I’ve been to Mammoth many times to snowboard in the winter, when the roads are icy and the lifts are busy. When my friend Sean put together a summer camping trip on Facebook, I was interested in going to experience Mammoth Lakes from a different perspective. This time instead of a relaxing in a cabin with hot totties and hot tubs, we’d be tent camping and enjoying the sunshine under the stars. It was time for a road trip.
Lately I’ve discovered there is nothing better than a well researched road trip. A long ride can be cumbersome, tiring, and uneventful. If you have the time, do some research to see what lies along the road on the way to your destination. We made several stops on the way to Mammoth and back that were fun to stop and photograph.
Red Rock Canyon
Red rock canyon lies right off the 14 and features gorgeous multi-colored rock formations. The facade is swirling mix of reds and whites. You can also hike here, but we just stopped to snap some photos and take a closer look.
Location: 37749 Abbott Dr, Cantil, CA 93519
Indian Wells Brewery
This brewery is on the 14 just before the 395. The brewery uses water from Indian Wells spring to brew their beer. The location also has hundreds of soda flavors to choose from, and a random array of decorations from aliens to skeletons. Stop in to beer taste or to grab some brews for your final destination. My personal fave was the Oktoberfest lager.
Location: 2565 CA-14, Inyokern, CA 93527
This wasn’t on our list, but we stumbled upon it. It’s a small “ghost town” that was once a hotel for passing travelers. Then owners made it kitchy by adding some things like a jailhouse and a saloon. The saloon was my favorite, with an old piano and a bar that looks like it got abandoned mid party. Warning: this is a very unkept ghost town so who knows what garbage and creatures are lying around. I read that you can buy their famous “frog balls” inside the store, which are pickled brussel sprouts. We would’ve loved to try them, but the store was closed, so we just wandered and took photos.
Location: 49901 Hwy 14, Inyokern, CA 93527
Along the 395 between Grant and Olancha there is an array of sculptures on the west side of the highway. You can see them from the road and turn off to explore. I'm not sure who created them, but are a fun sight to see!
Location: 1856 US-395 Olancha, CA 93549
We almost passed this one up, but since it’s so bold and bright we saw it from a distance right off the road so stopped for some quick snaps.
Location: near 145 US-395 Cartago, California
Camping at West Fork Campgrounds
After our little journey on the 395, we took the windy Rock Creek Road to East Fork campground, where our friends had found a first come, first serve spot. It was gorgeous driving into greenery of the forest with sun glow radiating on the tops of the snowy mountains. We got to the campsite in time to set up before sundown. It was a great spot, shaded in tall trees and near a rushing river. We ate dinner, drank whiskey by the fire, and star-gazed.
The next morning we took our time rising from our tents, drank coffee and filled our bellies. The ladies took off on a morning hike to Rock Creek Lake while the guys stayed back to do some work. It was hot, hot, hot but along the river there were still patches of snow and muddiness. The river was rushing wildly from snow melt. It was about 3 miles to get from East Fork to Rock Creek Lake. At the end we got the stunning view below as a reward.
Location: Rock Creek Lake, CA
We drove to town (Mammoth) after our hike to grab groceries for dinner. Back at camp, we grilled up some fajitas and roasted corn on the fire pit. I took a night stroll to lie on the bridge over the rushing river and view the stars. There were so many pulsing in the dark sky, alive and vibrating, full of energy.
The next morning we decided to go for a hike. We started up the steep mountain trail in the blasting heat, no shade. This didn’t work out so well, about three quarters of a mile in we turned around for fear of heat exhaustion.
Change of plans. We jumped back in the cars and went to Convict Lake. When we arrived I was stunned by the beauty of it. Gorgeous turquoise lake with giant snow-capped mountains beyond. My friend Jenna and I decided to paddle board, while our other friends went for a hike along the lake. It was perfect day out on the lake, hot with a gentle breeze. If you dipped your feet in the water was freezing cold, so we tried to maintain our balance to avoid the shock of the snow melt, as refreshing as it appearing in the heat.
Location: Convict Lake, CA
Alabama Hills is right off highway 395 near the city of Lone Pine. We debated stopping to check it out since it was a scorching 103 degrees outside, but since it’s only 3 miles from the highway, we decided to at least check it out even if it only meant taking a few photos and moving on. We mapped ourselves to Mobius Arch trailhead in hopes we’d be able to hike to it’s vista. We stopped to get large bottles of water in case we decided to make the short trek, only a little over half a mile.
The drive was magnificent. I had only made this drive at night before, so never realized that at the base of the Sierras is a rocky landscape that looks a lot like Joshua Tree. Large sand colored boulders and desert heat beneath the largest snow-capped mountains of California. Truly a sight to see. It was easy to find the trailhead, and the trail was pretty well marked. The heat was pretty intense but there was a slight breeze so we went for it. When we arrived you could view Mount Whitney through the Arch. It was well worth the detour! If you could time it right it’d be a spectacular place to photograph at sunset.