skiing of the week; Follow the Stream | Sports

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Sherwin Creek Road is snow covered and great easy cross country skiing near Mammoth

In the winter, Sherwin Creek Road provides an easy cross-country trip just minutes from Mammoth, with a wild and enjoyable feel that makes it an ideal destination for an afternoon, or even a day’s adventure.

Bordered by deep forest for part of its four-mile length and open grassland and aspen the rest, made sweet by the chirping of birds and the smell of giant, ancient pines, this ski offers more variety on four miles than most routes would in an entire day.

This ski is even better because it could also be a 4 mile one way ski to another shuttle parked on US 395 if you want.

The ski trail leaves Mammoth off Old Mammoth Road, where it intersects Sherwin Creek Road a few hundred yards past the Mammoth Creek Inn.

Follow the road to the parking lot near the propane tanks at the winter trailhead. Head southeast, climbing or skirting the large berm blocking the road to vehicles, onto Sherwin Creek Road, which is still visible through the snow if you’re careful.

Follow the road through the first half mile open, then descend, getting closer to the pines, where the road steepens and descends into a small ravine. Stop and listen to the sound of juncos and chickadees, crows and jays. Head down the hill, towards the deep trees and the still faint sound of the stream ahead of you.

About a mile in, the Jeffrey pines begin to overshadow the road. In another hundred feet, water aspens and birches appear, a sure sign in the Water Sierra. Little Sherwin Creek drains the Sherwin Ridge overlooking Mammoth, tumbling from stark, craggy, nameless granite peaks above Valentine Lake and then down to Sherwin Lakes. Once the creek emerges from the lakes, it rushes down the mountain, eventually coming to rest where it joins Mammoth Creek at Sherwin Creek Campground.

Cross the little Sherwin Creek about 2 km and continue southeast, through the gentle forest of Jeffrey Pines. The road twists and turns a bit, passing through aspen groves protecting Sherwin Creek Campground on your left. The silence here, on a calm, windless day, is perfect. Views of the sparse forest to the south show the great mass of the Bloody and Laurel mountains high above you.

Continue skiing through the trees for about a mile or so, passing the sign for Valentine Lake and the private children’s camp near the start of the trail to Valentine. You are now about two miles from the trailhead.

Ahead of you, the forest slowly begins to thin out and open up to the right, or south, where the base of Laurel Mountain towers. Keep skiing, until the forest abruptly gives way to sunny countryside, with the White Mountains all the way through Long Valley suddenly seeming close enough to touch.

This is a good place to turn around and head back to the trailhead. Or, if you left another car on the road where the Sherwin Creek road meets the highway, ski another two miles and take your shuttle.

Directions: Take Old Mammoth Road south towards Stove and Mammoth Creek. As soon as you cross the creek, turn left onto Sherwin Creek Road. Follow it for about 0.3 miles to the parking area near the propane storage tanks. Head south on the road under the snow, following the faint tracks of the road as it winds east and south.

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