pumped UPHILL to the restroom.
I sure wish we were able to be there for the 2018 Season FOR SURE.
Being a Camp Host was one of my most favorite jobs ever for two reasons: LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION (we feel so lucky to have been chosen to run Lake George as well as Oh Ridge in June Lake) AND the incredible people we met on our journey.
Let me know if you have questions! And if you are reading this and were part of our 2017 Camp Season PLEASE send me an email so we can keep in touch! SaritaShoemaker@g m a i l.com (spaces added on purpose).
Check out our photos of our stay at Lake George – it was tough looking at those memories and not being sad that we aren’t going to have them again this year.
Larry McGee gave me some amazing bear coverage photos that I’ve included.
Maybe 2019 (fingers crossed).
RARE: A map of the campground.
Most evenings…Oh how I loved this peaceful existence.
You need this to park your car in the campsite.
Our first WEEK we met Cinnamon the bear.
Raking and perfecting my sites.
Houses on the other side of Lake George are OWNED by people.
I cook, they jaw jack and enjoy the fire side conversation.
The Mammoth PD coming to the rescue!
Have a map but…still getting lost.
Bike Path! Highly recommended.
Visiting with friends that were rolling through was so cool!
Geting Zoey to do more than lay around.
Mark your calendars! This was a tough one – we ran in SAND.
More Police presence. And they’re all super nice officers.
I bounced off of those rocks then onto my back in the middle of the trail (I was wearing a back pack filled with two jackets, two baseball hats, a bike repair kit, two moleskine note pads, a pen, my reading glasses and the house keys).
Everything stopped as quickly as it had started.
Then I felt the pain.
My First REAL Mountain Bike Crash
Mammoth Rock Trail got some of my DNA
I spend most of my time thinking about how to accomplish things as safe as possible. I’ve always been a “safety-first” type of person. My personality is A. Things are normally very structured and organized BEFORE I even begin any sort of project.
That type of personality breeds STRESS so I’ve been working on letting GO of the desire to control so much and let the cards fall as they will. That has not been easy and I have had to bury my tongue more than once.
Stress has normally preceded some sort of tragic problem with my health or in my life. I figure if I can lower it, I’ll be happier and healthier. So far, so good.
On that note, I agreed to a beautiful mountain bike ride with my best friend yesterday.
Predictably he did not have ALL of the answers to my safety questions. I trusted his judgement on my ability as a new mountain biker. I did feel that I was improving just based off of NO CRASHES and riding on manicured and unmanicured trails.
From FAR FAR away he pointed out the trail and I imagined the simplicity of it matching the Uptown and Downtown trails on Mammoth Mountain.
We started out on the fresh and awesome Mammoth Bike Path toward Twin Lakes. This is pretty much all downhill (since we began at 9,000 elevation) winding back and forth through the trees, past the horses (forced to carry humans of all sizes through the woods…another subject later maybe) crossing bridges over creeks. Super easy and super fun.
Since we’ve been here I have seen a dozen deer in the woods or crossing Lake Mary Road. I’ve seen three deer hit by cars and left by the road side. One was a baby!! It is because people speed that these beautiful creatures are dead. The mommy deer was hanging out further down the road WAITING for her baby to join her…think about that for a second. It’s awful and why I silently put curses on anyone I see speeding on Lake Mary Road (or any road in Mammoth).
SIDE NOTE: The speed LIMIT is a LIMIT not a minimum. If you are a person that just can’t stand going the speed limit I think you are a FOOL. I would hope you’d feel awful if you hit and killed a baby deer.
We got to Twin Lakes in less than 10 minutes without any bear or deer sightings, crossed Lake Mary Road to The Old Mammoth Road to bomb down (SERIOUSLY FAST) to the trail head entrance. A hairpin turn forced me to slow WAAAAAY down as two cars navigated up it and one passed me at a crawl. I didn’t mind.
At the trail head I noticed the rocky beginning.
Single track with extremely sharp rocks scattered all along embedded in the dirt.
It was an uphill start which I actually like better than down for the heart pumping challenge on my legs.
Randy ran the path with Rob Winterburn a couple of weeks ago and RAVED about this trail. He repeatedly (and excitedly) insisted he take me on this trail because it was just SO GOOD.
“Will the entire trail be this rocky honey?”
“I didn’t remember it from running, you’ll be fine.”
I accepted this and made it to the top of the first section.
He was ABSOLUTELY right: the views were spectacular plus we had storm clouds forming which created a creepy feeling in the air. I snapped a few pics then looked forward to where Randy was riding.
More single track fun…oh goodie gumdrops. Ugh.
The first descent was maybe 300 yards. There were plenty of softball size rocks randomly blocking the trail. These rocks were NOT smooth looking river rocks. They had corners and edges and reminded me of giant teeth. Thankfully I had two options if I lost my balance: off the edge of the mountain or into green plush crass on sandy knolls. That was a relief and I SORT OF relaxed a bit.
Randy would wait for me after a semi-technical section I’m guessing to make sure I survived it.
This got my mind racing a little worrying that the entire trail we would be CRAWLING and really not get the fun part of going downhill. I also had the feeling that I was in WAY over my head so I would slow down a little more and try not to think about how much further we had to go.
