TravelWest Coast USA

Day 9 – Death Valley to Mammoth Lakes

So if yesterday was our longest day in the car….today is our second longest.  If you decide to travel through Death Valley it’s inevitable but personally, I think Death Valley is one of those places you have to visit once (and having now been I feel no urge to go back).


Before diving into today’s activities just a quick tip.  You should try and buy gas outside the park as within the park it is really expensive.   At the end of the day, it doesn’t add more than a few dollars to the cost of your trip, and you certainly don’t want to risk running out, but still nice to know.  In Death Valley, there are three places to fill up, Furnace Creek, Panamint Springs and Stovepipe Wells.  Stovepipe is the cheapest of the three and Panamint has (apparently) the most expensive fuel in the US!  The biggest worry driving through the valley is probably the heat and fear of breakdown.  We saw a few people with punctures (doubtless from the tempting, but risky, off-road excursions that are possible) and with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees F you would not want to be stranded on the side of the road for too long.

The drive to our next stop, Mammoth Lakes is around three hours and as we head out of Death Valley and it’s quite surprising that the road is very twisty and climbs a lot as you head over Towne Pass.  Indeed such is the climb that the roadside advice is to switch off your aircon for 20 miles (the engine can get quite stressed and overheat).  We decided to be rebellious and leave our aircon on (although I’ll admit to keeping a close eye on the temperature gauge).  I think it’s a fun drive over the pass but I like driving.  What may amuse you is a group of people standing in the middle of one of the long stretches of road taking selfies of, err….a long straight stretch of road…I guess the image is classically American but I can think of more interesting things to photograph.

Once past Panamint Springs it’s a relatively short drive to Lone Pine and then onto the twin laned highway 395 which leads all the way to Mammoth Springs.

Twin Lakes … viewed from a canoe!

Sadly we’ve only got an afternoon and a morning in Mammoth and we weren’t worried by recent reports of a swarm of earthquakes.  We have hardly skied in North America (one trip to Canada a number of years ago) but the ski towns are different to those in Europe in that they are almost exclusively purpose-built for convenience.  That doesn’t make then unattractive, far from it, just different.  On our way into Mammoth, we stop off at Crowley Lake, which is not a lake at all but rather a reservoir.  It’s not particularly scenic but interesting for the fact that it actually provides water to Los Angeles some 300 miles to the south.

Anyway, after checking into our hotel, we head up to the twin lakes area just south of the town where there are lots of activities.  Not sure why it’s called twin lakes as there are actually five or six lakes but it’s the twin lakes which are accessible by car.  We rent a canoe and spend some time splashing around on the water and especially trying not to capsize.  Given that we’ve now passed labor day everywhere seems to have calmed down markedly which is good because it means places are less crowded but less good as it means that things are starting to close (labor day marks the end of the summer season).

A ‘light’ sandwich

We have a quick lunch at the Old New York Delli company which serves a broad range of (as expected) supersized sandwiches and bagels (actually pretty good but not cheap) before a short wander around the town.  Seriously though the sandwich is so big that we don’t actually need an evening meal!

We’re staying at the Village Lodge which is a huge upgrade on the places we’ve stayed at over the last few days and comes highly recommended by us.  As we’ve not had access to a gym for the last week, we’re spending our early evening enjoying (?) a workout to burn off a few of those additional pounds we’ve gained over the first week.  However, we’re undoing all the good work by spending the evening enjoying some beer sampling at Mammoth Brewing Company, which demonstrates how far beer has come in America in terms of variety if not necessarily volume – which, until a few years ago was dominated by the blandness of Coors and Budweiser.

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