Road Trip to Lake Tahoe, Day 1: Mammoth Lake and Mono Basin

RED ROCK CANYON STATE PARK & MAMMOTH LAKE & MONO BASIN, CALIFORNIA

There’s this current Hyatt promotion, you see. This particular promotion made Joseph and I scour the map of the U.S. west coast of the United States to see where the most affordable Hyatt hotel would be, and the closest, as a one-night stay would result in 5,000 hotel points. With the thought of cheap hotel room in mind, this lead us to two clear destinations: in the Palm Springs area where the weather would be way too toasty for my liking, and Las Vegas where the weather is similar to Palms Spring AND has the temptation of gambling (then really, trying to save money on a hotel room made no sense when most likely, the culprit of a spending spree would be the casinos).

Okay, so nothing nearby worked. I had given up, but Joseph, being the points collector that he is, found a Hyatt in South Lake Tahoe that seemed to work juuuust fine. Sure, it’s about a seven hour drive to get there, but I have been egging him for a cross-country road trip for the longest time so for now, a cross-state road trip will do.

So at nine o’clock we set out on a California freeway heading North. First stop on our road trip is a little canyon right on the 14 freeway called ‘Red Rock Canyon State Park’. It was an interesting little canyon with various red hues lining the walls of the rigid canyon.

A few minutes passed by and we were quickly on the road again. Some time soon, it was my turn to drive. I drove up the freeway for two hours. Or so I thought. It was really more like one hour. But my draining energy forced me to take a nap that I so greatly did not want.

Okay, it was more like I welcomed the nap with open arms. And so Joseph and I switched seats once more and as soon as I sat, my head just rested peacefully on the passanger’s seat pillow and I quickly dreamt of Lake Tahoe.

The next thing I knew, we were in the parking lot of Mammoth Lake’s visitor center! What became of this spontaneous road stop was a nice 5-mile hike to start the weekend right. You see, whenever Joseph and I travel, I complain that we mainly sightsee-hop and we don’t do enough activities. During our Zion trip, so many hikes looked fun and adventurous, yet he thought they were too extreme and dangerous (to his defense, the hikes were 5+ miles long and included quite steep and narrow trails). This little detour was his way of making it up to me. Aaaaawwww.

On the trail, we saw two things. The first is the ‘Devil’s Postpile’ – (link to Wiki’s description XD) that is basically rows of symmetrically long and rather hexagonal shaped columns that was created roughly 100k years ago through lava. Seriously, I can’t believe nature made something like this. With the moss that is growing on it, the cliff seems to have a green tint to it that just reminds me of the Wizard of Oz’s Emerald City.

Onwards we trekked to our next destination on the trail – Rainbow Falls. Okay, the pictures on the trail signage does not do this waterfall justice. If you’re planning on hiking to the Rainbow Falls, make sure you’re going on a sunny day.

There was a little shaded area above the falls that people stop, rest, and admire the waterfall with the infinitely-shimmering rainbow. We were among them, and Snickerdoodles and water were our companions. What’s amazing about this particular waterfall was that I could have probably spent hours staring at the rainbow as the mist danced through it. But alas, Lake Tahoe was calling.

We (or rather, I) huffily made the journey back to the car, glad to have done it, glad to have it over with, and happy to now be able to add the, albeit short, trip to Mammoth Lake on my list of Places I’ve Been. It was worthwhile five hour detour.

One final road stop – Mono Basin. Again, Joseph was telling me about this place and I could have read the signage about it, but all of that information sadly slipped my mind. Plus, I’m sure Wiki would explain it better anyway so here’s the link to read up on Mono Basin. One thing I do remember was that this basin was once full of water. We would have basically been walking under water.

Gosh, I really should have Joseph co-write these blog posts for their educational aspect. Fail.

But let me provide you with pictures? Yeah?

By this point, we really had to stop making detours and start making progress on the road. It was already eight o’clock and we still another two hours till our hotel destination in Carson City.

As such, I was super tired from the unexpected hike and was close to sleeping again on the road (no, I wasn’t driving). We finally made it to Carson City, grabbed a quick burger drive-thru stop, and headed to the city’s Holiday Inn Express to check in, shower, and get cozy.

Except there was a slight problem.

We were in the wrong city.

Turns out, we didn’t have reservations at Carson City. We had reservations at South Lake Tahoe, which was another forty minute drive. All I could think was ‘thank goodness my boyfriend is a great driver at night or we would not be going anywhere. I need my sleep, dammit!’ Forty minutes later, we hopped onto the Holiday Inn Express in South Lake Tahoe and called it a good night. Zzz.

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