After four “wait for my wife” sections we came upon four hikers going up. They were super nice and chatty. Randy had passed them first and told them I was coming down next. The front hiker cheered me on as they passed telling me “your friend said you were doing awesome”. Hmmm…that was nice of them to pass along as I crept past them in slo-mo.
My confidence boosted a little bit more after that. THEN we hit sand. OMG what is the DEAL with sand sections? They are super difficult to just ride through, you have to pay close attention to what is BENEATH the sand plus peddle, peddle and peddle.
I navigated SUCCESSFULLY through a 100 yards (ok 30) of sandy single track with a rocky wall on one side and a very steep hillside spotted with green foliage, rocks, boulders and downed trees on the other. The only option was to “keep the rubber side down” as John Parks often reminded me (and Marguerite).
The confidence was building but there was one challenge that kept appearing: rock ledges ON the trail. I still don’t know the proper technique to take and at the time I practiced different methods…each of them successful (because I did not fall off my bike).
My back, arms and hands were tense. I had been engaging all of the muscles tightly since the first descent and the fatigue began to set in. I had to let my muscles relax because I couldn’t hold on for much more.
That’s when I approached this perfect rock ledge (see photo).
There were two option (again). The left rock or the right rock. I hadn’t looked down the trail for a while but knew Randy was long gone. The last two times he waited for me I almost just told him to wait for me at the bottom and that I would be ok but thankfully I did not let that slip out of my over-confident self.
The trail at this point was a rolling downhill but I noticed the number of ledges and softball size rocks jutting out from the trail was increasing and that made me nervous.
I chose the rock on the right (from your point of view it is the one on the left).
I chose it going way faster than I should have been going (for my skill level). Suddenly MORE rocks appeared right where my tire was supposed to go (on the left side of the trail) and I turned my handlebars hard to the right to avoid them…too late. Too late.
My front tire must have hit those spiked devil tooth rocks sideways and I gripped BOTH brakes as hard as I could to stop resulting in me actually FLYING off my bike toward a small pile of devil teeth rocks combined with the roots and base of a fallen tree. Do you see that pointy rock at the top near those red flowers? That was what I saw coming at me in an instant and all I could do was put my arms up to not smash my face into it.
My entire body landed across that pile of devil teeth and I skidded forward feeling my feet above my shoulders grinding my chest downward.
I didn’t have a chance to scream. All I said, out loud and just above a murmur, was “oh no!”.
I actually felt like what was happening WASN’T actually happening for a split second.
I bounced off of those rocks then onto my back in the middle of the trail (I was wearing a back pack filled with two jackets, two baseball hats, a bike repair kit, two moleskine note pads, a pen, my reading glasses and the house keys).
My helmet hit the ground and then it all stopped as quickly as it had started.
The pain was everywhere! I couldn’t decide which part hurt worse – arms, legs, left hand, neck, knees, belly…how did everything hurt all at the same time? I began to sob and the anger crept in quickly.
I reassessed my body parts to make sure things moved properly and that’s when I saw the GIANT black ants roaming around me. No way was I ALSO going to be covered by ants! I sat up and felt pain rush into my left hand first so I push my ass skyward using my right hand and arm (which seemed to be ok). I was in a one arm down dog for about 10 seconds and walked my hands toward my feet to stand up.
By now I was crying LOUDLY shouting for Randy to help me.
30 yards beyond (may as well have been 1,000) the trail was covered in trees and then disappeared leading east…or right. My yells were weak and I realized Randy was far further than ear shot.
I walked over to my bike (which was 8 feet back on the trail) and attempted lifting it with my one “good” hand. My bike gloves hid whatever injury was beneath causing a searing pain with every movement. I decided NOT to look, plus my left hand was pretty useless anyway.
Shit, shit, shit, shit!!!!
The twisted wreck of a bicycle would NOT stand upright. I was a little dazed but rubbed my two remaining brain cells together trying to figure out what the problem was. My tire was not bent but the handlebars were.
In my launch I must have flipped the front end around completely and jammed it as it smashed to the ground.
Here I was being a big sobbing baby ALONE on the trail and now my bike was broken. Should I go back or forward? I stupidly had no idea how long our course was and looked at my Garmin…3.35 miles…FROM HOME, not from the trail head. Mostly downhill of course. I decided to move forward and push my bike as best I could. I was really thirsty and Randy had our water bottle.
I walked and cried for about a quarter of a mile when Randy appeared riding back uphill.
My injuries began to scream now. I was just so thankful I could walk. This must be what a cage fighter feels like right after losing a fight. Everything was raw and filled with dirt.
Randy sized me up and gave me the obligatory “oh honey!!!” Attempting to hug me to make me feel better. I shrugged off the hug because it pressed on all of the parts that were hurting and cried out, “this trail was way over my head!”
I just hurt in so many places and didn’t want to actually LOOK at them.
Because my left hand hurt so much I was pretty sure I’d broken it.
We decided to not clean my wounds with the only water we’d brought but instead just head down the trail as best we could. I’d managed my bike with one hand with a lot of difficulty but knew the only way this was going to work was to force my left hand to work.
