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(This arti­cle may or may not con­tain affil­i­ate links. What does that mean?)

Although I want­ed him to be brave, part of me pic­tured his hands los­ing grip on the rope sus­pend­ed to the branch above his head and his lit­tle body land­ing with a dull thud onto the sharp rocks. Besides our screams of ter­ri­fied excite­ment,  Gull Lake was rel­a­tive­ly qui­et with only a few boats bob­bing on the calm, green water bor­dered by a wall of bam­boo grow­ing from the bot­tom of the lake.  Pine trees and snow capped moun­tains framed our post­card view.

My son, Kaleb, held his hands high, test­ing his grip on the brown fibers. “Come on Kaleb, you can do it!” his dad and I encour­aged him. It did­n’t help that his best friend, Blake, would have noth­ing to do with any of this and was doing every­thing in his pow­er to dis­cour­age every­one from what he con­sid­ered a fool­ish activ­i­ty.  “Please Kaleb! Don’t!” he lit­er­al­ly cried, “you’re my best friend! I don’t want you to die!” The pos­si­bil­i­ty of an actu­al death was prob­a­bly a stretch from the five foot fall that would occur if, indeed, Kaleb did lose his grip on the rope, which, if he held on, would send him over the dirt, on which he cur­rent­ly stood, over the afore­men­tioned sharp rocks and into the wake up call of the frosty lake water.

Mam­moth Lakes, dur­ing the sum­mer­time, is full of oppor­tu­ni­ties to laugh into the face of death. Our fam­i­ly had only explored the moun­tains on skis and snow­boards, so when my friend, Lisa Miller, moth­er to cau­tious Blake and his two broth­ers Cam­den and Rylan, asked if we want­ed to spend a long week­end up there, how could we say no?

Kaleb took some deep breathes. Paused for a sec­ond. Blake’s woe­ful lamen­ta­tions could be heard in the silence between our breaths. He walked away to sit moan­ing by a bush, not want­i­ng to watch. Every­one else was still, wait­ing.  His dad float­ed in the lake near­by to reas­sure him that he was there and to also give him a tar­get for which to aim. I was tak­ing the video. Anoth­er breath and he charged with qui­et deter­mi­na­tion at the jade water.

This would be a dif­fer­ent sto­ry if he had missed. Instead, he learned he could have fear, face it and get on with it.

Which brings me to my first tip about vis­it­ing Mam­moth Lakes dur­ing the summer.

GO JUMP IN A LAKE

Specif­i­cal­ly, go find the tire swing — which on the day we went was inac­ces­si­bly hang­ing on a branch, way out of reach. How­ev­er, there was also a rope swing teth­ered an arm’s length away. These you can find on Gull Lake, one of the four lakes along the June Lake Loop, which is about a 20 minute, well worth it,  dri­ve from Mam­moth Lakes. The path to the swing and rope is along the Fish­er­man’s Trail at the Gull Lake Camp­ground. Dri­ve along High­way 158 from down­town June Lake until you see the campground.

Gull Lake campground

look for this sign

Park your car and head toward the path pok­ing out just left of the road sign if you’re fac­ing the campground.

The signs that you’re head­ing in the right direc­tion are pret­ty hard to miss.

Gull Lake Fisherman's Trail

see?

Every­one that jumped had fun and the ones that did­n’t were hap­py the oth­ers had sur­vived, so it was a good day.

Tip: Bring organ­ic insect repel­lant because you’re being healthy and don’t want to put unnec­es­sary tox­ins on your body but you also don’t want to leave feel­ing like a vam­pire feed­ing trough. Also, you could stop by the city of June Lake on your way to or from the rope swing and get some lunch at June Lake Brew­ing. They have a Hawai­ian food truck that serves food until 4pm or until they run out. The tables are long and com­mu­nal. We met 15 year res­i­dents and self-described June Lake hill­bil­lies,  Aman­da and Peter there. They said they love June Lake for the yoga, rock climb­ing and hot springs. Peter said the pop­u­la­tion of June Lake is the same as the apart­ment build­ing in which he lived in Seattle.

GO FISH

While we were tempt­ing fate with rocks and water, I’m sure we were get­ting some evil looks from the fish­er­men whose luck we were prob­a­bly chang­ing with our crazy antics. Fish­ing sea­son in Mono Coun­ty, where both Mam­moth and June Lake are locat­ed, starts the last Sat­ur­day of April and goes until mid-Novem­ber. After we sur­vived the rope swing and the mos­qui­toes, we decid­ed to see if we could con­tin­ue our win­ning streak in a pon­toon boat loaded with reels and sharp hooks.

fishing at June Lake

the sharp­er the better

We may or may not have for­got­ten the bait which may or may not have con­tributed to break­ing that streak. But fun was had by all as the Miller boys claimed to nev­er have gone fish­ing before and mine had only done it on land with a guide doing most of the work.

We rent­ed a boat big enough for us all at Lake Mary and tried our luck with lures alone.

Maybe some peo­ple have suc­cess with lures alone but those peo­ple were not us. How­ev­er, cast­ing the line and tak­ing turns dri­ving the boat at 2mph was fun enough for the boys so that was good enough for the adults. And then there was the dance party.

Plus they got the chance to jump in the lake again.

