After a quick stop at the dump station outside Convict Lake we headed in to the Mammoth Lakes basin proper. We stopped by Twin Lakes store because momma really wanted a can of pop. It was fun to see where we’d be back to in a few more days, but we were on our way to the Coldwater Creek Campground.
On the way we drove along Lake Mary. And momma just couldn’t resist paddling another lake. So we stopped, pulled out the SUP and off we went around Lake Mary. In the back corner of the lake the wind suddenly picked up and started blowing us hard into shore. The only downside to our inflatable SUP is that it is SO lightweight we get pushed around really hard in big winds. Momma over-corrected to keep us out of the brush which I wasn’t ready for and went sailing off the board into the water. She was able to recover me quickly, and we made our way all the way around the lake before meeting back up with dad who was enjoying some beer while watching us go.
We got probably the best campsite in the entire campground because it backed up to the trail right into the Mammoth Consolidated Mine, which as far as we know is an old mining operation. I wish I could be more specific, but the thing is momma never really reads the signs because she’s trying to make sure we aren’t being naughty, so she keeps her eyes on us and not the signs. So we don’t really know what it is, but we DO know is that there were a lot of really cool old buildings there in a variety of conditions. We hiked up into the mine both nights we stayed there because if you kept going up the mountain you got some AMAZING views down into the Mammoth Lakes basin. And there was also nobody else there at night.
The first morning at Coldwater Campground we decided to hike up to Heart Lake with the inflatable SUP. Did I mention our site was the closest to ALL the trailheads here? Well, it was! Dad agreed to carry the SUP up the hill while momma would carry it back down. This meant we had a nice pace in both directions! Heart lake was a beautiful (small) lake that we got all to ourselves. We passed several people and horses on our way back down to camp for coffee and breakfast. The smoke from the fire was really starting to come into the campground after breakfast so momma decided we would go find two more lakes to SUP at that would be higher than the smoke “line” which was at about 8000 feet. She had talked to a couple of guys who had gotten at least some information so we could make a good decision.
We went up first to Arrowhead Lake, which we definitely did NOT have to ourselves because there is a rock there that all the kids like to jump off of right into the water. It was quite fun to watch while we paddled around, and they treated us like rock stars because it was funny for them to see two dogs on the SUP. I did a tour with both momma and dad before we packed up and continued on to Skelton Lake.
Now this lake was just incredibly beautiful and we had it nearly to ourselves (only one other lady there setting up camp for the night). The lakeshore was just full of killer mosquitoes but once we were on the water we were bug-free. It was inconceivable that just less than a mile from the other “busy” (which by the way is not busy by any Tahoe standard) lake there was a huge lake, with a beautiful beach shoreline with not another soul in site! We had lunch here and took our time touring the lake several times before we headed back down into camp. There were great rushing streams to take breaks in along the way as well as snow-melt ponds so we stayed nice and cool!
The next morning we packed up before coffee and breakfast to go up to Emerald Lake, which was not very far at all. It was also not much of a lake – teeny tiny! But it was stunningly beautiful and amazing to watch change as the sun rose higher and higher. When we first arrived the trout were rising, but our SUP tends to scare them away, so it was good timing that after we’d done about 30 tours each of the lake (yes, it’s that small!) we were packing up before the first fishermen arrived! After we ate we packed up the van to hit the road – we were heading to Twin Lakes ultimately, but momma had a few lakes we had to hit on the way there.
First up was Lake George. We were lucky to get a parking spot here not far from the water, and momma was lucky that the guy did not collect a launch fee for putting in. Lake George was really pretty and it was full of fishermen (and fisherwomen) hauling in amazing trout. We went around the lake once in each direction before taking out and heading to the next lake. (P.S. momma likes to go around the lake in each direction to make sure she gets ALL the good angles for pictures.)
Next was Lake Mamie. Dad wanted to paddle here so Lolo and I took a rest in the van while he went out on a tour. Believe it or not we DO get really tired while SUPing! Especially Lolo when momma takes breaks and all he does is fetch sticks endlessly. After dad came back in Momma loaded us up and we went around the lake. It had very similar views to Lake George, but that’s because they are not very far away from each other.
Back into the van – are we done yet? Nope. Horseshoe lake. This lake looked funny, like our old lake in North Carolina when they were draining it. It had a LOT of shoreline that looked like it should be under water. We did not know why, as we still did not have internet! But it didn’t seem to matter to all the people that were out and about swimming and playing in the lake. We started paddling and momma took us to a big beach to have a rest (or swim if you are Lolo). This is when the wind started PUMPING. It was blowing so hard there were whitecaps. We tried to wait it out but momma was hungry (and we were all tired) so she said we have to do this.
She had to paddle her ASS off to get us to the other shore. There were times she was paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle and we didn’t make any forward progress. When there were tiny breaks in the wind she would paddle even harder, so eventually we made it to the shore that was all nice and tucked in and a lot less windy. It was here we found a little mini waterfall before we paddled back to where dad was waiting for us.
Finally we were headed into camp for the night. We had a very private spot at Upper Twin Lakes which was the final lake momma had on our list for the day. But it was now incredibly windy and she was incredibly tired (as were we). So we went on a nice long walk with dad while she ate some food and took a shower. Surely it will be better in the morning she said.
That night the wind was howling. It will be better in the morning, she said. Well guess what. It was a little better, but not really. The thing is, momma is an idiot and says “I want to SUP all the lakes in the Mammoth Basin so we have to do this”. So off we go! At first, we are in the wind-free zone in the upper twin lakes by the giant waterfall that cascades down from Lake Mamie. Then we had to go under a bridge to get to the ‘real’ Twin Lakes. As we get closer to the bridge momma begins to wonder if there is enough clearance for us to make it under. And by make it under I mean we are ALL LAYING FLAT ON THE BOARD!
News flash: we made it. But jebis momma! Great decision making! I know she was already thinking, how are we gonna get back under going upwind? But that’s her problem, not mine. We tooled around a bit on the upper Twin Lakes lake before ducking under another bridge to the lower one. There were a lot more people fishing on the lower lake, and I’m sure they thought we were ding dongs for being out on an inflatable SUP in that wind at that hour. But hey, we needed pictures!
We didn’t go all the way to the end of the lower Twin Lakes lake because the wind was really getting strong and we had to go against it now all the way up to our launch point. Which again made momma feel a bit like Sisyphus, but we did eventually make it. She had to take a break at one point because she was getting tingly hands from lack of blood flow or something – I guess it was all going into her heart to pump oxygen for her!!
We met dad at the launch and he took a quick tour himself while we went back and ate breakfast and got ready for our next adventure, which was up to Twenty Lakes Basin – a favorite all-time hike for our dad.