Highway 395, Mono Lake and Mammoth Lakes Area

Starting from Reno just after Halloween we traveled down Highway 395 all the way south to Ridgecrest (only to travel up north in a loop to be back in Reno for Christmas and then back south in another loop once the new year started, but that’s a different story).

View of Mono Lake from the 395 S

I still think the 395 is one of the prettiest roads we traveled – but alas, I didn’t have to drive and I like to keep it that way. Just so I can watch the scenery.

Arrived at Mono Lake during sunset, Tioga pass in the background
Pre-snow morning frost

We stayed just off Mono lake for a week or so, dispersed camping with a view of the lake and the Tioga Pass on the other side. It’s dusty, but pretty, and it got fairly cold. So we moved on to be in Mammoth Lakes for Thanksgiving to meet up with friends. Everybody told us we’re crazy for doing that. But we pulled in with some beautiful late-fall weather, scored some free firewood in the National Forest north of Mammoth Lakes and felt damn good about our decision. And then it snowed.

And snowed.

Driving into town during the worst of the snowstorm was one of our less smart ideas

And snowed some more.


And then it snowed some more. 

The kids did not mind the snow

We had about 3-4ft of snow on the ground, boondocking on BLM land with a 2WD car. Oh and then the 90mph winds happened, too. Being hit by a 90mph wind gust while driving does feel like you got hit by a truck. We were lucky it didn’t hit us square in the side though, otherwise we would’ve ended up in the ditch. 

Reading back now that seems like way less fun than it actually was. Because it was a lot of fun! Fresh powder snow out the door with no one around? Building snowmen and using icicles as swords and endless snowball fights? Pulling the kids in one of our inflatable tubes to hike to the hot spring in snow up to our hips? (OK, that last one was actually not a lot of fun).

We tend to stay clear of the winter winter, the deep snow freezing our butts of winter. Honestly, for good reason, because our car ain’t necessarily made for it, and neither are our single pane windows. But what is a winter without drenched and freezing kids demanding hot tea? And for the drenched part we have our wood stove (direct link to Tiny Wood Stove), which by the way did an excellent job of keeping us alive and well.

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