Friday, September 13, 2019

Gondolas, games and goodies, a living history art gallery, and fissures in Mammoth Lakes

You can't go to Mammoth Lakes without visiting Mammoth Mountain and we didn't.
The day was even hazier, but we hoped for the best when we traveled out to the ski center.

One sight we didn't expect was the San Andreas fault, more correctly, fissure, running under the road. It is an awesome and unsettling sight, but no one warned us about getting out and taking pictures so we did.

San Andreas fault fissure
We later learned that the Mammoth Lakes area has an average of 17 earthquakes a day, but they aren't felt until hitting 2.7 on the scale and most are under that. Six hundred years ago the indigenous people stored food in the fissures to keep it safe from animals.

Speaking of animals, about 35 bears live around the town, often holing up in drainage pipes and underneath homes. According to Dave Searles, the local "bear whisperer," they are black bears that are primarily herbivores with a sense of smell so acute they can tell what you've bee eating. You don't have to worry about the more dangerous grizzlies; they've been hunted out. The saying goes that the last grizzly in California is on the state seal.

The ski center is impressive. All credit is given to Dave McCoy, who stubbornly persevered to bring skiing to the area.

 Starting by gathering friends and using heavy-duty trucks to pull the ropes that pulled skiers up the hills to installing the region's first permanent rope tow in 1938. Now one of the biggest mountain resorts in the country, Mammoth boasts an 11,053-foot summit, 28 chair lifts and 3,500 acres of skiable terrain. Hikers and mountain bikers take over in summer.

 We took the gondola to the top, but there wasn't much to be seen ...

... unless you count mountain bikers riding their cycles down the steps toward the trails.

That left us with some extra time on our hands and boy, did we fill it... and ourselves.

We stopped in at Mammoth Fun Shop and were immediately transported back to the best part of childhood: games, toys, wonder, make believe and ice cream. In other words, fun.  Whoopie cushions, juggling equipment, magic wands, puzzles, illusions, puppets, game sets, look-a-like bugs, snakes, poop. You name it, they have it.

We wandered, exclaiming "Oh, remember this!" or "Look at this!" at every other step.

It was "Wow!" when we hit the ice cream counter where a good three feet was filled with every kind of sprinkle under the sun. Buy a scoop or two and take your choice.

Camilla Miller holds her latest creation, the Baked Gorilla, a vertical banana split.
Camilla Miller, owner creator with her husband Brant, said she was tired of hearing disappointed children who wanted more than one kind, so she instituted the as many as you want policy.

Adults will go for the individual pies and innovative ice cream combinations, if not the array of sprinkles.

Another worthwhile time filler is The Gallery at Twin Lakes, once summer home and studio built in 1934 by famed Western photographer Stephen H. Willard. Considered one of the four great Western photographers - Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Wayne Ballock are the others - Willard combined fine photography with painting to capture what he called "the land of purple shadows." His photos were influential in creation of national parks and monuments such as  Joshua Tree and Death Valley.

Willard's cabin is now owned by Sue and Robert Jokis, who welcome visitors and
maintain much it as it was as a piece of living history.

It is a gallery, so if you want a unique souvenir, buy a work of art,  perhaps even one of Willard's.

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