Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mammoth Birthday

It was a pretty big birthday (if not exactly mammoth), and I wanted to go away somewhere nice, so we decided to spend the weekend at Tamarack Lake Lodge in Mammoth. The three of us haven't gone on a trip together since the Adoption of the Cats two years ago (December 10, 2008, to be exact), and we've missed our family vacations. We brought along our friend Cathy, expecting to relax by the fireplace, have a nice meal, maybe putter around on cross country skis. Unfortunately when the time came to leave, I had two 500-page work manuscripts, Paul had 300 papers to grade, and Peter wasn't feeling well.  Never mind: it was my birthday, and we went!

 Me and Peter, dinner at Tamarack Lake Lodge

Cathy, me, Paul and Peter

Working in the cabin

  Paul outside the cabin

I'd managed to frantically finish writing up the first manuscript the night before, getting to bed around 4 AM. Up at 11:30, and then spent a couple of hours trying to herd Peter and Paul toward the inevitable moment of cat separation. We picked up Cathy and departed at 2. Beautiful drive through the Mojave Desert, clouds, a little rain, a beautiful rainbow that lasted an hour. Refueled at Mojave but didn't stop for anything else. It was dark by the time we reached Lone Pine (sunset is at 4:30 up here), and we stopped at a coffeehouse in Bishop, the Looney Bean, for a quick fueling of cappuccino. The road continued dry, and we reached Mammoth in record time - 4 hours 45 minutes. It started to snow just as we approached town, and was whitening the road, the temperature falling below freezing, as we pulled in at Tamarack Lake Lodge/ We were thrilled to have arrived just before the big snowfall, when chains would be needed!

Chilly by the lake

 Me and son Paul.

Warming up with French onion soup

Cabin at night

 The lodge looked beautiful and we sat by the fireplace for awhile.  Hardly anyone is at the lodge (it's true it's before Christmas season, but I think the real problem is that Mammoth is a ghost town due to the recession).  Then we went into the restaurant for my birthday dinner. The French chef (from Alsace-Lorraine) made us an exquisite meal. Paul and I had a delicious garlicky shellfish broth, Peter had escargot, Cathy a spinach salad. Then I had a most succulent cote d'boeuf steak, so savory, with roasted garlic in a bit of bearnaise sauce, with lovely side vegs (creamed yam, a little beet, bok choy, polenta, etc.). Peter had pork and scallops, Cathy had lamb, Paul had a special fish dish, baramundi in papillote, which melted in the mouth. And dessert! It was the first time Peter broke his low carb diet since April, and he did it for his favorite dessert - grand marnier ice cream with Belgian dark chocolate sauce. Paul had that too and I had a delicate chocolate mousse with whipped cream (and a candle in it) and cappuccino.

After digesting by the fire with the internet, we had to break a trail back to our private cabin, since a good foot of fresh snow had fallen since we arrived! It made us out of breath and frozen but was fun.

 Paul and Cathy on the bridge

Convict Lake

 Me at Convict Lake

I spent the whole night - well, till 5 AM - writing up the second book, and then slept till noon. Peter stayed in the cabin and Paul and Cathy and I drove into town (the roads had been plowed) for bagels and omelets at the New York Bagel deli. It was a bright sunshiny day and the roads were dry, so we took a little drive past Mono Lake to Lee Vining. No sign of the scientific research involving the sea creatures and the arsenic. Then back to the lodge where Paul and I had some French onion soup at the restaurant, to round out our deli take-out dinner. Spent the evening in our cozy cabin, internetting and finally starting Deborah Devonshire's memoir, Wait for Me, reading it more or less simultaneously with Mackerel at Midnight, about the first Jewish family to live in the Shetland Islands.

The Birchalls at Manzanar

Our cats wouldn't have lasted a day at Manzanar


The Eastern Sierras

Next morning we took a little walk by the icy lake in bright sunshine, then started toward home.  Breakfast at the bagel place, a little detour to show Cathy Convict Lake (where there was a shoot-out of outlaws in  1871), and a stop at Bishop for cheap gas at the Indian casino.  Just before Lone Pine, we took a detour to see Manzanar, the Japanese World War II internment camp.  A beautiful place, in the shadow of the spectacular but cold Eastern Sierras, near Mt. Whitney.  The landscape's so inhumanly bleak, it makes you shiver to think of people being forced to stay there, cold winter and hot summer alike. 

With only two more quick stops, Lone Pine for cappuccino, and Mojave for a rest and a snack, by evening we were back home with our cats, who welcomed us warmly.


Anonymous said...

I'm sure it was really worth it - by which I mean finding a place for the cats and the gruel/grind of getting your workbooks done too.

Asserting hope in the future with you, happy birthday,

ah, my paper will be online on The Birtday,

Diana said...

Elissa was not able to post, and asked me to put her comment here.

Diana, what a beautiful posting on lb&s. I truly think it might be your best ever!! Peter, by the way, looks great to me, and you make quite a lovely couple in that romantic mountain lodge setting. Your photos of the cold, winter beauty of the lake and Sierras on horizon are a perfect counterpart to those warm, cozy interiors and plate after plate of that luscious food [Joel is ready to board a plane just for a bowl of that
french onion soup!]. And your dessert looks divine - except that I do think my preference would be with Peter and Paul here - any mixture of Grand Marnier and chocolate has my vote.

Many congratulations on your "special" birthday - may all your future ones be celebrated in such warm good company and with rich, whipped-creamy desserts!!