Max Goes Leaf Peepin’ at Mammoth

Last year we did our leaf peeping in Japan. The colors of the trees were amazing. No offense to the traditional sites in the Catskills, the Great Smoky Mountains, the Berkshires or Colorado but I daresay the Japan Alps may be the best leaf peeping venue in the world. Unfortunately, Max was required to stay in dog jail while we gallivanted around the Land of the Rising Sun.

This year, our fall foliage sightseeing goals were far less lofty, consisting only of a short trip to the Mammoth Lakes area of the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains in California.


5 hours from everywhere.

On the upside, a certain small, gentle white dog was able to accompany us.

The town of Mammoth Lakes is Cali’s largest ski destination.

Mammoth offers an average winter snow base of 5 – 8 meters with 28 ski lifts, 4,600 rental rooms and a peak elevation of 3,371 meters (11,059 vertical freedom units.)

It is your quintessential California ski village. Not twee like Aspen or Vail but not hardcore either.

The town’s resident population is about 8,400 but Mammoth gets 2.8 million visitors annually, split almost 50/50 between winter and summer. Early autumn is a wonderful time to visit the area because travel is easy, it is uncrowded and discounts are available on lodging, etc.

Even though Mammoth is closer to San Francisco, Sacramento and other Northern California cities, it gets most of its visitors from Los Angeles, a five-hour drive away, because there are few trans-Sierra roads and most mountain passes close in winter.

Tom at Lake Mamie

Fresh air! Lakes! Mountains!  OK, that’s great, now where’s my beer?

Rather than book a hotel or motel room in town, we decided to reserve a cabin in the woods about 5 miles further up the mountain at the 9,000 foot level (2,743 vertical socialist units.)

In late afternoon we arrived at our rustic accommodation which was part of a 100 year-old fishing camp on lovely Lake Mary. Each cabin in the camp was named after some aspect of the mountain environment: Maple, Aspen, Timber, etc.

MC at Skelton

Skelton Cabin not Skeleton Cabin.

Our cabin was named “Skelton” after a nearby lake that is known for its large trout and apparently not in homage to the old time entertainer Red Skelton who was the bees knees back in the 40’s and 50’s.

Unfortunately, the Alpha Japanese Female’s (AJF) reading comprehension was also on vacation. She read the cabin’s name as “Skeleton” and adamantly refused to check-in because she felt that the name was unlucky. When I explained the error, she stuck with her resistance claiming that the area looked like it had many bears which could be dangerous especially to tasty small dog.

MC w dog

The intrepid mountaineers at Twin Lakes.

I told her that your common or garden variety of California black bear was not an aggressive fellow and, in any case, the odds of even seeing a bear nearby were a 1,000 to 1. Just about then a guy came by literally bellowing, “Hey, did you guys see? There’s a mother bear and two cubs coming down the street!”  Cue baleful look. I kid you not. The bears were not aggressive so at least I got that part right.

Tom w Bears

You want scary? ‘Cause I got scary right here.

Anyway, the AJF finally agreed to move into our cabin which was equal parts charm and deferred maintenance. We decided to assemble a modest charcuterie board for dinner on the deck and watch the sun set over Lake Mary. After a couple glasses of a very nice Saint-Émilion, the AJF mellowed and we retreated to the cabin and built a fire.

Tom and Max at Table

He likes a glass of wine.

As you will have guessed, there was no TV, no radio, no internet and not even cell service in the fishing camp.

Our evening was spent with good books, the aforementioned wine and making fun of the pupster who was fearful of the fire. Each time there was a loud sound from the fire, Max would dart off around the cabin seeking a way to escape the fire monster.

See, we had forgotten that Max had never experienced the snap, crackle and (of course) pops of an open wood-burning fireplace; heretofore, his experience was solely with silent gas logs behind glass windows or, shamefully, the video fireplace on the internet during the holidays.

Max at Fireplace

The dog at his leisure, in a sweater, by the fire.

At about 11PM I asked if the AJF wanted to take the pup out for his final constitutional, a query that brought me the most withering stare imaginable. So I leashed the dog, grabbed a flashlight and the final dregs of wine and went for a stroll along the lake in the very, very dark night. No bears.

Max at Marys Lake

The Malt explores Lake Mary’s shoreline.

Early the next morning we enjoyed our coffee on the deck and began a day of sightseeing covering well over 100 miles of back roads and trails in search of fall foliage. Turns out we were about two weeks too early. Only the cottonwoods and a few aspen had changed color. The sugar maples were not yet red and the other deciduous trees were lagging behind, too.

MC and Max Tamarck Color 2

The AJF and Max wandering among the aspens by the creek.

We stopped for a burger at lunchtime. Just as the AJF stuffed the big fat sandwich into her mouth, Max leapt into her lap, causing her to squish the burger bun and propel a sizable dollop of ketchup on to Max’s head.

