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Weekend Escape: Off the trail and into a soft bed in Mammoth Lakes

After an early July backpacking trip that had my wife, 7-year-old daughter and me eating instant oatmeal and fending off swarms of pesky mosquitoes, we indulged in a hotel stay, shopping and eating out in the resort town of Mammoth Lakes. Although the backpacking costs were minimal — $21 for our wilderness permit and $18 for a shuttle ride to our Inyo National Forest trail head — the costs to stay in town were reasonable too. The tab: Excluding shopping and travel costs, we spent about $300, including $132 for a night at the Alpenhof Lodge and $70 for a multicourse Thai meal.

The bed

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The Alpenhof Lodge is comfortable and even welcomes guests with chocolate chip cookies.
The Alpenhof Lodge is comfortable and even welcomes guests with chocolate chip cookies. (Mike Morris)

The Alpenhof Lodge (6080 Minaret Road; [760] 934-6330, www.alpenhof-lodge.com) more than met our expectations for a hot shower and a soft bed. The hotel has prime parking across from Mammoth Village, wireless Internet and a hearty continental breakfast included in the price. As a bonus, there's a platter of chocolate chip cookies at the front desk.

The meal

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A Chicken Caesar Pita sandwich at the Pita Pit in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.
A Chicken Caesar Pita sandwich at the Pita Pit in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. (Pita Pit)

We were tired of trail mix and dehydrated food, so we headed to Mammoth Village and ate lunch at the Pita Pit (6201 Minaret Road; [760] 924-7482, pitapitusa.com), followed by ice cream at the nearby Ben & Jerry's (it was there my wife discovered her new favorite flavor, Chocolate Therapy). Our best meal, however, was dinner that night at Thai'd Up (587 Old Mammoth Road; [760] 934-7355, thaidup.net), where we ate crispy appetizers of spring rolls and tofu nuggets, pad Thai with salmon and refreshing coconut-ginger and mango-lime sorbets for dessert. I couldn't decide between local Mammoth Brewing Co.'s Golden Trout Pilsner or the Paranoids Pale Ale so, naturally, I had both.

The find

Although my wife would say the sale rack at Mammoth Village's Mountain Center — the same place where, in the summer, you can rent mountain bikes and buy gondola tickets to see panoramic views of the Sierra — I had more fun finding treasures at Second Chance Thrift Store (126 Old Mammoth Road; [760] 924-2474). Not only did we spend significantly less than at the village shop, but the thrift's proceeds benefit the nonprofit Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra.

The lesson learned

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Next time we'll plan on mountain biking or taking that scenic gondola ride. Your ticket to the shuttle bus — which many ride to day hikes or to visit Devils Postpile National Monument — is good for a discount on a gondola ticket. And we'll be sure to check villageatmammoth.com/events to see what free live music or outdoor movies are playing when we visit.

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