Happiness is holidays | SierraSun.com

Happiness is holidays

Photo by Sylas Wright/Sierra SunCrystal Crag and other peaks lining the crest of the Sierra tower Lake George, just south of Mammoth Mountain ski resort.

A recent trip to Mammoth to visit friends confirmed something I already knew: The place is awesome ” saturated with visual stimulus, rife with outdoor adventure opportunity and located in the middle of nowhere.

Having never been during non-winter months to the isolated volcanic region scenically nestled in the crest of the central Sierra, it seemed a different world than when buried with snow.

In many ways, the town of Mammoth, and its surrounding area, is similar to the Truckee-Lake Tahoe area. The charm of the sculpted land is awe-inspiring, and gapers abound for that reason. In fact, I gaped the entire time. I couldn’t help it. The soaring peaks made me do it, as always.

As a kid growing up on the western slope of the central Sierra Nevada, near Shaver Lake, I scampered to the tops of rocks and trees whenever presented with the opportunity. Everyone in my neighborhood clan did.

Thinking back about piling into the top of a 100-foot cedar tree and rocking the tip back and forth makes me cringe now. Maybe it’s because I’m finally old and wise enough to realize the dangers and repercussions of such a stunt. Whatever the reason, I’m not as hip on heights these days.

Looking down to the ground when high above it, knowing that a slip will lead to instant paralysis, or worse, is unsettling. That’s probably the main reason why I never got into the sport of rock climbing ” that and the cost of buying expensive new equipment.

But on Monday we drove about 20 minutes from Mammoth to a secluded rock-climbing haven called Clark Canyon, where I climbed

up my first-ever bolted route.

Strapped with my friend’s trustworthy-looking gear and backed by his enthusiasm and encouragement ” more like badgering, actually ” I disregarded the status of my ruined right shoulder and negotiated my way to the top of the 80-or-so-foot volcanic rock.

About 20 feet off the ground, approximately the height where instinct normally would send me down, I realized what I had gotten myself into.

There was no going down. My friends would never allow that. Neither would my pride. So I kept going, clinging to any nook or cranny that offered even the slightest grip, and following a crack that led to the top.

Undoubtedly, my history of climbing around like a monkey as a kid helped, as did the tip from my friend to focus on finding good footholds before reaching with arms.

Although I wouldn’t have fallen far if I had slipped, there was no convincing my psyche of that. I’d be lying through my teeth if I said I was not scared.

The most frightening part, by far, was the descent ” leaning back and trusting man and man-made equipment.

But I survived, with a number of scrapes on the legs to prove I didn’t wimp out. It was fun.

Two days prior to our rock-climbing outing, we entered in the Million Dollar Troutstock, put on by the Mammoth Lakes Visitors Bureau and the Hot Creek Fishery Foundation.

To summarize our fishing experience, we caught zero of the 100 fish that were tagged and equally distributed between Lake Mary, Lake George, Lake Mamie and Upper and Lower Twin lakes. By the end of the second day, rumor was that only five tagged fish had been caught ” not surprising when every fishing hole is filled with weekend warriors.

So we didn’t win $1 million or any of the additional $20,000 in prizes. But I’m still waiting for a call informing me that my name was drawn in the raffle for a boat, motor and trailer worth more than $10,000.

Although we got skunked, it feels good knowing that $10 of the $20 entry fee is a contribution to the Hot Creek Fishery Foundation, helping to keep Hot Creek Hatchery afloat.

Next time, the tagged fish better look out.

Labor Day weekend for me brought a much-needed break in the daily monotony I loosely call a life. It always does ” even back when I had a life. But this year’s was exceptionally enjoyable.

Besides visiting friends who I rarely see any more, I went rock climbing for the first time and fishing for the, I think, millionth time.

It was a good weekend. The kind that leaves a horrible feeling when it ends and sends you back to the real world.

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