Mammoth Lakes Camping + Vegan Campfire Food!
Last weekend Alex and I had the pleasure of taking our first trip together up Mammoth Lakes. About 5 hours north of us, Alex has been fishing and camping at Lake Mary and the other Mammoth Lakes since he was a little one, but this was my very first time visiting. I grew up in Maine, so my draw to the wilderness is strong, and I love camping. We picked up a new tent, packed up our headlamps, chess board, blankets + pillows headed up the 395. We only stopped twice- both times for bathroom breaks- on the way up, but as soon as we started climbing elevation, I started getting antsy. As soon as we hit the cozy little town of Mammoth at the relative 'base' of the mountain (we were already like 8,000 ft up), we were ready to get out and explore. The picture above is the very first lookout we found to pull off at once we started up the mountain. The view is of Twin Lakes, with a waterfall in the very far distance. I have awful vision, and I was convinced there was no waterfall there. I was wrong. And it was gorgeous! After our little pit stop, we made our way up to the Lake Mary Campground to find our site and get set up for the evening. (NOTE: This post is a little picture heavy. Oh well!)
We were lucky because this early in the season, there was only one other group of campers nearby and the bugs were nearly non-existent. Plus, Maddie got to come with! While dogs do need to be leashed at all times in the campground and in most places on the mountain, she was able to hang with us and come hiking, which made us all happy. Definitely worth bringing your pup!
Our first night was lovely. We explored, set up our simple camp, and started on dinner. For our first night, we enjoyed some grilled vegan hot dogs from Field Roast on buns with mustard, roasted onions, and a side of potato chips. Maddie wasn't much interested in her own food that evening (lots of new sounds and smells), but she was definitely interested in ours!
The ground was hard and we didn't sleep great, but we were so stoked to get up and get hiking that we really didn't care. We each grabbed a banana and packed a sandwich and granola bar for the morning, then headed out. Our first stop was a short, easy hike to McLeod Lake, which may be the most gorgeous place I've ever seen in real life. There was still a bit of snow peppered around the lake in patches, but with the sun out and the elevation making our breathing a little shallower than usual, we were plenty warm. The water was crystal clear and the rocky backdrop was gorgeous, reflecting into the water and making the whole place seem endless. Maddie had way too much fun traipsing through the snow and catching snow balls, and it was the perfect place to start the morning. Plenty of bear tracks, but the only other animals we saw were a cute puppy and his owner at the other side of the lake.
After plenty of photo-ops with a very patient pitbull, we hiked around various trails, taking plenty of time to explore little rock formations and tiny caves we found along the way. We saw some really amazing sights, like the root system below. The tree had fallen and was hollow, so someone laid tall pieces of wood along the outer sides to make it into a little dwelling on the beach. It was pretty rad.
After noshing all the food we brought on the trail, we were ready for a lunch break. We walked back to our campsite, hopped in the car, and drove about 5 minutes back down the mountain to Mammoth's little downtown area. There are a couple great options for vegans in the area, but we stopped at Stellar Brew and were super impressed. Not only did they offer a FIVE non-dairy milks for any of their delicious coffee or tea drinks, they make GF + vegan baked goods to sell at the counter, have a full smoothie and smoothie bowl menu, sell organic produce by the pound, AND make the legit breakfast burrito pictured above. It was packed with ginger marinated tempeh, sautéed veggies and potatoes, and was wrapped in a hearty spinach tortilla. Perfect post-trail fuel! Alex and I split one, but could probably each have eaten our own. We also got a almond flour-based chocolate chip cookie to split for later. Also, the gals behind the counter were super friendly. We'll definitely come back here! If that's not your style, Mammoth also offers a Z Pizza, a vegetarian restaurant called Green V located in the main lodge at the ski mountain, and a place called Garden of Eat'n, which is right off of Old Mammoth Rd.
After lunch we took our time going back up Old Mammoth Rd, the original road built up the mountain after miners settled the area in the late 1800s. We found a marker telling where the old mining encampment had been set up, and a weirdly placed old grave (above) that looked like it had been made of wood and held a picture frame at the bottom. Now it was surrounded and presumably held up by cement with a small fence around it, though people seem to still leave things here regularly. I wonder who she was, and why there were no other graves around though. As we worked our way up the mountain the vista became more and more breathtaking, and we tried to get as many shots as possible. Once we got back to camp we took a power nap, chugged some water (you get dehydrated really easily in high elevations like this!), and headed back out to hike and explore some more.
Our afternoon hike took up to the top of the waterfall that feeds into Twin Lakes, the waterfall that in the very first picture in this post I was convinced couldn't be real. It was AMAZING! The tallest waterfall I've seen in person, for sure. In fact, this trip took me to about 10,000 ft., which is higher than I've EVER been on solid ground!
Next stop was Horseshoe Lake. Alex remembered camping here when he was little, and a guy at the marina had warned us that water level had receded but we couldn't have prepared ourselves for the devastation. For those people who still think Global Warming isn't real, or Californians that can't quite grasp the drought: the ENTIRE area up to the trees in the picture below used to be water. ALL OF IT. Now, all that's left is a much smaller body of water (pond sized) and a lot of sandy ground. The next picture is when we walked right up to the edge to see the water more clearly. It is SO alarming that this is all that's left of it. I'm turing this paragraph into a PSA: CONSERVE WATER, dammit!
After being totally saddened by the state of Horseshoe Lake, we hiked the 2 or so miles back to camp, admiring the gorgeous, stand-alone Crystal Crag, pictured below. There were a lot of people fishing on this lake, but still not many campers, so it was really nice to take advantage of the peace and quiet on the walk home. We were getting pretty tired though, and Maddie had gotten a splinter in her paw and was starting to limp so we took a few more pictures and headed back to camp to get a fire going and make dinner.
Back at camp, we chopped up some onions, peppers & tomatoes from our garden, and some Beyond Meat Beast Burger patties and made a...scramble? Fajita fillings? Stir fry? I don't know what to call it, but it tasted great and a hot meal really hit the spot after a long day of hiking.
After dinner we walked a bit more with Madds, hung out by the fire, and enjoyed the frogs calls from the nearby marsh. It was the best way I can think of to spend a weekend and I can't wait to go back! We don't like to cook every meal over the fire, so here are a few of our favorite recipes to pre-make and take along camping:
Healthy Homemade Granola
Extra Chewy Chocolate Steel Cut Oat Bars
Buffalo Sriracha Hummus
Choc-Oat-Nut Granola Balls
Tangy Curried Chickpea Salad
They're easy to make, easy to carry, and even easier to eat! For more info on camping + hiking at Mammoth, check out VisitMammoth.com. And remember- always do you best to make the smallest impact on the environment you're camping in. Don't litter + don't feed the bears!