Road Trip to Mammoth Lakes

A 5-hour trip turned to 14 hours. How?

No traffic, no incidents, no problems whatsoever. The question remains.

SIMPLE!!! Happy wife, happy life. Or so they say.

I owed the wife her bday gift, and although it was only 7 months delayed, it was time to get it taken care of 😅

All she wanted was some Hot Springs action. A natural hot springs. The one of her choice, in Mammoth Lakes, Ca.

The plan was to drive to Mammoth Lakes (5 hours) in search for Wild Willy’s Hot Springs. Left our home at around 4am. Curiosity got the best of the wife. Plenty of time to spare, and already packed with bunch of snacks, Elizabeth demanded one more stop. Her reasoning, “well since you are really late, what’s a gew more hours.” She wanted a quick stop the Seven Magic Mountains, in Las Vegas, Nevada. I looked it up ok the GPS, it was a 3 1/2 hr drive. But of course, she already knew that.
With no plans on our agenda but to arrive to Wild Willy’s Hot Springs in Mammoth Lakes, and after trying to talk her out of it with no luck, we made our way to the artificial painted rock mountains in the middle of nowhere. Parking lot is right off the highway, and a 5 minute walk, we were there. The stacked rocks was a project by an artist, Ugo Rondinone.

‘According to Rondinone, the location is  physically and symbolically mid-way between the natural and the artificial: the natural is expressed by the mountain ranges, desert, and Jean Dry Lake backdrop, and the artificial is expressed by the highway and the constant flow of traffic between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.’ DSC_0521.JPG

taking matters into my own hands #TrashFreeEarth

First stop, done. time was now about 7:50am. Let’s get the show on the road. For some reason, wife was still feeling adventurous. And wanted to check off as many things from her list as possible. Yeah, she has a list. An endless list of hikes and places to visit.

On her list, Badwater Basin, in Death Valley National Park. 282 feet below sea level, it is the lowest point to stand in North America. Interesting? I thought so. Could this be our next destination? Perhaps. It was only another 4 hour detour. I sat there, waiting, for the wife to decide where to go next. Sure enough, the detour route it was. Didn’t really surprise me much though.

3 hours later, already in the Death Valley National Park, we came across a small town. Looked cool, creepy and sketchy altogether. Something you’d think you would only see in movies. Driving slowly  between building, we saw 2 older ladies outside as if they were enjoying the hot breeze. Honestly, I thought they were just plain crazy. I hopped off the car, and asked about our destination. They pointed the way, and advised us to not stand in the heat for too long and to carry plenty, plenty of water.  DSC_0551.JPG



As the drive further into the Death Valley continued, about 30 minutes down the road there was a parking lot full of tourists walking up a paved little hill that caught our attention. “What’s going on here?” We all thought.

Ever heard the expression ‘curiosity killed the cat?’


Well, this cat was not about to die from wondering. Pulled to the parking structure, grabbed our water bottles and hats, and off to explore. The heat was brutal, it was easily over 110 degrees, although the hot wind made it feel much hotter.


Extra stop added, Zabriskie Point. Turns out we got some nice views of the surrounding areas of the park. Definitely worth the stop.


(**Zabriskie Point is a part of Amargosa Range located east of Death Valley in Death Valley National Park in California, United States, noted for its erosional landscape. It is composed of sediments from Furnace Creek Lake, which dried up 5 million years ago—long before Death Valley came into existence.)DSC_0573

Phones started freezing up because of the heat. It was that hot.

A bit dilutional from the heat, back in car, AC on, phones cooled, our senses coming back to us, back on the road we went.

The outside temperature gauge kept increasing, 115 degrees, 117, 120. Next time I checked, it was up to 123 degrees. Didn’t really feel like much inside the car.

12:15 reached second intended destination, Badwater Basin. Ready to explore the salty grounds, we jumped off the car with smiling faces. Smiles that would turn upside down in seconds.

‘YIKESSSS!!! Are we in a furnace?’ My brain started overheating. ‘What the f**k? Why is it sooo hot?’ I wondered. Wife does not tolerate heat, “I can’t ” she said. And quickly started turning red and swelling from her face as the hot wind would blast her with full force. DSC_0584.JPG

The cool thing about this place is that you can actually walk over salt crumps, and the fact that you are soooo low, -282 feet below, is just amazing. 

Elizabeth and the girls turned back within 5 minutes. Christopher wanted to keep walking down the salty path, but decided to turn back shortly after. It was just desperately hot.

We tried running back, bad idea. Ran 10 steps, stop. Let’s walk. Sip on some ice cold water every 30 seconds to get refreshed.

Back in the car, with my swollen up wife looking like a tomato, we all felt drained from the heat.

Badwater Basin, check. As hot as it was, definitely worth the stop. We all agreed to visit again in much cooler temps.

Now, last and final destination, hot springs. It was only about 4 hours away. No biggy, right?


With soooo much driving and the heat, i was going crazy. I took the wheel, while wife and kids napped. I watched them sleep peaceful and serene. It was all fun and games until … a sandstorm appeared in our path. This was very cool to watch until we were actually driving directly thru it and visibility was reduced to maybe 15 feet all around. Luckily, there was no traffic due to the area being deserted. DSC_0591.JPG

After countless miles of Death Valley, we finally made it to the highway 395, the road to Mammoth Lakes, and the light to the end of the tunnel. We needed rest. Pumped gas, for the i don’t know, 20th time.

Finally we made it to where the GPS said we needed to be. Looked around, nada. Drove around, still nothing. After soooooo much driving, nothing. WTF !!!!!!

Lost for about 30 min, no cell service, GPS taking us to the wrong place, and no one in sight, we drove down some dirt road looking for the hot springs. We were getting frustrated. Turned back to highway, a quick 10 minute drive, wife got cell signal and managed to get the correct and detailed directions.

Turns out, there are multiple natural hot springs in the area; some were occupied, some available, all firstcome first serve. However, wifey wanted the one she saw online. A heart shaped hot spring.

Drove around more, and some more. Then some more. Finally reaching the desired destination. The bumpy road made the hunt much more treacherous. Nevertheless, we hit the jackpot, that’s all that matters.

The parking structure for the Wild Willy’s Hot Springs was full. We waited patiently for someone to leave. Sure enough, 5 minutes or so, a car pulled out. Perfect. We were unsure if it was ok to set camp right next to the car, looked around and there were already some tents set up. Guess it’s ok we thought.

7:07pm, Set camp, and once we were all situated, finally, some hot springs action.

A 10 minute walk was all it took, and BOOM! the last and final destination and wife’s 7-month delayed birthday gift, checked off. 

The next morning was glorious; after we packed, had breakfast and enjoyed a nice sunrise.  

The next stop should have been home. However, it was now my turn to choose a random last minute stop.

We took a hike to Lone Pine Lake, located along the Mt. Whitney trail in the John Muir Wilderness. 

One of the many goals I have for them is to one day (hopefully within 2 years) climb Mt. Whitney, the highest summit in the contiguous United States and the Sierra Nevada, with an elevation of 14,505 feet. –

I was asked a while ago, how do we train to climb mountains? My answer was simple blunt and straight to the point, “we train to climb mountains by climbing fucken mountains.” That’s it!! No easy way but to get started. –
We took a quick sneak preview of the Mt. Whitney Trail, and made it to Lone Pine Lake, about 6 miles round trip. This we found to be a bit tougher than expected yet very doable. keeping a nice slow steady pace is key. It was a nice lil workout to say the least.

After the hike, finally, home it was.

YouTube slideshow Road Trip to Mammoth Lakes




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