After walking for half a mile (which felt like 4 miles) the trail seemed safe enough to ride again.
“Safe” because if I fell off it wouldn’t be sliding off the side of the mountain.
Randy wanted me to go in front of him, which didn’t make sense but I was not into complaining or arguing about anything. I just focused on getting off of this awful trail of pain.
I saddled up and SLOWLY (gripping my back break with all the strength I had left) peddled forward. I have two gear changing mechanisms: left hand is 1, 2 and 3 and right hand is 1-6 (I think). I crashed in 2-3 and that was where it was gonna stay.
Here is where I realized I’d lost my bell. It can be seen in the dirt just below the pile of rocks I’d landed in (scroll to that photo, see if you can see it).
That bell was special and given to me by a special friend. I imagined telling him how I’d lost it as I scooted slowly down the trail.
It seemed like EVERY rock ledge scared me enough that I did not want to ride down or over them so I got off of my bike and walked it then saddled back up. This off and on continued for another 6 rock ledges. Randy was behind me trying to talk to me and take my mind off of my pain.
My left hand was becoming more useless and that forced me to only use my right and I began skidding down the trail out of control AGAIN. We hit more sand and pushed our bike.
FINALLY there was a trail head sign and I could see a parking lot with two cars in it. My spirits rose a tad and I continue pushing my bike through the sand.
We heard a screaming behind us and a lady on a fatty-tire bike approached. She had a dog running behind her with its tongue hanging out long and low. He or she looked exhausted but she did not. I moved off the trail as she passed – no “thanks” and her dog came up close behind her. It was a terrier of some kind, white with a black splotch. I wish I’d taken a photo.
My problems became second priority as I worried about this little dog trying to keep up with his bitchy owner who had been screaming at him to hurry up. Oh I wanted to catch this woman now and focused on her blue shirt. I finally got to the road scanning left and right to see where she was then spotted her and we took off in the same direction.
Mentally I was deciding how I was going to talk to her. I would offer her dog water then ask her how old he/she was and its name. I would do my best to keep her talking to give the dog a break. I would sneak a photo of her and find out if she was a local or visiting. For SURE I would put a curse on her for treating her dog so badly.
Well, that never happened because she made it to the main road and took off. I cursed her anyway from a distance.
Back to reality and my bashed up bell-free bike and body!
We made it to civilization pedaling super slowly up Old Mammoth Road toward Main Street where I figured we would drop my bike off at Footloose. I could not switch the gears at all now and had 2-2 as my only option. The face of my gear device was smashed and twisted around. I asked Randy if he could fix my bike and he was pretty sure he could.
When we got to Footloose he wanted to check my bike while I waited on a soft patch of grass and shade.
The rain clouds were rolling in closer and it was getting windy and chilly. I decided to just lie back and close my eyes while he checked the bike. Two minutes later he returned and confirmed, “you really did jack your bike up” to which I replied “yeah, I thought so,”
The forearm cuts began to pulse and my right knee had some deep cuts. I just stared at them hoping for the best.
Randy took my bike into Footloose and they fixed it for free then gave us directions to the Mammoth Trolly if we preferred to ride it rather then bike up the hill to the 80/50 Lodge area to transfer to a trolly that would go all the way back up the mountain to Lake Mary.
THANK YOU to the individual that created this trolly system and making it possible to ride for free.
We glided toward the bus stop and were happy to find out the next ride would be in less than 11 minutes.
The small building had a bear box trash and recycle system inside it and a small bench. It smelled awful so we opted to stand outside and breath better.
That’s when we saw a woman stumbling across the main road. She had a big smile on her face with did not match her circumstances. The sun illuminated her gorgeous blonde hair she had in a messy bun. She was stumbling because SHE HAD ONE GOOD LEG AND ONE LEG MADE OUT OF METAL. It took her double the time and she was trying her best to hurry keeping that smile on her face the whole time.
Randy and I looked at each other and did not even need to say a word. My troubles were NOTHING and it put things in perspective real quick.
I’m going to call her Rosemary, she looked like a Rosemary with that smile.
She made it to the trolly stop – STILL SMILING and said, “I hate making people wait for me.”
Both Randy and I were overwhelmed with her comment and let her know we were impressed at her agility and speed. We also suggested that there was no way anyone waiting in their car was bothered seeing she was making it happen with one good leg…and I asked her what happened to lose it.
She told us she “got polio from the vaccine and after a dozen surgeries attempting to correct it she opted to have it cut off.” We stood in silence and in awe.
What a brave woman. What an incredible attitude. I noticed she was wearing a DIY vest and decided she must have just gotten off work.
We boarded after Rosemary and discovered there was ONE more trolly to Lake Mary for the night, 5:00pm at the 80/50. What luck. Seriously.
Rosemary disembarked at the next stop and we said goodbye. I felt like giving her a hug goodbye. She sized up the next distance she had to cross in order to go home (which was a big hill) as the trolly took off. We sat in silence after that.
Arriving at the 80/50 with 30 minutes to kill we chose to spend them at Gomez Restaurant’s Happy Hour for a margarita and IPA. Sadly my margarita was weak, Randy’s beer was cold and good.
