Road trips are one of our favorite ways of traveling through our so-to-say backyard. But in all honesty, this backyard sometimes is way too broad and extends to neighboring states. Nevertheless, it all counts. About a week ago, we got on another adventure. This time, our epic three-day California road trip took us to central, eastern, and northern parts of the state.
Packing, Road Trip and In-betweens in California
I must confess, we struggle a bit with sticking to our plan especially when it comes to leaving on time. So, our plan was to hit the road at 8:00 a.m. But as it’s often the case, something unexpectedly came up. That morning was our baby Dylan who decided to sleep almost until 8:00 a.m. Right after the baby got up, Roshan got a phone call that further slowed us down. And with all of these and the last minute packing, we left the house at 9:00 a.m. Only one hour late. It’s quite a progress for us. Yes, we finally getting better and better at leaving close to our planned time.
We took freeway 395 north from Los Angeles and headed to Central California first. The first stretch of our three-day road trip through California took us about five hours. Sitting in a car for such a long time, you don’t have anything else to do like to talk your ear off. But these conversations go far beyond mere gossip and involve topics about values and life. Moreover, they help time go by so fast that you don’t even notice when you arrive at your destination.
Potential Future Road Trips
And thus five hours later, we reached Mammoth Lakes, the first point of our road trip adventures through California. Needless to say, there were many temptations along the way such as Red Rock Canyon State Park and Ghost Town. On any other day, we’d definitely get off our path and explore all of them. During this California road trip, they didn’t make the cut. Our itinerary was pretty packed, and there was simply no room for extra activities.
Road Trip to Mammoth Lakes, California
During this five-hour trip, I felt guilty for overpacking. Our previous trips taught us how to embrace minimalist travel and pack less. And here, I had almost the whole suitcase filled with just my stuff. But with weather forecast staying in low 50 degrees Fahrenheit, it had seemed only appropriate to pack some warm clothes. However, it was pretty warm all the way until we reached Mammoth Lakes. This place was winter cold. So, now I could throw all those guilty feelings out the window. Moreover, all those “overpacked” warm clothes came in handy.
Mammoth Lakes is a town surrounded by snow-capped mountains and several lakes that gave name to this place. The biggest lake that became the first stop in our three-day road trip through California was Lake Mary. Even a week before summer, this place was very cold and covered in snow. It was nothing short of winter wonderland.
Despite this harsh weather conditions, gorgeous lake with towering mountains attracted enough visitors. But since all adventure seekers chose different parts of the lake, it didn’t feel busy and overcrowded at all. Some people booked small lodges and enjoyed this “winter idyll” from the porches of their temporary houses. Others, like us, came just for one day to get a feel of winter in Central California almost at the beginning of summer.
From Road Trip to Hiking in Central California
We’d never visited this part of California at the end of May before. Therefore, we couldn’t tell if this cold weather was normal for this time of the year. In fact, our brief research before this California road trip had revealed that it was the snowiest May in history of Mammoth Lakes.
We decided to hike a little bit around Lake Mary. Obviously, this task was close to impossible with a sleepy baby. On top of that, some areas were still holding tight to deep snow. About twenty minutes later, it began to snow. Big balls that looked like hail rather than snowflakes were adding fresh layers on top of the old snow. It was surreal (heavy snow in California almost in summer) and beautiful at the same time.
But we had to cut our hike short and resume our road trip through Central California. Dylan was crying and wanted to go back to the car. It was late afternoon, past his regular nap time. And when the baby is not happy, nobody is happy. Roshan took Dylan to the car, while I stayed behind for a few more minutes to take pictures.
Exploring Mammoth Lakes from the Comfort of the Car
Once back in the car, Dylan fell asleep almost instantly. And it put hold to our outdoor exploits until he woke up. However, it didn’t prevent us from continuing our California road trip and exploring Mammoth Lakes from the comfort of the car. Occasionally, when the place looks especially nice, I was getting off and taking more pictures.
Mammoth Mountain, California
Roshan, who’d been to this area before, also wanted to show me famous Mammoth Mountain. And thus, it became the next destination of our California road trip. Mammoth Mountain is a ski paradise where gondolas take you up the mountain. From there you can master your skiing skills by sliding all the way down to the bottom the mountain. It could be such a great and fun experience for us. However, for now, when Dylan is still small, we do simpler activities such as hiking, walking, and occasional boating. But Mammoth Mountain is definitely a place to return sometime in the future.
June Lake, California
Eventually, our road trip adventure led us to June Lake in Mono County, California. While Lake Mary looked winter-perfect, June Lake was ready for summer. Snow was gone and trees turned green. Moreover, a few boats were cruising though the lake reminding of warmer seasons. The weather, however, still remained true to the low numbers prevailing this part of California.
Before reaching June Lake, we stopped at June Lake Junction to add more air to our tires. It looked like our road trip through California especially its elevated areas took a toll on those pure car tires.
Road trip to Mono Lake, California
By this time the day was slowly coming to its end. Sunset was supposed to happen in about an hour or so. But we didn’t come so far to spend golden hour on the road. For this special time of the day, our California road trip included a stop at Mono Lake. This place is one of a kind place in California. It’s famous for signature tufa groves that attract thousands of visitors yearly.
It took us approximately thirty minutes to get to this popular saline soda lake. Initially, we missed a turn to the salt rocks and ended up at Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center. With instructions from other visitors there, we got back on the road and traveled about eight miles back. This time, a road to Mono Lake South Tufa Area simply couldn’t escape our sight.
Mono Lake South Tufa Area, California
We calculated our time perfectly and arrived at the lake in time for sunset. Roshan had been at Mono Lake before as well. And after spending some time enjoying the view, he took Dylan back to our car. In the evening, it was getting even colder than during our road trip in Central California earlier that day. I stayed near Mono Lake a bit longer to explore its farther areas and practicing taking pictures of the sunset.
The last stop during day one of our tree-day road trip through California happened to be in Bridgeport. We chose this place for a few reasons. First, it was on our way to our next destination. Second, it offered the cheapest accommodation in that area.