These seven souls braved the elements to take the first shuttle of the season down to Reds Meadow.
Pouring rain didn’t deter seven people from hopping on the first bus of the season to Reds Meadow on Wednesday. Already five days behind the expected opening date, the shuttle to Reds Meadow delivered, arriving 15 minutes late but arriving nonetheless.Busdriver, Bob explained that if Mammoth Mountain’s Clifford Mann had not stepped in to voluntarily clear the remaining snow from the road to Reds Meadow, it might have been another 10-14 days before visitors would have been able to get to areas such as Devils Postpile and Rainbow Falls; a real problem for an area that depends on tourism. Besides, imagine the embarrassment if the road wasn’t open by the centennial anniversary of Devil’s Postpile on July 6.
As it was, there were still many fallen trees lying across trails, especially the trail from the Postpile to Rainbow Falls. Bob explained that with Forest Service cutbacks, those trees could very well remain where they are all summer.
It didn’t matter to the band of visitors on the bus that morning, however. Having come from Sacramento, Half Moon Bay, and as far as Mississippi, the group was determined to check out the historic Devils Postpile, even if that meant waiting and hiking in the rain.
The gentleman from Mississippi had been told that the first shuttle left at 7 a.m.
“I got up at 5:30 a.m.,” he said. Unfortunately, the first day’s scheduled bus was not supposed to leave until 8.
When this reporter arrived at the Adventure Center, the take-off point for the shuttle out of Mammoth Mountain’s Main Lodge, the group was huddled under a roof overhang next to the ticket booth for Reds Meadow, which was locked up tight, as was the Adventure Center itself. It was 7:45 a.m.
“We had an extra day [on vacation] and I really wanted to see the monument,” said one of the men from Sacramento. “Now I’m beginning to regret it.”
We all sat and wondered if the weather had postponed the road’s opening once again. Finally, right at 8 a.m., employees arrived and opened everything up. We walked into the Adventure Center and greedily soaked up the warm air inside.
The shuttle arrived and everyone climbed on. Even Bob was excited. An employee of the Mountain for five years, this was the first time he had ever been the first bus out to Reds Meadow at the beginning of a season. The 8 a.m. bus had been canceled, so his bus, which was scheduled for 8:15 a.m. would be the first down the windy, one-lane stretch.
As we waited to pull out of the parking lot, I looked around and realized how cool it was to see snowboarders heading to the gondola on my right hand side, and mountain bikers peaking at the top of Uptown on my left. Straight ahead was the road to Reds Meadow, where hiking was plentiful. Only in Mammoth do you have opportunities like these everywhere you turn.
As the bus meandered down the road, fog blocked our views of the mountains and the valley that one normally sees on this journey, and snow banks still lined the path. Bob explained that the record snowfall was evident.“You wouldn’t have seen this on the first day out last summer,” he said.
We reached the trailhead for Devils Postpile and the group disembarked. Some were surprised that I wasn’t going to make the trek out with them, but having lived here for almost 8 years, I have seen the Postpile several times and didn’t need to get doused with rain, so I took the group’s picture and climbed back on board.
Bob and I continued the route into Reds Meadow and picked up an employee of Bob Tanner’s Red’s Meadow Pack Station. Busdriver Bob pointed out interesting features along the climb back out of the valley and told stories of his drives through the years.
Overall, for such a gloomy day, it was an uplifting experience.
Reds Meadow Road is now open. Shuttles depart from the base of the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area Main Lodge “Adventure Center” every 15-20 minutes during peak times (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.) and 45 minutes during off-peak times (7:30 – 9:45 a.m.; 4:45 – 7 p.m.). The first shuttle departs daily at 7:30 a.m. Shuttles depart from The Village at Mammoth Lakes daily at 7:15, 8, 8:45, 9:15 a.m., and then every 30 minutes or less from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For information on the road opening and shuttle fees, or if planning a trip to the Reds Meadow Valley, please contact the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center at 760.924.5500 ext. 0, or visit www.fs.usda.gov/r5/inyo or www.twitter.com/mammothinfo.