I was not complaining at all. Rosemary helped me with that.
I sucked down my blasé margarita and we stood up to leave.
That’s when the four hikers we’d passed earlier on the trail pre-crash passed by our table. They were just as friendly again. Randy told them I’d eaten it on the trail and they (as well as the folks sitting at tables nearby) all began sizing up the blood dripping down my arm and legs.
I would be just fine once I got home to clean up…the margarita was an attempt to numb it up beforehand.
I made it into a special club according to a Mammoth Mountain Employee named Adam. He raised his hand in the air to give me a high-five and congratulate me on surviving. “Welcome to the club and I’m sure you’ll be back again.”
The ride home was chilly and perfect.
My body jostling around reminding me of each area that was munched up. The view of the ascent to Lake Mary is pretty spectacular and I just breathed in deep enjoying it.
I realized my husband really thought I could handle this trail which means I’ve gotten better as a mountain biker.
Rosemary put things into perspective and set me straight on how much pain I was in and that I could manage it with a good attitude.
We made it to the LAST STOP which is at the bottom of Lake George. Randy pushed both of our bikes up the hill to our house. Our dogs and cat were super happy to see us as always and after initial petting and dog/cat conversation I headed to the tiny bathroom to peel off my stinky, dusty and dirty clothing to clean up.
Since we have a very limited amount of hot water I had to be strategic in my cleaning process while enjoying the hot water. Randy needed a shower too but opted to wait for the water heater to refill.
We popped in a DVD, Randy poured me a delicious greyhound and relaxed on my super-duper comfy couch with my cat on my lap and watched (tolerated) Spider-Man in front of my eyes until I couldn’t keep them open any longer!
UPDATE, THE DAY AFTER
Definitely NOTHING was broken. I’m nursing tons of cuts and scrapes and leaks with our First Aid kit. I was able to sleep pretty soundly and get up with a good attitude to work. Our campground has 16 spaces and only 4 were occupied so I took advantage of that and did my US Forestry Service level cleaning on each unoccupied site. The movement was good and helped take my mind off of any aches and pains.
My left hand (thumb area on the top and into the palm) are the most painful of all and I have little grip strength. I think I must have hyperextended it… no big deal. The wounds on my knees mean I cannot cross my legs to sit ladylike which is awkward.
Thankfully I am ambidextrous AND my keyboard is small so I can type.
I think I’m gonna ride tonight to see how it goes!
Now to get another bell. UPDATE, TWO DAYS AFTER
Oh I am in pain! I’m turning black and blue in places that I can’t figure out HOW they were smashed or bashed (like the back of my knee?). My back aches and I have bruising on my neck to shoulder. Everything is swollen up too.
THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN LEAVING HOME ON A “OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE” ADVENTURE WITH RANDY ROY SHOEMAKER:
Carry your own water.
Carry a first-aid kit.
Tell people where you plan to go and when you plan to return.
Have you ever been faced with a choice that was difficult and complicated no matter WHICH way you proceeded?
Right now I am standing at a mental crossroads!
No one has the right answer for me and no one can solve my problems as it is. I have to do it myself.
This “problem” will affect my future and I began stewing on it after dinner last night. I did not sleep well at all remembering the same scenario playing out in my past but I couldn’t recollect which path I took and how it turned out. From family to work, if it involves humans then something is going to go wrong!
I tossed and turned and woke up fully at 5:00am to Randy’s deep-sleep breathing. It’s a joke between us – he assures me I snore with no proof on the other hand I have so much footage of him we could make a movie!
Randy had a big hike planned for us. We are attempting to find and complete as many trails as possible here and this one was an 8 mile “lollipop” course that would take us from Horseshoe Lake up to Red Cones.
I dragged my feet getting ready because my mind was not “into” being happy. I would go up and down emotionally from pissed off to feeling like giving up.
We ate breakfast then got a text from our boss to get something done at a site and then we planned to be off into the wilderness with Kona, our backpacks and just EARTH.
Rain yesterday made everything smell nice. I focused my mind on solving my problem while hiking UP. Seems like everything starts with going UP around here. I guess that’s better than going down and then having to go UP to finish.
My left baby toe is in desperate need of a Tammy (from The Nails Spa) TLC treatment. I knew leaving Simi meant I’d never get the best pedicure ever again PLUS I’d never get THE BEST MASSAGE ON EARTH from Cheryl Smith again. It almost kept us there, no joke.
It started pulsating (my baby toe) and took my mind off of my problems for about half a mile. That is when I remembered I had my phone and began looking out at things in my “photographer’s point of view”.
I saw this tree and it stopped me in my tracks. It reminded me of how I felt! Twisted and turned and trying to survive but stuck in a rut mentally.
I carried on UP then it flattened out. I re-confirmed with Randy his recollection of this trail when he did it with Rob Winterburn and was happy to hear we would be going flat for a long time. It was a relief on my toe pain mostly. I remembered I wore the wrong socks too and a hot spot started up near my big toe. I cursed myself and carried on not talking much.
This is when Randy turned and asked if I wanted to go back.
