So, apparently Mammoth Lakes was expensive because they hiked their prices for a national moto-cross competition locally. Couldn't we just promise not to look whenever we hear a motorbike and pay the normal rate??
We did though find an organic/veggie shop within walking distance, and spent another small fortune resupplying ourselves with vegetarian ready-meals!! At about lunchtime we headed out of town, still totally unsure about where we were planning to go... although all options seemed to lead North for the moment (no way through the mountains). A bit of a shame to miss out on King's Canyon, but the only way back around would mean a 150 mile detour. Anyway, King's Canyon?? Reminds me of Baldrick in Blackadder...
"The Kings's carrier-pigeon? Nah, that pigeon couldn't carry the king, it hasn't got a basket or anything..."
We stopped shortly after leaving Mammoth Lakes at a place called June Lake (seemed appropriate). A beautiful glacier-fed sweetwater lake, with the colour of topaz. Although the water was cold, we had a swim and enjoyed the peace there for a while.
On our previous trip, we had been particularly impressed with Mono Lake, and since the 395 passed right by it as we continued North, it seemed churlish not to stop there again! The whole area is in the middle of a massive volcanic caldera and earthquake zone; and as well as seeing the strange beauty of Mono Lake again, Sarah wanted to continue her search for evidence of geophysical activity. In fact, every crack we pass in the road now elicits a cry from the back somewhere; "Look Mum! A fault line!" followed by much sarcastic sniggering.
So, we stopped at the Visitor Centre for Mono Lake, and talked to the Rangers...
...an interesting experience in itself--if you want and choose to spend 90% of your life wandering around the hills with only dumb animals for company and the scream of the wind in your ears, how 'normal' do you think that you would be when it comes to social interaction?
"Hello, fellow human! Be careful when you breath; as you inhale you might ingest a poor little bug. Oh, and look... you've got breasts! Oh my, how exciting..."
Yes, I know, I exaggerate horribly, but ask the girls--these guys can be a bit 'special'.
...where we discovered that there is an area on the other side of Mono Lake where you can wild camp. Sounds like a good idea.... not.
We drove around to the other side of the Lake, following the instructions from the Ranger (or at least parsing the monologue delivered to Sarah for relevant data).
"Drive down the 395, until you reach the 120...breasts....turn left, then head about...female....for about 5 miles until you reach a bushy... sorry, forested area... and camp anywhere you like. I like you..."
And backed off the road into a small gravel area. Beautiful place, with a view down the hill over Mono Lake, and the backdrop of the volcanic rubble of ash, rock and obsidian behind us. We decided to go exploring, and very quickly found significant signs of bears! Ripped up fallen trees, paw prints by the dozen. (Incidentally, in the morning I even found the paw-prints of a large cat :) I know, the picture is hardly scientific proof, but I think you can just take my word for it. Breasts.)
See it? There.. right there. See?
We carefully packed up all food and rubbish that night, and hid it in the shower cubicle. I know, I can hear you, what on Earth is the point of that? Apart from potentially keeping food fresh? No, I've no idea either, but it seemed like an appropriate level of caution at the time. Perhaps its the American way seeping into us? Like levelling a city because allegedly there is a guy in a pub in the city with a funny hat who has anti-American views. I digress. Marginally.
We went to sleep after an engaging game of cricket with a baseball bat and pine cones that was designed to tire us out. Unfortunately Sarah didn't play, so she spent half the night waking up, grabbing my arm and shouting,
"What the hell was that?" Not just a quote from the Mayor of the above-referenced city, but genuine fear. "That bang? What was that?"
(What could I say in answer? I thought she was asleep).
In the end I had to go outside in my boxers armed with a flashlight. The theory was if I came back without claw marks across my back, all must be well. (?) Sounds like a recipe for any successful marriage. Sorry, I digress. Again.
We woke early, still tired, and broke camp (well, it was broken when we got there).
Ever since last time we were away and in this area, I wanted to visit the ghost town of Bodie. That's where we were heading today.
The view from the road to Bodie.... ...and that is another story...