Friends & Fall Colors – Mammoth Lakes, CA
“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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