“I’m sorry this hasn’t been very fun.”
“What do you mean?”
“You are barely talking and you have had a frown on your face since we started.”
Ugh, it was more apparent than I’d hoped for. I changed the channel in my head to try to be more positive.
“I’m good. I’m just thinking a lot about everything. Plus we are going up and I can barely breath PLUS my toe is bugging me.”
We continued and the trail began to descend. This is worse on my toe I come to find out. Every step on my left food presses that dang little toe into my boot and I force myself to look out and in front of us. Kona is bobbing all over the place and happier than ever.
The Cross Country kids from Arcadia began descending on us. Most of them were polite. A man on a horse leading a donkey was in front of us and some of the kids did not stop and let him pass (which is the proper etiquette). That irritated me so I commented out loud to one of the kids…who had headphones on and didn’t hear a word I said.
SIDE NOTE: If you are out in nature please don’t wear headphones. Here you could sneak up on a bear and that would be the end. In other places you cannot hear bikes or horses or danger. More importantly for your safety.
We got to the Lake McCloed and started out across the glassy water. It was calm and quiet. The man on the horse had taken a right I guess. He’d mentioned he was out doing trail maintenance. We were all alone!
Then I heard the barking of dogs. We were approaching a guy yelling, “All of my dogs are friendly!!” That was a green light for Kona to rush to sniff and enjoy the new company we’d come across.
This man with the herd of dogs was a DOG SITTER (technically) who owns 400 acres of land. He arrived in Mammoth in the early 60’s and has been there ever since. He has become the “go to” guy for big dogs that need a day of adventure and energy burning being a dog and doing dog things. His name is Buck. THE Buck of Buck’s Dog Sitting. Currently he has 81 5-Star Reviews on YELP and we’d heard of him a year ago doing research for our trip abroad and wanting the best possible care for Kona. Check him out here…
Buck gave us a few SECRET (I recorded the instructions) places and called us Locals. That felt neat to hear from such a cool man. He is all about letting dogs be dogs. He will only take large dogs that know how to be off leash and will come when called.
MOVING ON…my mind completely off of my problems now…we hit the trail with Randy reminding me of our limited time frame to get back to Zoey and Piper for some outside fun time too.
It was slow and Randy commented that my spirits were dictating our speed. I tried to suck it up again as I quietly moved upward.
We finally got about a tenth of a mile from the JMT and decided to turn back. We’d spent too much time jaw jacking with people we met along the way and had to hurry-ish.
I felt BETTER. I had my mind made up on what to do and it had everything to do with getting outside and getting my heart pumping and lungs too. I guess even my baby toe screaming at me helped.
My hike was awesome in the end, as it will ALWAYS be.
Just getting out there was real tough today. I guess I could have stayed home and stewed in my problem getting nowhere.
I can’t wait to make my decision known to the place that needs to know and I’m perfectly ready to get whatever reply or response or experience comes from it now.
Thanks to my amazing husband, again.
Oh, and Planet Earth!!
Too bad there are people wandering this earth that feel they are above other people for whatever reason.
They’re more educated
They’ve traveled more
They’re on vacation and you are working
Who they know
What type of car they are driving
How old they are
What type of handbag they carry
Where they live
Their RV size
Their lack of impact on the environment
They are retired
The list goes on…these are some of the ones that have surfaced in my recent life.
I’ll share two of the most recent ones…maybe they’ll teach something.
Me: “Excuse me Sir. Can I get you to put your truck in the parking place marked for your site?”
Old Man, craning his head out of his trailer door making quite a production of this question… planning his reply.
He had filled his parking place (which came with his extremely inexpensive site price) with a BBQ, table and lawn chairs instead of his truck. He had his truck parked in a spot AND he had his awning extended making it impossible to park a car. BASICALLY he had 4 parking places taken up and I’m gonna take a stab at the fact that he was one of those people that “ask for forgiveness, not for permission.”
Just as a note: each camp site has a giant space with an enormous picnic table, loads of space for lawn chairs). Also, you get 1 parking place per site. If you haul a trailer you get 2. One for the trailer and one for the truck. That comes along with your camp price. Oh, by the way, if you are a Senior and have a Golden Pass you only pay $12 per night to occupy all of this! It’s such a great deal. The price right now is $10 for a Lifetime Pass. I have been told that goes to $80 in October I think.
Old Man: “Sorry, is something wrong?”
Me: “Ya, I just need you to occupy two spaces and it looks like you have your stuff in one space, your truck in one and your trailer too.” (I did not mention the OBVIOUS extension of the awning).
Old Man: “Well do you have someone that needs a parking place?”
Me: “No, I just need to keep folks in the spots they pay for.”
Old Man, descending his trailer like Shrek bothered by Donkey, followed by his 3 year old grandson.
Grandson: (inaudible question and I caught a few words that sounded like “why did I have a trash bag in my hand and what am I looking for?”)
Me to little cute kid: “I’m picking up the little bits of trash I can see.”
Old Man: “So this is what you do now?”
Me: “Yes. I am a Camp Host here. I love it.”
Old Man to his grandson: “See this is what you can do if you don’t go to school.”
Me: staring at him stunned…I say nothing.
