“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”
John Muir

A gorgeous cascade of yellow

I was reaaallly hoping for just a tinge of fall colors, perhaps a few good hours of sun and a couple of hikes. After all, this trip was about getting together with friends, not photography….but you know how I am.

What we actually got was nature’s miracle in brilliant gold at the very PEAK of fall. A dusting of snow just a few days before (giving that picture-perfect peak of white), followed by some cycles of heat and near-freezing temps had caused all the Mammoth Lakes Aspens to shed their green chlorophyll and break out in grand, fabulistic yellow.


The happy clan gathered at Mono Lake

But I’m getting ahead of myself. What happened in Mammoth Lakes was a reunion of beautiful memories. Four years ago (this week) I was completing a life-long dream of trekking in Nepal. The images of that time still linger in my mind, but the people created something even deeper and we became fast friends with the history of a fabulous common experience.

This was our mini-reunion with 5 of the originals (including our indomitable leader Leo, and his lovely wife Elaine -> all the way from Hong Kong no less) travelled to the house of my hiking buddy Lauren to re-cement our ties.

Lauren and Neil pose at Convict Lake

It was the gathering of a tribe and our self-nominated sirdar Lauren, together with vivacious wife Susan, had been scoping out sweeet hiking spots for almost 2 weeks. Add-in two more friends with Susan flying in from Vermont and Neil, who drove 8 hours overnight to join us, and we were an eager and happy bunch.

Hiking in stunningly golden McGee Canyon

And we really couldn’t have picked a better location. Mammoth Lakes sits in the heart of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California, a land sculpted by volcanic activity and glacial movement. Gorgeous mountains of granite, ancient salt-lakes (Mono Lake), basalt columns (Devil’s Postpile), volcanic craters (Inyo Craters) and a slew of other natural splendors simply abound in this little gem of the world. This is also the setting for the John Muir Wilderness, the very landscape that inspired John Muir to spend his life working to preserve it.

But what made it even better was the fall. Once a year the mountain landscape transforms itself into a golden waterfall, with colors starting from the higher elevations and cascading down the mountains in grand snakes of yellow over just a few weeks.

Aspens of gold

Last year we experienced the fall colors in the Smoky Mountains, but I’d never seen the color-song of the Aspens in the west. What surprised me most was that it happened so fast (colors changed rapidly within just a few days) and, perhaps even weirder, there were so few people to see it! Most of the RV parks in the area were less than half full and most of the hiking trails all but empty. Compared to the barrage of folks we’d seen on the east coast the year before, this was a 5-star show with a 1-star audience. What a treat!!

Overall it was the best possible week-end I could have imagined.  Stunning scenery, eye-popping colors and simply fabulous company. Turns out we may be coming back here in the RV (very soon in fact), but colors (and friends) will have faded away by then. In the meantime the memories are stored in more shots that I know what to do with (there were simply too many). As a tribute to good friends and gorgeous nature I give you just a few…

Lauren ponders the beauty in Lundy Canyon

Morning serenity at Convict Lake

A magnificent show of Aspens

Morning reflections in Lundy Lake

Zanna, Neil and Leo stop for a chat in Lundy Canyon

Evening mountain glow pinks the sky atLauren’s condo

Nature’s palette on the ground

Back-lit peaks eerie in black & white

A barren landscape due to CO2 release from Mammoth Mountain

Morning light on the South Tufas at Mono Lake

Zanna provides a photographically gorgeous spot of red on the trail in Convict Lake

Early morning sun touches the brush at Mono Lake


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34 Responses to Friends & Fall Colors – Mammoth Lakes, CA

  1. rommel says:

    0_O WOW! I really need to take leave and explore California. Unfortunately, it won’t be sooner. Nice places you showed us, and photography is top-notch.

  2. Lauren Brown says:

    You’ve posted a terrific record of our weekend together here in Mammoth Lakes, Nina. I went on the same trails as you did through McGee and Lundy Canyons but your eyes and camera capture images in such a wonderful way that somehow eludes more pedestrian-type photographers like me! Like your view looking toward the mackerl skies above the aspen forest. Thanks for those special images, and the vivid descriptions, that further expand what was already an unforgetable weekend of enjoying the beauty of nature along with the gift of rare friendships

    • libertatemamo says:

      Well a HUGE thanks to you Lauren. I thoroughly enjoyed our time together and your generousity in hosting us all at your house.

  3. Erin says:

    Simply fantastic … and to enjoy it with those with whom you’ve shared a terrific experience … and to have it all to yourselves without crowds … couldn’t ask for more.

  4. Marci says:

    WOW — great pictures! You are truly a great photographer! I can’t wait until the days when I can see all that in person!

  5. While we saw different areas of the Eastern Sierra along US 395, we were close to where you were. But we didn’t see it in the glory of autumn. Your excellent pictures drew us back, at least in our minds. And you used the bright red jacket to full advantage! Thanks for the autumn tour, five star indeed.

  6. Sheila says:

    Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful!
    Simply stunning!!
    My fav: Early morning sun touches the brush at Mono Lake

    • libertatemamo says:

      The Mono Lake shots were some of my favs. We got up reaal early to get them, but it was totally worth it.

  7. Neil Tardiff says:

    It was so great to see everyone! Fantastic shots!

  8. Martha says:

    Beautiful photos of the aspen — especially the one looking up with the unusual clouds above! Really enjoyed them! thanks for sharing!! — Martha

  9. robihutton says:

    Beautiful photos. I learned how to ski at Mammoth, but never made it to the lakes…this is a good reminder for me, perhaps I will schedule that in on my way up to South Dakota next spring. Thanks!

  10. Sue Malone says:

    Incredible photos , Nina. Perfect timing. Sooooo gorgeous!

  11. Charlie Kellogg says:

    Those are fantastic pictures and I wish I had been there. At that same time, I was in UT enjoying their fall colors in and around Park City so that was fun.

  12. Teresa says:

    ok – so seems you heard this a time or two – but had to add my own – wow – what great pics!!!! have been following you guys for a bit – great blog – thanks!

  13. […] alas, all went awry with our little slide delay, I ended up flying to Mammoth instead of driving there and the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men twas not to […]

  14. Christy says:

    Gorgeous photos!!! Thank you.

  15. […] were near-perfect, the trails and roads were near-empty and fall colors were still gorgeous even a week after I saw the “peak” with my Nepal hiking buddies. In fact I would venture to say that fall seems as near perfect as […]

  16. […] My favorite is the one I so long been dreaming of going to,  Mammoth Lake. […]

  17. rommel says:

    Hi, I hope you guys don’t mind. Sorry if I didn’t ask prior publishing. I featured your blog to one of my post, and I used one of the picture here. I really love this post, and I annotated that this is my most favorite. I hope it’s not a problem. I link it to your blog. If you want me to retract it, I’ll delete it immediately.

    Great Blog. Keep it up, and Stay Safe!

  18. […] display isn’t as famous and varied as what you get on the east coast, but it’s still pretty darn fabulous and there are so few people here. This totally surprised me last year, but I can’t say […]

  19. […] take away from the time we’ve had here. The color change this year has not been as dramatic as it was last year, probably because of the warmer-than-usual temps, but it’s still been absolutely outstanding. […]

  20. […] it. We’ll hit some late weather (no doubt), but the draw of wide-open mountain hikes and spectacular changing aspens is far too strong to overcome any doubts. I LOVE this part of the country, all the more so in the […]

  21. […] (a few weeks at the most) but OH…MY…GOD it is amazing!! We were worried we’d missed the peak by just a few weeks, but turns out there’s still some fabulous color up by Convict Lake, an […]

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