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Campsite Photo Trip - 2013

Living Like A Lizard in the Eastern Sierra

Greg returns to California, and visits many Campgrounds in the Mammoth Lakes area.

That is what happens when you lose you tail. But more on that later.

I have been busy. 16 campgrounds visited in 6 days. All in California. That's right, I will be checking out campgrounds in the Golden State for the next six weeks or so.

I arrived at Oh Ridge campground next to June Lake late on Friday afternoon.


And immediately disturbed some deer.

Deer-1 Deer-2 Deer-3

When their ears are up and facing towards you they are listening hard. After explaining to them that I was a harmless Canadian they went back to eating, or foraging, or whatever they call it.


On Saturday morning I walked the campground. This is the largest one on the June Lake Loop with around 150 sites. There are four that have great views of the lake and are in high demand, numbers 6, 7, 8, and 9. You can book 6 months in advance and you need to if you want them.

Here is number 6.


And number 8.


Below them is a beach with some neat rocks out in the water.

Oh-Ridge-Beach June-Lake

The blue sky scared me so I left to find a shady place to rest. Nothing old, I wanted something new. I found it in the city of Mammoth Lakes.


Exactly. I made some tacos and then went to bed.


Sunday morning I made an almost perfect pancake.


Then I walked the campground.

New Shady Rest has, I believe, 98 sites, but they start at number 68 and end at 165 with a few numbers missing.

My favorite was number 92.


There was at least four reservation cards on the post so plan accordingly.

I have been coming to the Mammoth area since the late 70's. One of my good friend's dad was the sheriff in these parts. We would drive up late on Friday after high school in the winter to go skiing. He let us sleep in the jail, with the door open, and then drive us up to the gondola in the Sheriff SUV. We thought we were so cool...

In summer I would always camp in the lakes basin area, usually at Lake Mary, so I had never checked out the campgrounds in town.

They are pretty nifty, much more RV friendly. Plus, you can walk to restaurants and stores. Or, as my neighbors said, happy hour.

Bike trails loop through this area as well.


Yes, I rode them and no, no bike picture. You will see one later.

Right across the street is original campground in this area.


Legend has it the locals ignored whatever name it was called and instead referred to it as Shady Rest. The Forest Service decided to go with the flow with the two campgrounds. I like that.

There are 51 sites here with a couple set aside for administration. They seem to be a little larger than New Shady, which some people now call Slim Shady.

This is number 16.


So that was Sunday. On Monday I drove around Mammoth Mountain and down to the valley behind, known to some as Reds Valley. There were six campgrounds down here to check out.

I stayed at the southernmost and largest one called Reds Meadow.


As you may have seen on our Facebook page, there was a surprise waiting inside the bear box.


But the sign is different in this one. The other side read "Mammoth" and after I took that photo I picked it up and noticed this on the other side.

I took a couple of sips, just out of curiosity. It was a citrus vodka, very refreshing. But not my style so I left it for the next camper. Just paying it forward.

My friend Glenn showed up on Monday night to visit this area with me. And to take back something.

Reds meadow has 56 sites. I liked the upper loop, especially number 51.


A really nice private spot is number 46. The site turns left at the box and has a great place for a tent and can also hold an RV on the spur.


It is right next to the creek.


We left and headed up the road to northern most campground in the valley, Agnes Meadow, five miles away.

In November, 2011, a tremendous windstorm hit the valley. Gusts approaching 200 miles per hour were clocked. Massive trees were knocked down. Agnes was still under repair and may be completely revamped. We hiked up the road anyway to see for ourselves.


Glenn is pointing at a pile of small logs near what used to be the entrance. There were chainsaw crews still there that day. Massive toppled stumps were everywhere. No photos were taken of the campground.

The next four campgrounds are all situated alongside the San Joaquin River. We passed by Starkweather Lake and looked at Upper Soda Springs.

Starkweather-Lake Upper-Soda-Springs-Sign

There are 29 sites here and we liked number 15 the best.


Right behind it is the river.

River-View-Upper-Soda-Springs River-View-2-Upper-Soda-Springs

Next up was Pumice Flat.


A small campground with only 17 sites. Number 10 was our pick.


Again, it had the river right behind it.

River-View-1-Pumice-Flat River-View-2-Pummice-Flat

The water was very low in mid-September due to a lack of snowpack in the mountains.

Minaret Falls was next with 23 sites.


Along with Reds Meadow, this was the only campground still open in the valley.

Number two was the consensus pick.


With the river behind.


Some carefully placed rocks seemed to slow down the flow and create a little beach.