 

GET AN ADVENTURE PASS

Mammoth Mountain Adventure Pass

Full of Energy

If you have five boys to enter­tain or even four or three or god-for­bid two (!) then you need to run them until they drop. The per­fect place to do that is at the Adven­ture Cen­ter right by the Mam­moth Lodge where, dur­ing the sum­mer­time, they set up a rock wall, zip-lin­ing and a bungee tram­po­line. The pass also gives you a dis­count on lift pass­es for the bik­ing trails. A pass gives your jelly­beans unlim­it­ed oppor­tu­ni­ties to hurl them­selves at walls, bounce their lit­tle hearts out and throw them­selves into what­ev­er tizzy they want from 25 feet off the ground, all out­side the range of your sen­si­tive  eardrums in the safe­ty of a con­trolled environment.

One of the oper­a­tors chal­lenged Knox to climb the hard­est wall and he was the only one in our group who did it. He conned the guy out of a pack of Star­burst as a reward.

rock wall mammoth mountain

per­se­ver­ance and determination

adventure pass wall

lead to sweet rewards

 

BRING MORE WATER

Mammoth Mountain Devi's Post and Rainbow Falls

Lord of the Flies?

There are hik­ing trails lead­ing from the gon­do­las leav­ing the Adven­ture Cen­ter where you can take stren­u­ous to mod­er­ate hikes on Mam­moth Moun­tain, lush with fiery wild­flow­ers explod­ing from the earth after abun­dant snow melts . There are also areas to explore beyond the pop­u­lar moun­tain acces­si­ble by dog friend­ly shut­tles that trans­port you to points that let you choose the length of your adven­ture, leav­ing from the con­ve­nience of the Adven­ture Cen­ter. Chances are, you’ll need more water than you think for those breath-tak­ing walks. We did.

The shut­tle takes you down a nar­row and cir­cuitous moun­tain road that makes you hope the dri­ver is feel­ing at the top of his game. The road will drop you into God’s majes­tic Christ­mas tree lot with pine nee­dle scents waft­ing from the expan­sive green, rolling hills. This heart melt­ing area that leads to Dev­il’s Post­pile and Rain­bow Falls was almost turned into a wood­pile by the log­ging indus­try  at the start of the last cen­tu­ry. How­ev­er, Pres­i­dent Taft declared the land a Nation­al Mon­u­ment in 1911, pro­tect­ing it for gen­er­a­tions of out­door lovers.

The trail to Dev­il’s Post­pile is a short one and will make any­one feel like a war­rior, despite their actu­al fit­ness level.

Devil's Post Mammoth Mountain

one sharp glacier

How­ev­er, the fun of hik­ing on to Rain­bow Falls through beau­ti­ful­ly pre­served trails and heart burst­ing vis­tas may have been marred by a stac­ca­to of whines and not the good kind. But we final­ly made it.

Rainbow Falls Mammoth Mountain

Part of our jour­ney took us through Ansel Adams Wilder­ness and we were alarmed by the appar­ent destruc­tion of the glo­ri­ous land he immor­tal­ized through his pictures.

Ansel Adams Wilderness

Pho­to by Rina Nehdar.…a giant roamed here

Ansel Adams Wilderness trail

This pho­to by Ansel Adams…he had a bet­ter lens

Friends of the Inyos, Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and Out­reach man­ag­er, Alex Ertaud said the the dev­as­ta­tion was caused by two events. The first was the Rain­bow Fire in 1992 which burned 6,000 acres and  almost took out the Mam­moth area as well. Then, in 2011 winds trav­el­ing at speeds of 190 miles per hour ripped through the val­ley and plucked the remain­ing trees from the earth.

But by the end of our long and dry hike, our city boys had their shirts wrapped  around their heads and were  charg­ing through streams and climb­ing over rock obsta­cles. We all just wished we had brought more water.

VISIT THE VILLAGE

The Vil­lage, the cen­tral gath­er­ing spot in Mam­moth, hosts events through­out the year to bring vis­i­tors togeth­er, social­ize and wine and dine them. While we were there, the event they held was called World’s High­est Rib Cook-Off and it involved live music and hula hoops.

Rib Cook Off at Mammoth Village: hula hoops

No prob­lem

 

UNPLUG

Screens are addict­ing. Sure, they can be use­ful in the right time and place but  a majes­tic cor­nu­copia of moun­tains and trees is not the time or place.  It’s pret­ty great to see imag­i­na­tions soar when elec­tron­ics aren’t on the agenda.

Twister

Remem­ber this game?

City Boys become Mountain Boys

Don’t try this at home

 

RIDE THE FREE TROLLY

In the Sum­mer­time, a free, open air trol­ly could take you almost any­where you want to go. It was the last thing we did and a won­der­ful recap of our trip as we cruised by and reliv­ed our adventures.

Mammoth Mountain Trolly

A Place for Every­thing, includ­ing bikes!

Mammoth Mountain Trolly

City Kids Calmed with Moun­tain Air

Mammoth Mountain Trolly

All Views

We passed horse rentals and new lakes to dis­cov­er for next time.….and even passed some famil­iar sights.….

Gull Lake Fisherman's Trail

It’s a sign.…

PIN THIS!