A Beginner’s Guide to Roughing It in Mammoth


By Judy Herman, Foggy View Editor

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“[W]e adjourned to the Sierras…and spent several days in camp…and fished…in a bright, miniature lake…cooling ourselves during the hot August noons by sitting on snow banks ten feet deep…and at night entertaining ourselves by almost freezing to death.” Mark Twain, Roughing It [1872], Ch. 38

We roughed it, too, at the end of July on the annual PV-SB bus trip to Mammoth. We nearly froze to death in the tepid “hot tub” at the Sierra Nevada Resort & Spa. Not only that, there was nothing good on TV and some of us were forced to watch “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”

The toughest part for this tenderfoot was getting up at 4:30 to catch the bus. But it was all worth it. The geological panorama along the eastern Sierra kept sleepy eyes engaged Thursday morning until we arrived at Convict Lake for our first “easy hike to acclimate to the altitude.” Those of us in the slowest group let the speedsters zip up the peaks for a different perspective on the blue waters.

Friday’s hike to Dorothy Lake was the most challenging, a bit longer than the advertized 6 to 7 miles. I should have carried four quarts of water, as advised. But leaders Minoo Hart and Terri Straub, along with co-leaders Tejinder Dhillon and Emile Fiesler (and apprentice leader Veda Fiesler), took excellent care of this chronologically advanced newbie. On Saturday’s hike to the Sherwin Lakes, the weather was again perfect, with clouds cooling us and dotting the lakes with bright white reflections. On the way back Sunday, the bus turned eastward to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, where we were awed by the sight of the oldest living trees in the world. Although some of us were feeling a little twisted and gnarled after four days of hiking, we realized we were toddlers compared to these living things still reaching skyward after more than 4,000 years.

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