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24 May 2024
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Best of Mammoth

If you’re bringing your kids to Mammoth Lakes for the first time, you’re probably so excited to experience the magic of the Eastern Sierras with them!

In this article, we’ll talk about some of the positive life lessons that a trip to Mammoth Lakes can teach to kids (and us adults, too!) and what you can do to ensure that they want to keep coming back, year after year.

Lesson One: Always be prepared

Involving kids when you’re getting ready for a day of hiking, fishing, skiing or other activity can be a great way to instill the lesson that being in the wilderness requires careful preparation. You might even put together a check-list of items that you’ll need for your adventures, including:

  • Sunscreen

  • Bug spray

  • A first aid kit

  • Snacks

  • A compass

  • Enough water for everyone in your group (including dogs)

  • A headlamp

When you do end up using these items during your adventures, make sure to praise your kids for being part of the preparation process. Saying something like, “Thank goodness you packed the sunscreen, that sunshine is intense at this elevation!” can make them feel like an important part of the wilderness team!

Lesson Two: Listen to your body

Your kids might not be fully prepared for how difficult exercise can be at high elevation. In fact, they may feel fatigued and cranky more quickly up here in the mountains than at home.

Instead of getting frustrated and dragging them along, think of this as an opportunity for them to connect with their body! What is it that their body needs? More water? A rest? Some snacks? Have them consider what ways they can care for themselves in this moment in order to keep going.

For older kids, you could talk about the science of how high elevation affects the oxygen levels in our blood, and how drinking water is a good way to facilitate more efficient oxygen dispersal in the bloodstream.

Lesson Three: You’re stronger than you think

Of course, while it’s a great life lesson to be able to listen to what your body needs, be it a rest or more fuel, you don’t want your kids to quit early! Hopefully, with enough encouragement and enthusiasm, your kids will learn that all-important lesson of: This is hard, but I’m strong enough to get through it. And there are a few ways that you can boost their chances of learning this lesson:

  • Plan activities that are appropriate for their age and abilities. There are many kid-friendly hikes up here in the Eastern Sierra that are doable for all ages. The hike up to Mcleod Lake or around Convict Lake, for instance, are two easy and rewarding hikes to try for young children. Or, if you’re going horseback riding, you might opt for a shorter, gentler ride for kids. 

  • Distractions can make the time fly by. Whether you create a game out of who can see the most yellow flowers, sing campfire songs, or make up stories, distractions can be a great way to pass the time. 

  • Use the power of the buddy system. There’s no better motivator for kids than their besties at their side! If you’re able to bring along a friend, meet up with local parents with kids of the same age, or sign the kids up for group skiing classes, they may feel more enthusiastic about trying new things!

Lesson Four: Give wild animals their space

One important lesson that kids can learn from a visit to the great wildness is how to safely coexist with wild animals! If you’re lucky enough to see our wild neighbors, such as deer, bears, coyotes, chipmunks, and even bobcats, here are a few things to share with your little ones:

  • They may look cute and cuddly, but you should never approach a wild animal. They could have diseases or attack if they feel threatened

  • Being quiet around wild animals will keep them calm so that you can enjoy their presence for longer (the exceptions, of course, are pumas and bears which you should always try to ward off with loud noises)

  • Mammoth Lakes is home to many different wild animals, which is why we should always keep it clean and pristine 

Lesson Five: Sometimes nature has other plans for us

Maybe you planned a big day of kayaking, a visit to the hot springs, or a day on the slopes. But, Mother Nature threw you a curveball, like a surprise thunderstorm or blizzard conditions. This can be disappointing, but it’s another great lesson for kids. Sometimes, nature doesn’t behave the way that we want it to, and that’s a part of life! All we can do is enjoy the bluebird days and maybe have a backup for the times when nature simply won’t cooperate with our plans.

Lesson Six: Patience pays off (except for when it doesn’t)

There’s nothing quite like that magical moment when after hours of waiting for the fish to bite, you finally feel a tug on the line. That feeling of accomplishment and pride is a wonderful lesson for kids and one that can encourage them to practice patience in other areas of their life. Whether they’re learning to play an instrument, paying attention in class, or waiting for dinner to be ready, they may remember that patience pays off eventually, as long as you’re willing to stick with it.

That being said, there are going to be days when the fish just aren’t biting! But don’t fret, there’s a lesson to be learned here as well. Because, even though you may not come home with a cooler full of trout, you may be able to remind the kids of some of the other catches of the day, such as the chance to hang out as a family, enjoy some fresh air, skip rocks, and simply enjoy the great outdoors.

Lesson Seven: We’re in this together

Another key lesson to be learned with a trip to the mountains is that nobody here lives in isolation. Whether someone veers off the road into a snowbank or twists their ankle on a trail in the backcountry, life here requires us to take care of one another. Here are a few ways to instill this lesson when you take your kids up to Mammoth Lakes:

  • If you see someone fall on the slopes, ask if they're okay. If they’re not, flag down ski patrol for help

  • Say hello to people as you pass them on the trail

  • Always pick up your waste, including doggy doo

  • Leave wildflowers where they are so that other hikers can enjoy them, too

  • Drive slowly around town to keep people and wild animals safe

Lesson Eight: Ice cream always tastes better after a hike

This is one of those lessons that can be taken literally and figuratively. On the one hand, it's a universal truth that a long, dusty, difficult hike is best celebrated with an ice cream at the end! And, no one in the family should be shamed for their ice cream of choice, be it a fruit pop, ice cream sandwich or big old scoop of mint chocolate chip.

And, on the other hand, this is an opportunity to think about how you might celebrate other accomplishments with something sweet. Whether it’s the prize of going to the movies after doing well on a test at school or verbal encouragement for doing chores around the house, little treats go a long way in validating our accomplishments and motivating us to keep at it!

What lessons have you learned in your time in the mountains?

As you’ve probably noticed, the lessons we’ve included in this list aren’t just for the kiddos! We adults can pick up valuable life lessons every time we get out into nature. So, what valuable things has your time in Mammoth Lakes taught you?

Ready to plan your next trip to the Eastern Sierra? We have family friendly condos around town that will be the perfect home base for all your adventures!