Fall Colors & Hidden Hot Springs (Oh, And A Naked Man Pic…) – Mammoth Lakes, CA
So, the past few days we’ve been back in one of our favorite areas of 395, the high mountains and thin air of Mammoth Lakes. This is a spot we’ve visited many times before, yet we keep finding new and cool things to do here. We’ve already hiked many trails, explored geological craziness and watched the sunsrise at Mono Lake (all “must do” things in the area), but this time around I had something else in mind.
Our first order of business was finding somewhere to camp. Thanks to the fools in the Federal Government our favorite NFS campground in the area (Oh Ridge!) was shut down, but thanks to other friends (specifically The Nealy’s) we scored a rather fine, albeit not really “beast friendly” boondocking spot just south of town. It took a few years off my life to squeeze our big girl in here, but once tucked in we both had to admit we really liked it. By the time we got here, The Nealy’s had moved on, but we snagged a day with Watson’s Wander before they (too) fled the coup.
Why is everyone in such a rush to leave such a gorgeous spot?
We got our answer the first night we spent alone on the plains. Temps dropped to a balmy 18 °F (-8 °C) and we woke up to the inviting sight of frost inside the RV windows (I kid you not). This is about as cold as we’ve gotten in the RV and just about the limit of what we can take. Thankfully it’s not our first rodeo in the mountains. A couple of years ago we dropped to similar temps camping right up the road at Convict Lake and that taught us everything we wanted to know about chill-shrinking batteries & cold-temp dry camping (needless to say, we no longer turn on the bay heater at night…duh!).
So, why are YOU here, you fools?
Well, there’s a reason to our madness. Despite our fondness for flip-flop temps, there’s one big reason to brave the cold in fall up here and it has everything to do with Aspen tress and cascades of gorgeous yellow fall colors. This is the time of year the tress shed their chlorophyll and reveal their true shades. It’s a short-lived theater (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 old-time favorite of ours and (handily) just a few miles from our boondocking spot. I took the opportunity to meet-up with an old Nepal hiking buddy of mine and we all three walked the 3-mile loop and gawked at the colors. Well worth a few chilly nights.
And the other little thing you had in mind?
Through the grapevine I’d heard of hidden hot springs in the area just south of Mammoth Lakes. There are (supposedly) free and scenic pools scattered all over the BLM area right behind the airport (around Benton Crossing Road & Whitmore Tubs Road) with intriguing names like Wild Willy’s, Pulkey’s Pool and Hilltop. Some are large, some small…all accessible clothed or (should you so wish) au naturelle, as nature intended. This seemed the perfect antidote to chilly nights and I was determined to find them. We set-out in the car with wishy-washy directions that I’d scrounged off secret spots on the internet and just started driving the back roads.
We found 4 hidden pools, some just bath-tub size, but a few of which were large enough for 5-10 people or more. Many are fed with valves so you can adjust temps as desired. Oh, and I’m sure you’re dying to know if we went in our birthday suits or not? Well, let’s just say some we did, some we didn’t (and ONE of the pictures below has a naked man in it…let’s see how many internet hits that one gets me tee hee)
Despite all this allure the weather at 7,100 ft is just too fickle and last night dropped to a new record of 11 °F (-12°C). These kinds of temps are beyond what our little chicken-bones (especially mine) can take. Besides, at those levels cat stickiness is infinite which makes it difficult to do much of anything except shiver under the covers with fur-balls velcro’d to your belly. So, this AM we raised our jacks and headed ~40 miles and 2,700 feet lower in altitude to another great boondocking spot. Much, much warmer and still just as lovely views out the window. We’ll see ya there.