Old Man to his grandson: “If you don’t go to school this is what you’ll do, Timmy.”
Me: “OK well let us know if you need anything. I hope you have a great day.”
I thought about that conversation a lot as I walked back to our beautiful home nestled in the middle of giant trees, sun was setting and our pets waited happily for dinner to be served (ALWAYS grateful for everything). I thought about the lack of stress being up here has brought us. The people we have met have been so nice and even better: EXCITED to have found Lake George and a place to spend the night.
Later on the same day I was preparing dinner for Randy and I.
That guy’s comments were intended to make me feel bad and he did get that result. I had to remind myself of the things I am loving so much about this and also that I’m not complying to the egos of other people.
Don’t do anything to satisfy somebody else’s ego!
I saw Old Man approaching our site and gulped then got real busy in the kitchen out of sight.
Randy was helping a few new arrivals get settled and Old Man waited off to the side sort of behind a tree. I thought he left so I went out to help a family that had been waiting to check in. As my foot hit the bottom step I saw him there…shit. Couldn’t turn around now.
He waited until I finished helping that family (and I dragged it out as long as I could hoping he’d give up and go away…but he didn’t).
Me to Old Man, “Hi there again. Can I help you with something?”
Old Man: “Yes I just wanted to apologize for what I said earlier. It didn’t sound right.”
Me: “OK thanks. I appreciate that.”
Old Man: “Yeah, I just didn’t find the right words. I was just trying to prove a point to my grandson.”
Me: “Uh, ok?”
He walked away satisfied at his courage to apologize and my acceptance.
I don’t think it dawned on him that he stuck the OTHER foot into his mouth.
Look: we all make blunders and can (and probably do) offend each other on a regular basis.
I believe this has EVERYTHING to do with the fact that we are all completely (as in 100%) different in every way. No two people could possibly be the same which means no two people could understand what the other feels or thinks.
My solution to this is to try my best to just be positive and see the positive in every situation, no matter how ugly it gets.
This has become easier living up here at 9,000 feet. Maybe it is the lack of oxygen?
Don’t judge people. Try living without needing to have your ego massaged. Try to just be nice and kind because that’s how you would want to be treated.
OH: and for CHRISSAKE don’t freaking pee on the public toilet seats and not clean it up!
Somehow I agreed to get up at 5:45am on Sunday to do a new workout Randy has been stewing over for about a week. I admit I don’t actually absorb everything he tells me and when he is excited the sentences seem to break and a new thought begins right I almost actually begin listening and understanding. Chances are this is a normal thing between spouses.
Most of you know that Randy is built for adventure. He can do almost every sport VERY WELL. I say almost every sport because I spanked him at air hockey and lawn bowling. He won’t technically “cheat” but he does know and use every rule to the very last edge always staying honest.
This desire to be active is built in his DNA and if it weren’t for him I know FOR SURE I would not get out and moving on this planet at the pace we are currently at.
So, last night as I sipped my greyhound using the last of the vodka I stared at the fire and my mind was on the bear (or bears) that were circling all of our campsites.
He yammered on about this and that, mostly concerned with getting his fish perfectly cooked with fresh herbs, spices and vegetables. Seems Craig in Site 13 “The Rock” has a few expert tricks up his sleeve and he brought a huge fish over that had to be prepared FAST.
The sun was setting, the skies were pink and the trees darkened against it. It is seriously peaceful about 5:00pm here until 7:00am (that’s when the parking lot of the Day Use starts to fill up with fishermen (and women and kids). ALSO there are the guys and gals here for rock climbing – a TON of them. Like it or not, each of these groups have a personality that I’m observing and (in most cases) doing my best to avoid.
Back to the workout at 6:00am…on Sunday…
It wasn’t officially called The Blaire Witch Project but after the first lap I decided that is what worked best.
We are at the top of a long road up. At the bottom is an intersection to take you to Lake Mary. The workout was a TRX circuit that Randy said would be a lot of “upper body”.
NOTE: TRX is not the easiest to set up on a mountain side, by a lake or in a forest in general for much other than “upper body” really. We tried to do abdominal and it nearly cost us a rotator cuff and new front teeth.
The Lap was half a mile. 45% of it is uphill, the remaining 35% is an extreme uphill to the TRX tree. There isn’t a path when we climb the mountain and it is early which is perfect to run into a bear (or four) or an early riser serial killer.
Your mind sure does funny things when you are alone and watched too many scary movies as a teenager. For my own protection I kept my eyes darting everywhere in front, beside and behind me. I felt something there: Chupacabra, lurker, clowns, bears, mountain lions, Freddie Kruger…it kept me motivated to go, go go.
One Lap then 60 rows. Push-Ups at the top of the mountain.
One Lap then 24 tricep curls. Last set was super tough after the push-ups. Push-Ups at the top of the mountain.
I meekly tried running up on my third lap. I was alone (I hoped) with 300 trees, 16 boulders, 10 fallen trees, 50 tiny ground squirrels and 1,000,000,000,000,000 mosquitos.
One Lap, Push-Ups at the bottom of the mountain then up to the TRX for 24 curls (3 sets of 8…AND IT WAS FREAKING HARD).