Finally we stopped here.


There is a small campground with 21 sites. B4 caught our eye.


Next to it is this little cascade of water.


Of course the main reason people come here is to see the Devils Postpile.

Devils-Postpile-3 Devils-Postpile-2

This used to be a part of Yosemite. In the early 1900's a group of mining companies persuaded (bribed) Congress to remove it. The plan was to dynamite the postpiles and create a dam to provide power to mine the area.

Activists persuaded President Taft to stop the madness and in 1911 it was awarded federal protection again.


Would have been a shame to lose it.

I had been noticing that for the last hour or so Glenn kept walking a few paces ahead of me. I asked if he was in a hurry. He asked when I last took a shower. I had to think for a minute. It was now Tuesday afternoon, so Friday morning was the answer.

He suggested we stop at Reds Meadow Resort next to our campground. He could get a bite to eat and I could become human again. I agreed.

So Glenn ate here.


While I showered in the building behind the general store.


With Glenn full and myself sparkling clean, we headed back to our campsite and built a fire. With darkness looming, we hit the sack. One of us in his trailer and one of us in his tent. The temperature dropped to freezing Tuesday night. One of us was cold, the other laughed. Yeah.

After our second hearty breakfast of tacos in two days, we headed back to the Mammoth Lakes area and checked out Sherwin Creek campground.


It was closed so we were free to ramble about.

There are 87 sites here. If you are a tent camper, reserve number 8.


It is a walk-in site but only about 100 feet. You cross a bridge over the creek to one of the best tent sites I have ever seen. Here is a view from the bridge. The site is to the left.


The rest of the campground has spurs for RV's or tenters. Number 19 was nice and level.


Glenn headed back to work and I headed back to New Shady Rest for two nights. Something felt different while driving on Wednesday.

Today, Thursday morning, I headed out to look at more campgrounds.

Stopped at Convict Lake first, 8 miles south of Mammoth.


This is one of the best trout lakes in the Eastern Sierra's. The mountains rise from the shoreline reminiscent of the Twin Lakes near Bridgeport.

Convict-Lake-Boat-Ramp Convict-Lake

About half of the 88 sites are reservable. Some are open, some are shaded. Number 53 is one of the favorites.


While the spur is open, the rest of the site has some shade down by the creek.

I picked up some followers at site 72.


I tried to give them a card but they had problems holding on to it.

A few miles further south was McGee Creek.


28 sites, half of them can be reserved. I liked number 9.


Lots of shade and right on the creek.


Trust me, there is a creek there.

This is a more open campground with a dashing meadow,


And a view of Crowley lake on the way up, down as well I guess.


A few miles further south is Tom's Place and Rock Creek Lake Road.

I took photos of most of the campgrounds along the road that extends nine miles up from the 395 several years ago. I skipped two of them. I went back to see if I could remember why. I did.


This is an interesting spot. The lake is gorgeous and the Rock Creek Lake Resort nearby is extremely popular. That is where Glenn works. You have to stop by for Sue King's pies.

The campground is another story. There are a few RV sites right off the road. They look like this.


The rest of the 20 something sites are walk-ins.

Don't get me wrong. This is a great place to camp, just something I could not photograph like a regular campground.

The lake was full of people trying to entice fish.


I stopped by the resort on my way back and took a shower, my second in three days. Probably a record.

Back down the hill is a campground called Holiday.


It has not been open in a couple of years but I parked and hiked in to see what the deal was. Turns out that it is an overflow spot. The sites are not even numbered.


So no photos here either.

But I found a hidden gem for folks that want to camp near the town of Mammoth Lakes.


Most listings show it as a group campground. And yes, it has several group sites like number 7.


What is also has is half a dozen regular sites mixed in. To get to it you have to drive through New Shady Rest. The individual sites are big and reservable. Look at number one.


Walking distance to town and next to the bike paths. Very nice.

Which brings us to...

Lizards. Very unique in the fact that they can lose their tail and later regrow one.

I lost my tail. I had it for six months. It feels very different without it behind me. I would look in my rearview mirror and see it's comforting presence, knowing I had a dry place to sleep. But it is gone, back to my friend Glenn who so graciously availed it to me.


But like a lizard, my tail will grow back. Next year I will be pulling my own trailer behind me across our great country, looking for the next best campsite.

Tomorrow I will be heading west across the mountains and eventually to the rugged coastline of Northern California and the majestic redwoods.

I will be hoping for dry weather.

As a wise man once said:

"Knowledge without experience is just information" — Mark Twain

Regards, Park Ranger


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