BY SAM BAUMAN
One more skiing and riding weekend; knees know when to quit
Skiers and snowboarders have one more week to enjoy spring conditions on Mammoth Mountain. Cool temperatures and the foot of fresh snow that fell on the Eastern Sierra resort over the Memorial Holiday weekend allowed the resort to make the call to stay open until June 1.
After an unusually dry spring season, the decision was made to close skiing and riding May 26, but Mother Nature had another idea. A winter-like storm blanketed much of California over the Memorial Day weekend, bringing over a foot of fresh snow over three days.
Mammoth is currently reporting a base depth of 2 to 5 feet of snow and legendary spring conditions. Broadway Express, Facelift and Chair 23 will open 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Check www.MammothMountain.com.
A FAREWELL HIKE ON THE OLD KNEE
One last hike before getting a new knee seemed reasonable. It would be the final one for a couple of months while the knee slowly comes back together. Since the knee was already protesting any downhill hiking, I figured old standby Deadman's Creek off East Lake Boulevard would be just right to confirm my decision to go ahead with the surgery with Dr. Michael Edmunds at the surgery complex at the medical center.
Memorial Day (or Decoration Day as it was once known) seemed like a good time so at about 10 a.m. I headed north on 395, exited for the boulevard about 2 miles from College Parkway. Three other cars were already there at the parking area marked by the large, barkless old tree,
A sign outlines the options " Deadman's Creek and To the Ranger Station. The Creek trail is about a mile round trip, moderate in demand. You cross a bridge over a dry creek bed, then begin going up along the well-maintained trail. Signposts along the way describe native plants such as bitterbrush, sagebrush, Mormon tea, desert peach, Indian ricegrass, rubber rabbitbrush, monkeyflower and watercress. Take time to look at the stinging nettles post and learn to recognize the plant; contact with it results in painful rashes. These posts are metal ad are topped with small plates listing the subject at hand. Vandals will have a hard time defacing them as they are solid steel.
Right now the mule ears are just emerging, but small and large yellow flower, purple lupine are everywhere.
The trail parallels the creek part of the way and water was trickling along the bed. The current trail replaces the old original trail of 1980. It was built to end hiking through the catails and canes where wild game like to bed. The old trail is not maintained and the bridges are falling apart. Rangers advise against the old but shorter trail.
The longer one goes steadily upward and the higher you go the more wildflowers are seen " blooming in yellows, purples, whites. Phlox is normally thick up by the gazebo at 280 feet above the trailhead, but none was evident Monday. From the gazebo (built by a Boy Scout a couple of years ago to replace the one burned in the Sutro fire of 1998) the view of Lake Washoe is as good as you'll find. Sand dunes rise along the eastern side of the lake, built by the granite particles that blow across the lake from Slide Mountain.
At the gazebo a dirt road leads upward to the saddle, opening to a collection of dirt roads often used for horseback riding. The knee said no way this time.
The gazebo is a fine place to stop and have a lunch with the silence broken only by the wind and the echoes from the road below. It's also a good place to do some meditation if you're interested in such. The trail is often used, but never crowded.
The trail back is gentle but painful for bad knees, but it was a confirmation that the surgery was the right move.
Opposite Deadman's Creek is Washoe Lake State Park, a beautifully maintained campground overnight and day picnicking area. Most campsites have sun shelters, fire rings and grills and facilities are nearby. Fees are modest and consideration has been made for those bringing horses " hitching posts, water troughs, even a small corral. Fees apply, of course.
I hope to be able to make a regular report on how the knee operation goes and the slow recovery (three months to total mobility). Perhaps I can ease some of the fears of those facing a similar operation.