93-year-old Smith was instrumental in derailing Trans-Sierra Highway
At 93 years old, Genny Smith has been hiking and skiing out of Mammoth Lakes since she first visited with the Bakersfield Ski Club in the 1930s. “There was The Mammoth Tavern, a real estate office, a bakery, a gas station and that’s about all. It was a tiny little town,” reflected Smith as we chatted at her dining room table. After hearing the High Sierra was “great country” from a friend, Smith and her husband began spending their summers exploring the region’s mountains, lakes and trails. She has been called “The Naturalist Queen of the Eastern Sierra.”
“I and others used to come up here all the time to ask Genny for advice about politics and change,” said Greg Newbry as we drove up to Genny Smith’s cabin in the Twin Falls Tract this week. “She’ll never tell you, because she’s a very humble person, but she’s the reason we aren’t driving on an interstate to Fresno right now. There were many others too, but Genny was the ring-leader.”
In 1954, Smith and her husband bought the little cabin on Twin Falls Tract. “We never thought we’d buy a cabin. People buy cabins and then they just go back to the same place over and over again,” said Smith, implying that would just be terribly boring. “But we came to this place, and we saw the White Mountains across the valley, and the view behind us, and we couldn’t stop saying ‘wow.’ When we found out the Forest Service Lease was for sale, we ran back to Bakersfield, scrambled up some money, and bought the cabin.” Smith and her neighbors call the Twin Falls Tract “Symphony Row.” According to Smith, the cabins were originally owned by members of the L.A
Philharmonic Orchestra at the turn of the century.
By 1960, Smith was a locally renowned publisher and author of guidebooks, including “Mammoth From the Inside: The Honest Guide to Mammoth Lakes.” Smith said her first guidebook started out as a pamphlet drawn up by a group of friends about how to bushwhack to Mcleod Lake. “Little by little you learn because you live here and it’s [the natural world] all around you. You start asking questions. I’m good at asking questions, according to my husband.”
The Sierra Club published her first book, and she subsequently became a publisher herself. “Mammoth From the Inside: The Honest Guide to Mammoth Lakes.” is in its 7th edition and 50,000 copies have been sold (Smith initially predicted a couple hundred).