Devils Postpile National Monument Mammoth Lakes, Calif. Visited: August 10, 2005 NPS Site Visited: 227 of 353 NPS Website; Local Website
WHAT IS IT? A sixty-foot high, 150-foot long wall consisting of vertical columns of basalt rock.
BEAUTY (5/10) The Devils Postpile looks just like it sounds. The posts, which have anywhere from three to seven symmetrical sides, are piled up next to each other in a row. They look like giant black straws. The columns on the left look as if they have fallen; they rest on their side. While not overwhelming, the Devils Postpile is cool looking, especially from on top. From there you view the columns’ intricate interweaving. It looks like bathroom tiling. Piles of fallen, broken columns sit at the walls’ base allowing for a close up view of the many-sided geometric puzzles.
HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (3/10) Devils Postpile was once a part of Yosemite NP. Too bad it still isn’t, because then we would not have had to travel into the heart of the Sierra’s eastern ridge. Nevertheless, around the turn of the century, mining interests wanted the land around the Monument and who was Teddy Roosevelt to refuse? This area was removed from Yosemite’s borders until plans arose to dynamite the Postpile itself. Apparently, someone was outraged and in 1911 William Howard Taft designated the Devils Postpile as a National Monument.
CROWDS (4/10) The area in and around the Monument was packed with friendly vacationers and precious dogs. We sat next to a beautiful two-year old white Siberian husky on the shuttle bus return. She had spent the day swimming and was very tired. We miss our Harrisburg canine friends very much.
The only bad experience we had was a phalanx of pre-adolescent boys whose parents saw no problem with them climbing up and around the Postpile’s fragile rocks. Maybe they did not see the signs posted every 5 feet that instructed “Do Not Climb on the Rocks”. Once the kids did climb down, they all pulled out their pocketknives and carved their names into a nearby tree trunk. Maybe a Ranger posted at the Postpile would have helped.
EASE OF USE/ACCESS (1/5) Devils Postpile NM is wedged along the eastern side of the Sierra Nevadas; near the popular ski resort town of Mammoth Lakes. Mammoth Lakes is located on U.S. Route 395, about 150 miles south of the nearest city, Carson City, Nev. The path to Modesto, Calif. is a long 180 miles to the west over the Sierras. Getting there is only half the trouble.
You must access the Park through the Mammoth ski resort. There you pay $7 per person for a shuttle (old school bus) that takes you on a long 30-minute trip down a steep one-way road to the Site. You cannot drive to the Monument unless you are camping in the Park’s immediate vicinity; this drive a/k/a the most expensive toll road in the United States costs $7 per person, $20 per family, campsite not included.
In addition, the Devils Postpile NM is only open from the final snowmelt (late June) until October.
CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (3/5) The Devils Postpile NM bookstore does the best it can with its limited space, stuffing dozens of books into one crowded bookshelf. Why does this crowded Park have a Ranger Station/bookstore/museum housed in a building not much larger than a pit toilet? The Ranger Station is so small that the Ranger spends most of his time outside on its porch.
COSTS (1/5) Entry is $7 per person. Do not believe otherwise. Devils Postpile NM is the only NPS site where no parks passes are honored; not the Golden Eagle hologram, not the Golden Access Pass (for the disabled), not even the Golden Age Pass (for Senior Citizens). Everyone that travels on the road to the Site, whether by car (only if you are camping) or the Reds Meadow shuttle, must pay $7.
RANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (2/5) One Ranger was posted at the Park’s small Ranger Station but none at the Postpile itself. We would have appreciated a Ranger’s knowledgeable explanations about the Site’s rare geologically anomaly. We left without any understanding of what we had seen. A Ranger’s presence would also cut down on inconsiderate juvenile rock scurryers.
TOURS/CLASSES (3/10) There is only one exhibit in the small Ranger Station. One Ranger-led walk leaves daily to the Postpile at 11:00 a.m. The terrific workers at the Point Reyes Bird Observatory (PRBO) offered songbird-banding demonstrations at the Postpile four times this summer. If our PRBO experience is an indicator, their Devils Postpile lesson was a must-see.
FUN (2/10) It took about two hours and a lick from a kind Siberian husky for Gab to calm down about the Site’s $14 price tag coupled with the 200-mile detour and the exorbitant price of eastern Sierra gasoline, $1 more per gallon than in Reno. Once Gab calmed down our trip was fun. Of course, by that time we were stepping off the shuttle and getting into our car.
WOULD WE RECOMMEND? (2/10) A trio of tourists (two female, one male) were waiting for the Reds Meadow shuttle with us. The women asked their traveling partner, an Englishman in his late 50’s, if he wanted to go with them to the Park Site. His response, “Why would I want to pay $7 to sit on a school bus for a half-hour down a twisty road just to see some rocks? It is happy hour at the lodge, you can go if you’d like. I am staying here.” Our sentiments exactly.
Do not come to Mammoth Lakes just to see the Devils Postpile NM. Only visit the Site if you are already in town for your summer holiday. Mammoth Lakes was swarming with activity, especially up at the Ski Resort where the slopes have been reconfigured for mountain biking. Your Mountain Bike Park Admission even includes the shuttle bus fare.
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