For some people, New Years Eve is about partying and drinking but for us this year it was all about hitting the road and having an outdoor adventure (as it had been awhile). At first we couldn't decide between Joshua Tree and Mammoth Lakes but after seeing the mass of crowds headed for Joshua our decision was made easier.
We made our way out of sprawling L.A. with no plans other then to stop as we please along the way but with hopes to get a decent snow storm before we got to Mammoth (as they had been mentioning for the past week).
Red Rock Canyon State Park
First stop we had as we made our way out to U.S Highway 395 was Red Rock Canyon State Park. It was still early afternoon so we decided to go for a hike on Hagen Canyon Nature Trail and do a little exploring. Red Rock Canyon State Park is located at the southern-most tip of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and features stunning desert cliffs and spectacular rock formations. The rock formations are dramatic and the colors vivid, you really need to literally 'take a hike' to fully appreciate it all. There is a campground at the base of the cliffs which would have been amazing to spend a night at, however as we only had a few days to spare we decided to get back on the road.
Indian Wells Brewing Co.
We were getting a little excited at this stage as we knew the Indian Wells Brewing Co. was not too far. This little brewery which calls itself the 'biggest little brewery in the world' is literally in the middle of nowhere. They offer really great beer; our favorites have been the Amnesia IPA and the Death Valley Pale Ale, however they also offer seasonal flavors (we've tried the Rasberry Ale, Orange Blossom Lager and Rasberry Stout). They also make over 100 varieties of soda's with flavors like Bacon-Maple Root Beer and Sour Green Apple Soda. They have a few seats inside by the bar and as it was winter they had a nice warm gas heater cranking, it was tempting to sit inside and stay nice and cozy but we decided to sit out on their grassy lawn and watch the sunset over the fairy floss colored sky. If you are headed to Mammoth or on the trip back make sure you stop and check this place out!
Getting back onto highway 395 we kept on until we reached Bishop. We were super hungry and had pizza on the brain so came up with a plan to swing by Little Ceaser's and then park out front and have a movie night but alas they had decided to close 15 minutes early! Needless to say we weren't the only grumpy ones... We couldn't be bothered cooking or driving anywhere now (#vanlife) so we stayed put. Next morning we got our wish and had pizza for breakfast...real healthy we know but hey, we still had a few days left before starting new years resolution goals. Anyway, it was nice to see the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra's again. We spent the morning in the Mountain Light Art Gallery.
Our next plan for the day was to head out to the Buttermilk Boulder's (approximately 3.5 miles down a dirt Buttermilk road). Buttermilk Country is an awe-inspiring place; towering boulders in the foreground with the magnificent jagged peaks of the Sierra's as a backdrop. We did some hiking and then climbed a small peak to watch the sun set. I would like to say it was peaceful (which it usually is) but there were some guys in the area shooting guns so it was a little loud and disturbing. We found a private little area to park for the night beside a small stream and had that movie night. We stayed surprisingly warm as we had just bought a gas heater, which heated the van up in no time. We definitely recommend investing in one of these! We woke to stunning views and brilliant blue skies and made the most of it by having a relaxing morning by the fire pit we found in a secluded spot.
Wild Willy's Hot Spring
New Years Eve and what better way to spend it (in our opinion) than soaking in hot springs. We headed out to Wild Willy's (there are other hot springs in the area but this one is the easiest to get to), well prepared with snacks and beer. We were clearly not the only one's with this in mind as the ideal way to welcome in the new year as the place was the busiest we've ever seen it! These hot springs are becoming increasingly more well-known I guess because of social media. It was also the snowiest we've ever seen!! It was very pretty with the carpet of white although this made it a little painful to get undressed, but was well worth the pain as we were soon soaking in the stunning views. There was a great vibe and it was fun chatting and drinking with other like-minded travelers. Not a bad way to spend the last day of 2016.
We woke up on the first day of the new year a little disappointed about the blue skies. Still no snow as was expected but we decided to drive up to the mountain anyway. The wind was howling up there so we decided it would not be worth spending the cash on lift tickets. We were still determined to have some fun so we headed into town to purchase a sled. The afternoon was spent having near collisions with little kids and getting wiped out. Our fun soon came to an end when one of our tandem attempts resulted in our sled being snapped. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.
Our last night was spent back at the hot springs which turned out to be a really bad idea. There were high wind warnings and I cant even explain what it was like to be out in it. The wind was freezing and it was blasting snow around that felt like needles on our skin. Us and the other brave souls who decided to venture out this night spent it trying to lay down in the water to avoid the wind and there was some fierce competition for the extra hot end of the pool. We stayed in for about 4 hours as it was hard to get the courage to get out. We spent the night in the van rocking side to side hoping not to get blown away. The winds did not die down the next day. After having breakfast in Mammoth (where it was starting to snow) we had to leave. As we drove homeward bound on highway 395 there were some epic storm clouds coming in over the Sierra's. It was the beginning of their epic storms that lasted about 3 weeks resulting in several feet of snow. You win some, you lose some I guess.
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Two Aussies road-tripping across the USA. Our goal is to discover America's wild places and vibrant cities... and make the most of every moment. Read more