I used to go helicopter skiing in British Columbia every year and almost as incredible as the skiing was…the picnics were as memorable. There you were, hundreds of miles from everywhere with views that stretched for forever…and out of the helicopter came the most delicious sandwiches on thick slices of homemade breads, cookies that had been baked early that morning, fresh tropical fruit (no orange slices here!), and bars of Swiss and Belgian chocolate. We stuck the backs of skis into the deep snow, put our poles across the bindings and each of us (eleven eager skiers/eaters and our guide) had a seat. There, we had a picnic to end all picnics…and everyday for a week!
I’ve had picnics in other spectacular spots–in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, along the Colorado River–but none has ever moved me like those feasts in the snow in the Canadian Rockies. Until now. This is the second summer Bruce, Emma, Guthrie and I have gone to Mammoth Lakes. It’s famous for being a ski resort, but summers there are something else. The place is virtually empty, and the vastness and beauty of the scenery rivals that of British Columbia. And so do our picnics.
A typical day for us begins with a trip to a bakery, Schat’s, that makes sandwiches with your choice of about ten homemade breads (we almost always choose ciabatta); ham, fresh-cut turkey (they ask if you want white or dark meat, and cut it right there); pastrami (our fave), roast beef, veggie, and tuna; piles of lettuce, tomatoes, sprouts, cucumbers and onions; mayo and two kinds of mustard. With each sandwich you get pickles and a cookie (we go with the M&M…or I should say Emma does). Then, we hike to some gem of a lake high up in the Sierras–we trudge up through forests and wide-open meadows and literally out of the expanse we come upon a lovely, crystal-clear lake surrounded by rocky cliffs and mile-high pines. Our hearts stop, then the ground rumbles as Guthrie, our 160-pound Leonberger, rushes by and dives in. Emma follows, and as the two of them paddle around together, Bruce and I swoon.
We hang by the lake, watching for black bears, and eat our picnic on a rock or log or little sandy clearing of a beach, marveling about how far we are from everything and everybody (often we don’t see a single other soul)…and yet only a five-hour drive from LA. We go to a different lake each day, and we are just as awestruck by the last one on our last day as we are by the first one on the first day.