One Lap, get the Push-Ups over with and last hike up to as many Flys as my arms would allow.
For the record I held between a 160 and 181 bmp for each ascent. Thanks mosquitos and fear!
We wrapped up the last circuit at the TRX and it was there I noticed the heart of stones. Well, it was a circle that I turned into a more defined heart. This is for you Meg and Bob.
One of our campers just happens to be a White Bull Trail Racer! The Monnet family is visiting and upon registration and the usual jaw-jacking we engage in we discovered Ted and his brother ran our races and then became inspired to keep running trail races! That was a special thing to hear.
Ted dropped by before lunch and asked us if we wanted to borrow his stand-up paddle boards. UH YES PLEASE AND THANK YOU!!
So, to finish being “active” for today I spent an hour paddle boarding across Lake George.
Courage, a bright (neon) blue fish about 10 inches long swimming beneath me and the gorgeous surroundings made a peaceful finish to a harrowing and crazy start my Husband Unit created for us.
Just wondering, does this blog make my butt look big?
PS I have discovered the Lynne’s Garden of Eat’n has one of the most delicious black bean burgers I’ve EVER had. ALSO, as a bonus my photos and blog are uploading 2x faster than the library and the Black Velvet Coffee place. Now I have an entire menu of food for “dining out” when the time comes. YAY!!
Hiking with my husband unit has resulted in finding new places THAT ROCK! We have yet to find a well marked trail and we’re gonna keep trying!
There are definitely certain things you should bring and wear on a hike ANYWHERE.
History has woven the best cloth of disasters and successes and most of it has been well published, documented and experienced by 3 out of 10 adults.
Today was a majestic “speed hike” to TJ Lake via Barrett Lake.
“What is a ‘speed hike’?” I quizzed Randy last night at about 8:00pm as we were getting ready for bed.
We were battling wind all day on our jobs and I was seriously exhausted. I was SO TIRED I could not get the energy together to squeeze my grapefruit and have a fresh greyhound. That’s pretty tired.
“It’s a fast hike but not running.”
“OK got it.”
Thinking to myself that I had just noted in my journal that I would prefer to meander along the trails and look at the sights rather than buzz through keeping my eyes out in front to avoid tripping and falling AND trying to actually breathe without making myself nauseous.
Yesterday we rode to Horseshoe Lake on our bikes and then ran the lake loop. It ended up being and out and back of 5.5 miles (bike and run) with a total calorie burn (I wore my heart rate monitor) of 650 k/cal.
Today was a grand total of 3.25 miles and 800 k/calls burned!!
That’s because it WASN’T POSSIBLE TO SPEED on any part of this plan.
We had tons of stream and water fall crossings, ascent from Lake George (which is 9,000) to 350 measly feet and I had to stop a number of times to get my brain, lungs and heart together in harmony (and to let the little black dots stop bouncing in my view).
I was hoping it would get easier being up here and pushing myself to try a little harder but so far, after 5 days, I feel like I’m still at Square One. I’ll just “trust the process” and keep at it.
We know of a few friends that have plans to be here which is inspiring us to learn these trails. The method used to mark the trails is not super clear once you are on them. I realized today that both Ansel Adams AND John Muir would not want to see “markings” in their views so it is OK with me to get lost here and there.
When we arrived at TJ Lake we hiked in about a half mile and Randy found a perfect place to do TRX. Of course I had to take pics. I took WAY too many (as per usual).
We followed the signage but ended up lost. TJ Lake “Loop” is not actually around the lake itself. That’s where it was confusing. At the intersection (of the split of the “loop”) we took a right and found the actual lake quickly. It is majestic! We hiked all along the path going up and down and up and down rocks, tree line and near the actual lake. It was chilly (because it was early) and it was perfect. We continued our trek and completely missed the turn off the loop. That took us to boulders that were unpassable (in my opinion) and lots of snow. We decided to turn the bus around and go back the way we came.
Just by chance I caught a sort of “path” looking like part of the trail but we had to go UP on a steep section. We didn’t have a lot of time to dilly-dally so we hustled up with Kona leading us. By pure chance we had discovered the closing portion of the “loop” and thankfully made it out in time.
We headed down past Barrett Lake again and hurried back to Lake George. BOY do I appreciate going downhill and I’m super happy my knees are holding up.
We got to Lake George and there was a guy fishing sitting out in the middle of the lake on what looks like a Lay-Z-Boy recliner. He had caught something and we could see his line tugging. Randy wanted to see (as did everyone else on the shore) what he had caught so we stayed there watching (thankfully in the shade, it was heating up).
Privately I was hoping the fish would get off the line and repeated that to myself in silence. That poor fish was just trying to swim around and likely has a family to get back to. The fisherman most likely lives within a few miles of a grocery store packed with food…so he really, technically, doesn’t need to catch a fish. I’m sure I’ll be revving up a lot of opinions on this point but that’s just how I look at it now.
Well, he caught the fish and it was about 12 inches long flopping all over the place. He got it in his net and we moved on.
