Smoky, sodden skies have characterized this week in the Mammoth Lakes Trail System (MLTS). But as we wait expectantly for the smoke to clear, we are reminded that with each passing storm comes renewed wildflower blooms and a wholly unique hiking experience. The best place to view new blooms this week is along the Heart Lake, and Coldwater Creek trailheads where Fireweed, Paintbrush, Monk’s Hood, Elephant’s Head, and Sierra Lily are found everywhere in abundance. Also embellished by summer showers, the scent of Pennyroyal Mint, Sierra Sage, and Jeffery Pine again tease the olfactory, and sodden skies spell hope for a substantial winter wonderland.
Patrons of the MLTS are urged to explore the often overlooked Twin Lakes/ Dragon’s Back trailhead tucked away in Twin Lakes Campground. To locate this seldom seen trailhead, park at the day-use parking lot just past Twin Lakes General Store, walk over the foot bridge into the lower campgrounds, and ascend a set of moderate switchbacks to “Bottomless Pit”. Better known as an expert ski run in winter months, this cavernous hole in the wall is a haunt of swallows, owls and hawks, and is a great lens through which to view the Mammoth Lakes Basin. Ascending farther along this volcanic ridgeline, one comes to “seven lakes viewpoint” where (wind pattern providing), Lakes Mary, Mamie, George, Upper and Lower Twin Lakes, Horseshoe, and Crowley lay sprawled within sight.
Continuing among the boughs of gnarled Whitebark Pine along wind-swept Dragon’s Back, this trail makes for an excellent loop to the Horseshoe Lake parking area. Hugging the ridgeline of Mammoth Mountain for about half a mile beyond “seven lakes viewpoint” the trail descends gradually through pumice-strewn slopes depositing you on Mammoth Pass trail, where one can easily descend to Horseshoe Lake and either take the trolley or walk Lake Mary footpath back to Twin Lakes Campground.
This week, Friends of the Inyo (FOI) stewards and volunteers removed five felled logs on the Dragon’s Back/ Twin Lakes trail, making this one of the best day-hikes in the Mammoth Lakes Basin. Those interested in learning more about our local blooms are invited to attend FOI guided wildflower walks throughout the month of August, and for more information about this and other free interpretive programs in the MLTS please visit friendsoftheinyo.org or swing by the Mammoth Lakes Visitor Center for a complete calendar of events. Don’t forget to volunteer Saturday, August 9th at Red’s Meadow, where MLTPA, USFS, FOI, and the Town of Mammoth Lakes will be hosting its fourth SOS event of the season. Meeting 7:45 am at the Main Lodge Adventure Center, breakfast, lunch, raffle, and free two-way bus ticket is provided.