After a great experience in Yosemite, what was to come next was what I would consider a sleepy time in my nomadic, constantly changing lifestyle. It was time to answer the looming question – What next? Ted and I had a decision to make. Go our separate ways, or stick together. He wanted to get his EMT certification, and chose to do it at Cerro Coso Community College in Mammoth Lakes – knowing it would be likely that I would want to go there, too. He was right. I liked the idea of staying with Ted and moving to the Eastern Sierra’s to experience a winter different than what I was used to – 75 degree’s and sunny in San Diego. So I packed up my car full of everything I had and drove down Tioga Pass to my new neighborhood. We spent about a week camping on some BLM land just outside of town while we spent our days checking out apartments. We found the cutest little studio in the middle of town within walking distance of all the things we could ever need: an organic market called Sierra Sundance, Vons, the library which offered computers and DVD rentals, a bowling alley, and a yoga studio. All tucked into a tiny 4 square mile corner of the high sierra’s! Our first holiday in our new home was Halloween. We dressed up as a shark and a half eaten boogie boarder while we experienced our first snow storm of the season! Sharks are kinda my thing and this costume was a lot of fun to put together – I wish we had more pictures.
We enjoyed a little down time exploring our new town before our jobs as Mammoth Mountain Lift Operators began. We played in the snow, followed mountain lion tracks, wandered around the shops and rode our bikes on all the bike paths. My best friend Danielle came to visit me for a few days and I caught my first trout (as an adult) while fishing with her at Crowley Lake! Before her departure, we brought him home and cooked him up for a hearty lunch. It was a great day for us, not so much for the fish.
One day Ted and I spent hiking off trail to the summit of Laurel Mountain, an almost twelve thousand foot peak that stood directly above the town of Mammoth Lakes, visible from almost anywhere. Being the experienced hikers that we are, we figured that we could hike into the night considering we would be connecting to a “main” trail by nightfall. A little darkness didn’t worry us. However, we did become worried when our “main” trail disappeared after following it several miles and found ourselves at a stand still. We couldn’t find it, it was just gone. So after a very long day, we realized we had to turn back three miles to the junction where the trail started for us – and then hike down the mountain via Laurel Lakes road, a very long dirt road that lead straight back to town. Leaving our car at the Convict Lake trailhead, we abandoned the idea of returning to it that night, and just hiked home. This evening didn’t spare us the suffering of unplanned miles. I can definitely say I have never been more tired, hungry, and thirsty than I was this night (so much so that I felt drunk). We hiked all night, an additional twelve to fifteen miles than we had anticipated- making it into town by one o’clock in the morning. It was hellish, but we managed to get back to our cozy apartment safe and sound, with a colorful adventure story.
After our first few weeks of working, we spent our first Thanksgiving without family. It was emotional for me to do this without the love and company of all the beautiful people in my life, but also a great experience to be doing it on my own, with Ted. We cooked a feast!
We spent a few weekends wandering around the desert floor of Death Valley National Park, reveling in the sunshine and soaking up the warmth of the desert. We had both developed deep auburn tans from our outdoor lifestyle in sunny places, but they had faded from the excessive use of clothing to stay warm in our new climate. The vitamin D was delicious. We walked along sand dunes in Eureka Valley, ran naked across a parched earth, and visited Charles Manson’s old stomping grounds. I am in awe to say, this was my backyard.
We enjoyed our free season passes and skied all winter at Mammoth Mountain, and it’s sister resort – June Lake. Often after a long day of standing at work, I’d opt for a dip in our local hot springs. Sometimes we’d make the 40 mile drive out to the travertine hot springs in Bridgeport. Nothing was too far and we never had to worry about traffic. I rarely ever drove, except to trailheads and hot springs. I rode my bike to work and walked everywhere else. I can’t emphasize enough how amazing this is – to never commute, unless for pleasure. Dear God please never make me drive through rush hour day after day again! I won’t do it. I won’t. I won’t.
I really took a likin’ to riding my bike and discovered many long road rides into the mountains. My favorite was riding the ten mile road from Tom’s Place all the way up to the Rock Creek Trailhead. A challenging bike ride that had people in cars turning their heads, “is that a girl?” Yes I am a girl, and I can ride a bike up a huge hill like a bad ass. Amongst other badass things that people don’t think girls can do. The best part was the ten mile downhill cruise after an endorphin inducing up hill ride. I can’t say I didn’t catch a few flies in my smile. Did you know exercise makes you happy? There is nothing I find more enjoyable than a good challenge.
As the snow began melting and night time temps were rising, Ted and I found ourselves full of angst from the lack of time spent exploring the wilderness. The ice and snow kept us inside much more than we would like to admit. To combat our dormancy, we planned our first backpacking trip of the spring season. We dusted off our backpacks and headed out to the well-known Iva Bell hot springs. Some weather was in the forecast but we weren’t going to let it stop us once again, so we went anyway. Most of the trip was weather free, it was warm and slightly breezy. It was a lovely walk that reawakened my body, bringing it back into my hiking rhythm, where I feel my best, my strongest, and most beautiful. I was in flow again. Hallelujah! I was feeling amazing when it began to snow. Nothing could damper my mood. I gazed up at the flakes falling and smiled, while also harboring a little anxiety about how much it might be snowing at the higher elevations where we were headed. We just kept on moving and made it through without waver. As we reached Duck Pass, I knew it was all downhill from there, and despite all the deep snow, I began to frolic. Somehow, almost entirely lacking snow travel experience, I just flew through the snow like I was dancing on top of it. It was a great time.
In April, our time in Mammoth was coming to an end, because we decided to spend the summer hiking instead of working. It was a hard decision to make because I had fallen in love with Mammoth, but I felt like a full turn of the seasons might plant my roots a little too deep for my comfort at this time in my life, so we agreed it was time to spend some months just walking. There are a ton of long distance trails in this country, the Pacific Crest Trail is only one. We decided to hike the newly formed Pacific Northwest Trail from Glacier National Park in Montana, all the way to the ocean in Washington. It is about a 1200 mile walk that is said to be more challenging than the 3,000 mile Continental Divide Trail. During our brainstorming of this trip, we wondered how we would get home from Washington. Plane, train, boat, or… bike? We had been biking around town together having so much fun, we just thought we’d add another 1600 miles to our trip by riding bicycles down the west coast from the end of the trail, all the way to San Diego. We are currently in the process of preparing and plan to be gone a total of about four months, before returning to Mammoth if all goes as planned.
During my six months living in Mammoth, my thrifty nature came in handy. Despite living in an actual apartment that costs money, paying bills, and working for only $9.80 per hour – I managed to eat like a queen AND save over two thousand dollars. We didn’t have cable – we had story time, where we read classic stories aloud. We rented movies from the library, I got food stamps to help me with groceries, my local organic market gave away food that was imperfect, so I collected it daily and I managed to eat nothing but deliciously fresh, organic produce. I love seeing how well I can live with so little, it is a philosophy I want to carry throughout my entire life. Less is more!
We said goodbye to Mammoth with a “freshy” hike right after a big snowstorm – feeling the soft powder compress under our feet. We’ll be back!
See you on the P N T Summer 2015!
“Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it’s a feather bed.” ― Terence McKenna
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2 thoughts on “Snoozing in Mammoth”
Great blog Abbi! Enjoy the new adventure – it sounds like a doozy! Looking forward to catching some glimpses of it in the posts-to-come…
Love your stories. Keep them coming.