Saturday, 24 April 2010

Mommoth Lakes Update

I've spend just over a week in Mammoth Lakes now, and thought it was about time to update you all on what I've been up to. Spotting a bear in my first hour here is always going to be difficult to top, but I've seen some nice sites, ran on some amazing trails and incurred a couple of 'sports' injuries since then.

Being Irish, I'm obsessed with the weather (one of the many traits that I inherited from my mother), so I feel that any update should start with a weather report. Where to begin though? Well today it's very sunny. The sky is completely cloudless, and it is close to 15 degrees.

Yesterday was a whole different story though! Two days of heavy snowfall turned to sleet, and it really wasn't pleasant at all. It was quite cold on Tuesday night, and temperatures went below -6 degrees. Luckily, the nature of the terrain and the climate here means that if you get in a car and drive towards the valley, you usually can find some fine, snow-free weather to train in within 40 minutes or so. There are strong winds, rain, and more snow forecast for Tuesday. And there I was thinking that winter (whichever way you define it) was over for 2010.

On Monday, before the snow started, we took the opportunity of the clear skies to take a gondola to the top of Mammoth Mountain so that we could view the surrounding area. The mountain is a dormant volcano (a swear word in Europe these days I believe!), and apparently there are daily earthquakes in the area - though these can't be felt. The mountain itself is California's 'premier ski resort' and receives up to 15 meters of snow per year. Such is the climate and the altitude that July 4 skiing is possible on the mountain, despite California's reputation for beaches and sunshine. The mountain receives an unusually large amount of snowfall compared to other Eastern Sierra peaks due to its location in a low gap in the Sierra crest.

The summit of the mountain is 3,370.8 meters, and the views from the top are amazing.

We stopped off for some food half way down, and the temptation to give skiing a shot was great. But common sense did prevail. Maybe before the year is out I'll give Nordic skiing a try, but clumsy reputation (and my distain for adrenalin inducing activities like roller coasters) suggest that downhill is not for me. It does look cool though!
Another of the local sites that we visited was Mono Lake (after an attempted trip to Lake Mary was aborted due to snow walking fatigue). Formed by tectonic activity, Mono lake is almost 3 times as salty as the ocean and too alkaline for fish to survive in it. Despite this, with over 1,000 plant species, and roughly 400 recorded vertebrate species within its watershed, Mono Lake and its surrounding basin encompass one of California's richest natural areas. The pictures below show some of Mono's salt deposits.

Right, that's enough of the geology lesson for now.

Apart from the snow, this place is amazing for running. Within a 40km radius of the town there are an endless variety of trails to run on. In over a week, I haven't done the same route twice. It's not surprising the America's best marathon runners choose to train here. From desertscapes to forest trails, it's difficult to find an excuse not to run.

Even 2 training related injuries haven't stopped me! A slight exaggeration I know, but they demonstrate just how clumsy I am. The first, a grazed shin, was incurred on my first run here. We were running on a rocky trail, when I, just for one second, took my mind off the task, hit a stone and came crashing to the ground. The fall itself wasn't witnessed by anyone but myself, but the subsequent belly-slide across the gravel was. Despite the scabbing, which is affecting my tanning, all that was really hurt was my pride.
The second was even more stupid, and a lot more painful. On Wednesday, while doing a weights session, my mind was full of lb/kg conversions, when I let a 15.8kg plate slip while taking from the rack and pin my finger between it and another plate. It was a real 'jump around and scream in pain' moment but the resultant blackened fingernail is slowly healing, and with any luck I won't loose it this time.And so, in a few days time, hopefully with all fingers in tact, I'll leave the snow of Mammoth Lakes behind, and go in search of some serious sunshine. Check back in a few days to see whether or not my quest is successful.

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