Later in the evening we were winding down after our last rounds. I had dinner in the InstantPot (baked potato) and planned to top it with chili I’d made. We had time for me to take Piper on a walk so I got geared up. Taking her on a walk requires protective gloves, sturdy running shoes, a lead, harness on her and her cat carrier. I know I look like a weird Cat Lady and when I walk her I can hear whispers of disbelief that there is a cat at the end of my lead.
While walking her toward Site 1 a young man (like in his 20’s) came storming down the hill toward the Camp Host site. Randy was outside getting a fire stoked. The man was reporting that a bear (the same one) had invaded a family picnic and was eating everything WHILE THEY STOOD AROUND TAKING PHOTOS AND EGGING IT ON. Idiots. Serious idiots. Randy got his running shoes on and grabbed Kona to head down to the lake edge to check it out. We were not “on the clock” so checking into it as a concerned citizen.
Did you know that bears can run up to 30 miles per hour?
Did you know they can and will open up your cooler and take your beer, soda and juices? They will pop them with their teeth and enjoy the nectar.
Did you know that it is just plain STUPID to get close to a bear in any circumstance and take photos ESPECIALLY?
The young man tried to get them to stop but they told him to F-off and that’s why he came to get help from us.
Randy found the scene with these people surrounding (EVEN BRIGHTER, RIGHT?) the bear chowing on their food. He begged them to PLEASE get away from the bear and the man there replied with, “my keys are on the table!” Makes sense to me! There are reports up and down the coast of bears taking advantage of people picnicking with their food spread out everywhere THEN taking their cars for a joyride.
Is this how “thin the herd” came to be something proven?
Randy returned to our trailer and called the Mammoth Mountain Police. No one (we know of) showed up and based on the lack of screams, nobody was hurt.
Friends: You will save yourself and save the bear if you just pack your stuff up, do NOT wear perfumes or cologne, dress in clothing that is neutral, stay in groups and STAY AWAY from them. They are learning bad habits and we are teaching them.
The day before a bear was walking along the edge of the lake taking all of the fish on these things called “stringers”. Those are when a fish is caught and the person is collecting them up. Again, who needs to do this? If it is a sport and you get excited catching a fish…seems to me you can just throw it back in and let it leave or be bear food maybe. ANYWAY, I was secretly happy to hear this was happening but then I read in my BEAR AWARE book how bad it is.
The less impact we have on the wildlife the better for their survival. When a wild animals gets pushed out of its habitat it has to deal with it the only way it knows how to. When this gets to bother a human then the wild animal either gets killed or “relocated”.
I went to bed dreaming about bears and saving them. TIPS I’M LEARNING – AND RECOMMEND YOU CONSIDER IF YOU PLAN TO COME TO MAMMOTH
SIDE NOTE: Did you know that having iCloud is MEANINGLESS to get your devices synced up if you do not have a solid WIFI connection and lock your phone for an extended amount of time?
SIDE NOTE: Did you know that you should not ever leave to hike without water, a compass, a whistle (this is Black Bear country…I’m reading my Bear Aware book plus it is posted at the park entrance), a long sleeve shirt, wear long pants (mosquitoes), a hat and a map? We get a C- on today having forgot a few critical things. Take a guess which ones. We DID pack a TRX system though and I’m sure we could have eaten is if we got lost in the mountains.
Got plans to roam? Get yourself some bad ass hiking boots. Save your money and get them from REI (they have a no-questions-asked return policy). My hiking boots are Merrell’s and I love them. They come up near my ankle and this came in handy today when we had to go on all fours to move forward on what we thought was a hiking path. They also have grip on the bottom unlike any trail running shoe I’ve worn. MOSQUITO BATTLE
They’re gonna win eventually. If you do not like spraying yourself with bug spray (which seems to NEVER really work) it is recommended you wear loose fitting clothing. I agree with this completely. In Bishop I was eaten alive (my legs were mostly) as we sat outside near a running creek. Here I have not had one bite and we’ve been outdoors every day for hours. DO NOT WEAR WHITE
Learned this the hard way.
We started on a trek to Crystal Lake (did I mention we got lost?) and I planned to wear a short sleeve completely white bummy t-shirt. Halfway up the start of the hike (I’d say a quarter mile MAX) my shirt had attracted these tiny black bugs – like 50 or more! They were no bigger than the tip of an eyelash. I’d have taken a photo but they would not have shown up they are so small.
Luckily I’d also brought my light flannel and after Randy brushed me off I buttoned that baby up to the top button…GROSS OUT…and made an open comment that I would be showering and washing my hair tonight FOR SURE.
We also discovered these little black bugs like white ANYTHING – like manuals and paper. While reading out Host Manual the pages were getting dark with these dang black bugs all over it. WORK SCHEDULE
We have been testing different schedules out.
Today we woke up at 5:30am to slowly rise and relax while sipping coffee and eating breakfast before getting our morning rounds started at 7:00am (which seems to be before most campers rise).
When that was all done (about an hour) we got the pets fed and walked then packed to go on our hike.
That’s about all today!
If you would like a copy of The Wanderlust Leaf you need to send a SASE to (follow this exactly):
Wanderlust Leaf Editor
PO Box 9158
Mammoth Lakes, CA
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