James Murren
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Earn Your Beer: Snowshoeing Lake Mary

By: James Murren

The Earning

When I saw two people skiing across Lake Mary in Mammoth Lakes, I knew my day’s plans had changed in an instant. Instead of snowshoeing the groomed trails through the woods to all of the lower-lying lakes in the basin area, I was going to circumnavigate Lake Mary on snowshoes. Watching the skiers had me thinking that if I stayed along the shoreline area, I would be fine. How could I possibly fall into a frozen lake with several feet of snow on top of it?

For some two miles, I stepped on solid snowpack, not sinking at all, and in the next step, at times, my snowshoes were eight inches below the snowy surface. I broke trail the entire way, with no other people in sight. The majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains wrapped the basin in astounding beauty.

The 360-degree view as I circumnavigated the lake was nothing short of spectacular. The effort was labored; sweat poured from my brow in the late morning sunshine, with air temps in the mid-40s. Here and there, xc-ski tracks, some older than others, came down to the shoreline and traversed the lake. All I could hear was the sound of my heavy breaths and of my snowshoes crunching and compressing the snow. When I paused a few times, stood still, and controlled my breathing, I heard the sound of silence.

Snowshoeing Lake Mary

Photo: James Murren

The Beer

Beer flight

Photo: James Murren

Distant Brewing opened just before the pandemic hit. I was there then when there weren’t yet any food offerings from their planned kitchen. I went back a few times on this most recent trip to Mammoth, finding the brewpub pretty much like it was two years ago: an easy-going spot to kick back, have a beer or two and eat. This time around, though, the beer tasted cleaner, more polished. During the three days I was in town, I stopped in and had mostly the pale ales and IPAs, none of which I could say I thought were merely average. They were better than that.

The one I really liked was Crystal Crag Pale Ale. Coming in at 5.4% ABV, you might say it is perfect as an après- snowshoe beer. There is a blend of hops in there that provide the taste you are looking for, but whatever the malt profile is, it keeps it refreshingly light and easy to drink, meaning the idea here is not to impress you with how to make a pale ale taste like an India Pale Ale. It is an easy drinker, which was all I wanted after a six-mile snowshoe outing.

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