People nearby asked, “What did you do to your dog? Is he hurt? He’s bleeding. What happened?” He was sitting in the AJF’s lap but everyone accused me of dog molestation. I get no respect.

Ketchup Dog

He was actually nonplussed by getting hit with ketchup.

And take it from me, ketchup stains are hard to remove from a Maltese’s noggin.

After lunch came more sightseeing. We spent a lot of time hopping into and out of the car as we visited scenic spots.

The mountain dust was pervasive and our little Fuzzbutt was soon no longer white.

His fur had acquired a grey patina and his paws were the dirtiest ever plus he smelled like 20 miles of dirt road.

We knew we had to stop at the cabin and give Max a scrub to deal with the dirt and residual ketchup stains before going to dinner. I was tired of being accused of dog crimes.

Dog in sink

Look at that water! Look at that resentful face!

Finally it was beer time. We opted for a visit to the Mammoth Brewing Company’s communal patio where we imbibed brimming pints of Double Nut Brown and scarfed naan tacos filled with Korean kalbi meat. Hey, this is California, don’t judge/don’t mock.

We explored the town of Mammoth Lakes after dinner and did some shopping for souvenirs for the grand-spawn. As the last vestiges of daylight disappeared we headed back to Skelton Cabin and a second quiet evening.


AJF and doggo silhouettes outside our cabin at sunset.

On departure morning we visited the Base Camp Cafe for breakfast. Mammoth is a very dog friendly place and there is an abundance of eating establishments with outdoor seating. Of course Max was in his stroller (although he now prefers the term “poussette”) and received far more than his fair share of pets and tasty tidbits from other patrons.

Then came the long drive home and another, even more thorough, bath for the Malt.

Pre Trip

OK, I’m clean. Let’s go out again!

47 replies

  1. No hot springs? I was up there just once and my dad insisted on a soak in the hot springs. We all had great fun being grossed out by the rotten-egg smell, but that was nothing compared to actually sitting in the springs. That was heaven, though it might not be the best for little Max. Stinky, overheated doggie issues aside, the springs are about the only thing that would get this city kid back into a mountainous, wifi-deficient region of the universe. I admire your intrepid spirit.

    Liked by 2 people

    • We drove by the well known hot springs but the area has been closed to swimming for a number of years due to geological activity – apparently the temps go up to 200 degrees without warning. Years back (80s) the AJF and I spent several days exploring all the little known hot springs from Bishop up to Mono Lake. Most were little “hot pots” that fit only 1-2 persons at a time and fluctuated wildly in temperature. Way, way out in boonieville. Maybe one hippie guy in the nude holding court over his personal hot spring. As a Japanese, the AJF loves her onsen but these were pretty rugged by any measure. Nowadays we go to Japan instead and as for the Doggo…never gonna happen.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. What a wonderful adventure with beautiful vistas. I think in cabin-speak, charm always equals deferred maintenance, though I must admit your accommodations looked quite lovely. Although the aspens seemed to turn early in our high country, the city trees have morphed from withering sickly green to various shades of puke green and brown. Not much in the way of color this year no doubt due to the drought. After yesterday’s near 90 I suspect life at a Mile High will be continue to be very Ground Hog Day-like only to be repeated during most of the year with only bitter cold and blowing winds to change things up. For the record, Max seems to handle baths better than a certain Spoo I know. What I wouldn’t give to be able to bath mine in a sink! 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    • Our favorite leaf peepin’ spot in your beautiful state was up around Maroon Bells. Such a gorgeous place year around! The colors can indeed be fickle depending on so many weather related variables but maybe you’ll get a late burst of foliage. Yep, in-sink bathing is a major plus for the small canines. I cannot imagine wrangling a Spoo after he was romping in the very fine dust of the high mountains. I think I’s just put him in a canoe, go for a paddle and dump him overboard…but not far from shore.

      Liked by 2 people

    • We talked about a jaunt to Tahoe and freeload off the son but for some reason decided that “rustic” was going to be our theme this year. I think the AJF has pretty much experienced all the “rustic” she can handle; next trip will probably require a four star property at the minimum. Max is game for anything as long as we quit dropping food on his head.


  3. Max is very tolerant, that’s all I can say. I just hope that he felt that the snacks and pats made up for his mistreatment at your hands…yes, all right, you were innocent of the assault by ketchup, but those baths!
    Bathing our lot is an all day ticket job….fill the bath, which Danilo built from cement and which resembles a pharaoh’s tomb, put a gauze under the filter at the plug end to avoid blocking the pipes and away we go…smallest first which involves a technique learned from Alice’s attempts to hold the pig baby, then the rest up to the staffies who need two to lift and one to stand in the bath to conduct operations. Then we have eight resentful faces for the rest of the day…..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Woah, woah, woah…EIGHT? When did this happen? Are you now breeding Costa Rican Snorfhounds? Or do the 8 resentful faces include the humans involved in the washing? Either way, there’s no chance I could handle that much wet dog smell at the same time. I assume dog baths at the Finca are scheduled with the same frequency as human baths in the Middle Ages – once a year and a day before the wedding.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Eight.

