We headed up to my parents' house near Mammoth Lakes for 4th of July weekend. Lee's been having knee problems, so he wasn't really up to hiking, and played golf with my dad instead. I did a couple of very nice day hikes and enjoyed all of the beautiful wildflowers. And in between we had time to relax and enjoy being away from home, and having time to read and nap.
I don't really know much of the details of what Lee did, and we didn't take any pictures of him golfing, so I suppose this will describe more about my trip than his!
Friday, July 2 - On the Road
The drive up (about 375 miles) was uneventful, though there was quite a bit of traffic on the road. There's a stretch of about 80 miles that's all two lane with very few passing lanes, and we got behind slow vehicles several times...though the worst part was that in one of the few sections where there *was* a passing lane, a semi was trying to pass an RV - unsuccessfully - which meant that none of the *rest* of us got around either one of them. Argh.
I'd been passed by a black BMW with two young guys in it with a Missouri license plate...Be careful what you ask for on license plates...this one had the Missouri "Show Me State" motto on the plate, and the Highway Patrol decided to "show them", and we passed them when they were pulled over. :-)
We stopped in Bishop at the golf course and called my dad - I left Lee there with his golf stuff, and Dad came down to meet him. They ended up on the driving range and practiced putting and chipping, and then played 12 holes of golf before it got too dark to see. Mom and I had gone ahead and had dinner - good thing, since they didn't get back until about 9:15.
Mom had made a german chocolate cake (totally from scratch) to celebrate Lee's birthday (which was several days before), and we did wait to eat that until after the guys had dinner. :-) It was delicious.
Saturday, July 3 - Wildflower Gardens!
After breakfast, the guys headed up to the driving range at Mammoth so that Lee could have a golf lesson with Tani Tatum, one of the local pros, who is an excellent teacher.
Mom and I got our hiking gear together and picked up Mom's neighbor Maureen and her friend Mary, and drove to the McGee Creek trailhead.
A little story behind McGee Creek...about a year ago, Mom was hiking up there with Maureen and her husband Hector, and the wildflowers were in full bloom. They noticed a guy who was obviously a professional photographer, but really didn't pay much attention to what he was doing. Then, in May of this year, Mom was looking through her June issue of Sunset Magazine, and she saw a story on McGee Creek, with a full page color picture of the mountains, the flowers, and also herself, Maureen, and Hector! (Sunset sold quite a few extra copies of *that* issue. :-) )
We tried to recreate the picture, with Mary playing the part of Hector. :-)
It was a windy day, but the weather was beautiful, and the temperature
was very comfortable for hiking. I think we hit just about the peak
of the wildflowers, and they were absolutely beautiful. I don't think
I've ever seen so many different kinds in bloom at the same time. We
all stopped a lot to take pictures and enjoy the scenery.
I thought this flower was especially interesting - it looks like the
photo on the left when it's in bloom, but then develops into pods as
in the photo on the right. The ones on the right look like they belong
on Star Trek. The pods were not especially brittle, which surprised
me - they felt rather tough.
While taking a picture of this flower, called "monkshood", I managed to find a patch of stinging nettles with my elbow and knee. That's something that I have never seen (or maybe that should be felt) in the Sierras before. Yow...they really stung, that's for sure! Even with application of some cortisone cream the sting was with me the rest of the day. It was a very unremarkable looking plant, but it sure packed a wallop.
We stopped for lunch at a nice spot along McGee Creek, and then made our way back down the trail.
The guys were home when we got back, but left soon after to go back down to Bishop and play a round of golf. Lee's lesson with Tani went very well - though a few balls endangered the colony of ground squirrels that lives just below the tee-off area of the driving range. :-)
They arrived home even later that night...it was close to 9:45. They *say* that after finishing their round of golf they went to the driving range to finish off a couple buckets of balls...we wondered if they were enjoying the 19th hole, instead. :-)
It was Lee's first complete round of golf, and he did pretty well - even par'ed (parred?) one hole, and he was quite pleased with his putting.
Did you know that 90% of putts that are short don't go in the hole? ;-)
At least that's what Yogi Berra says...I wonder what happens to the
other 10%, though? Maybe they go the same place that socks go when
they disappear out of the washing machine? :-)
Sunday, July 4 - Hilton Lakes Hike
We relaxed in the morning - Lee's knee was bothering him after the walking he'd done on the golf course, even though he'd ridden a cart much of the time (very out of character for him).
Around 11:30 Dad and I decided to go hiking and got our stuff together.
We drove up to the Mosquito Flats parking lot - but a lot of other
people had had the same idea, and the parking lot was full, and both of the
overflow parking lots
were full, too. I'd noticed that the Hilton Lakes trailhead parking
lot had spaces, and I'd never been there before, so I suggested that.
It's not quite as scenic (Little Lakes Valley is one of the most
beautiful valleys in the Sierra), but it would be new and different.
It was a very nice hike - again, it was another one of those "ho-hum perfect High Sierra days", with sunny but not-too-hot temperatures. (Being up at 10,000'+ helped, too. :-) ). The trail was nice - quite a bit of up and down, but not too steep most of the time, and it crossed quite a few small streams, with lots of pretty wildflowers for me to look at and photograph. :-) We were significantly higher than on the McGee hike, so the flowers were different - it's much earlier in the season up high. One of my favorites, and something that I rarely get to see because it blooms early, is this white heather - it looks like little white bells.
We got into one area where the mosquitoes started attacking, but
the spray that Dad had was quite effective. Take *that*, you little
Another nice thing about this trail as opposed to the Little Lakes Valley trail is that we had it almost all to ourselves - we passed maybe 15 people who were on their way out, but only saw about 6 others going the same way we were.
After hiking about 5 miles we came to Hilton Lake #3, tucked into a cirque with mountains all around it. Really a pretty place. (Here's a picture of Dad and the lake.) We found a nice sunny sheltered place out of the wind, and had lunch. We had the lake all to ourselves, and didn't see anyone else until we were leaving.
The trail back had just about as much up and down as it did on the way in...hmmm. Dad looked it up on his computerized topo maps after we got home - though we only ended up about 300' higher than where we started, the trail did a lot of up and down - and at one point we were actually *lower* than where we'd started. So, although the net elevation gain was only about 300', the total gain/loss (one way) was almost 2000'.
Mom cooked us a great dinner that night, and invited some of the
neighbors over, too - our hiking partners Maureen and Mary were there
along with their husbands Hector and Jack, and Mom and
Dad's next door neighbor Don, too.
It was 4th of July, and after dinner most of them went to a spot where they could watch the local fireworks show over Crowley Lake (but without paying :-) ). (Ok, so I don't have any fireworks pictures, but these red penstemon are very colorful and firecracker-like, don't you think? Red flowers, white mountains, blue sky...very patriotic, huh? Well, I tried...)
After they got back we had dessert
- Hector's hobby is gourmet cooking, and he had made a couple of
delicious apple tarts for dessert. It was a wonderful dinner.
Monday, July 5 - Home Again
After breakfast Lee and Dad went out to hit golf balls one last time. :-) We got on the road about 10:20. There was already a LOT of traffic on the road - there was actually a traffic jam in downtown Bishop! After our mandatory stop at Schat's Bakery we got on one of the side streets and zipped on by it, though.
The trip home was slow in places, but overall traffic moved well, even on the sections of 2 lane highway.
Some Final Thoughts...
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Text and photographs copyright © 1999, by Laura Gilbreath. Feel free to link to this document, but you may not redistribute it in any form without the express written consent of the copyright holder.Laura Gilbreath, email@example.com
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