        The two staffies, Stein and Bunter, then Black Tot who resembles a seal, then Scruffy, who was dumped at the gate and lives up to her name who then presented us with four pups, Auntie and Sophie, Plush and Napoleon. I’d like a geneticist to try to work out the ancestry of that lot…

        The Middle Ages was a time of cleanliness…bathhouses, or stews, were common in towns and some offered mixed bathing, frowned upon by the Church, for some reason beyond my ken, though the stews south of the ‘Thames in London were owned by the Bishop of Winchester and the ladies plying their trade were known as the Bishop of Winchester’s geese…
        The decline in cleanliness came with the resurgence of Catholicism after the Council of Trent, when mortification of the body became the way to show holiness…..though from what I read Henry of Navarre, who can hardly be said to represent religious fervour – Paris is worth a mass – could have won an Olympic medal for stench.

        I prefer to get the whole horrible business done in one go…….especially after they have all been rolling in dead armadillo.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I bow to your knowledge of the Regimen sanitatis but argue that the doggos hygiene schedule be modeled instead after St. Fintan of Clonenagh, if only for convenience. I noticed you’ve been rather quiet of late and now I learn it’s possibly because you’ve been taking in strays, adopting puppies and sheltering otherwise abandoned canines. Well, that’s a noble path and I hope the crew down there got a raise in wages with the extra responsibilities.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Max may be among the most well-traveled doggos. He’s been to nearly every state west of the Mississippi including Hawaii and has taken several air trips (in cargo) a couple of which were over 5 hours duration. In any given summer he travels 2-3,000 miles by car. I keep trying to sign him up for the La Quinta Rewards program but it seems restricted to travelers with no more than two legs each.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a wonderful excursion even if Max did gather enough dirt to build his very own mountain and was nearly mortally wounded by ketchup! And the mention of the video fireplace…I gasped and wondered if it’s too early and too hot yet to pull mine out and enjoy the snap crackle and pop of it! Also, I’m very happy none of you was eaten by a bear! 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    • Let’s just keep that information about video fireplaces between us, eh? You have a reputation to protect. We always have fun traveling with the Malt. He’s really a very good and patient companion and always up for another walk. People love to come up and pet him and he is so gentle he can be trusted even with very small children.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m feeling like this humble Australians going to be unable to keep up with the incredible banter so far. Oh for my dogs to roll in something as exotic as dead armadillo although in theory they could find something more interesting than a dead fish down at the beach.
    Being an ignorant Australian, I had to ask you to explain what scarfed naan taco is.I haven’t seen a naan taco here, although I did manage to find one on Google.
    Max is looking as gorgeous as ever but is clearly high maintenance. Lady is well overdue for a bath but aside from the deluge we’ve had in the last week, it’s starting to warm up.
    I found an insightful article about what your choice of dog breed says about the owner. Might be able to throw out all of my psychology and philosophy books after reading a description of what Border Collie owners are like: 25. Border Collie
    You’re a “mother hen” type of person, where you love to take care of people and make sure they’re happy. You’re gentle and protective, and have a Martha Stewart-like touch when it comes to making people feel welcome and looked after. I feel this describes the real me, without the limitations my health places on me and also why I get so frustrated when I can’t be my self.'s+Bree…/…/Border+Collie
    UNfortunately, and much to my surprise, they haven’t included Maltese Terriers.
    Hope you’re having a great weekend. The sun is finally coming out again. All that rain’s been quite depressing and debilitating. Feel like I’ve been stuck in a coma.
    Best wishes,

    Liked by 1 person

    • We always feel guilty when Max is sent to dog jail although I suspect he has a great time playing with other inmates. The food is probably below his impossibly high expectations.


  6. Obviously a cabin is the way to go. Only a socialist would know how to convert to socialist units. I only hope Max knows not of your insipid conversions. I like how the AJF appears to have popped inside a Bob Ross painting. Even I who hates mountains can appreciate this scenery. If it HAD been “Skeleton”, it would have been right on trend with the season. Such a peaceful view and lovely aspens! And it only helped to have a barley malt with your clean Malt.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My Max would have considered two baths that close together as the epitome of torture. However, he would have licked the ketchup off little Max and managed to save you being accused of dog torture. Also, you like beer? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      • My Max was 100 lbs of Golden Retriever love – if he didn’t want a bath, there was not going to be a bath! I took him to the groomer for “bubbles.” He loved going there, but getting into the tub at home, nah, wasn’t happening! I am also fond of beer – perhaps because the current Tiny Terror drives me to drink 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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