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CA 203

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Max Rockatansky:
The last route for today was CA 203:

Sadly its not just the Devil's Postpile that is closed but also Minerat Summit, the furthest you can do is the Mammoth Ski Area.  It doesn't appear CA 203 actually goes to the Madera County Line anymore as there is an end sign I captured about a mile east well within Mono County.  I'm very interested in sorting this route out as I know the road to Lake Mary was what was originally under state maintenance, but I'll get to that this weekend.

Max Rockatansky:
CA 203 was originally LRN 112 before the state highway renumbering in 1964.  The route was also substantially different than modern CA 203 with the route running to what is known as "Old Mammoth" in the city of Mammoth Lakes where it terminated at Lake Mary.  Essentially the original alignment of LRN 112 appears to have used:

1.  An unnamed dirt road east of the modern US 395 expressway on the roadway known as "Old Highway" which was once US 395.
2.  On the west side of modern US 395 Mammoth Creek Road west to Old Mammoth Road.
3.  Old Mammoth Road through what is the original town site of Mammoth.
4.  Lake Mary Road to Lake Mary.

So essentially none of the original LRN 112 is part of CA 203, the original alignment can be seen on the 1935 Mono County Road Map:;sort:Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No;lc:RUMSEY~8~1&mi=50&trs=163

The move from LRN 112 to CA 203 can be seen on the 1963 and 1964 State Highway Maps.  Note; even in 1964 the alignment of CA 203 was still to Lake Mary:

1963 State Highway Map,-California,-1963?sort=Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No&qvq=q:caltrans;sort:Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No;lc:RUMSEY~8~1&mi=29&trs=86

1964 State Highway Map,-California,-1964?sort=Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No&qvq=q:caltrans;sort:Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No;lc:RUMSEY~8~1&mi=27&trs=86

Between 1967 and 1969 CA 203 was shifted onto the modern alignment which ends near the Madera County line close to the Mammoth Ski Area.  This alignment shift took CA 203 from Old Mammoth and through the modern downtown Mammoth Lakes.  It appears that this change was actually done in 1967 according to cahighways and it appears CA 203 wasn't signed before the shift.  The changes can be seen on the 1967 and 1969 State Highway Maps:

1967 State Highway Map,-California,-1967?sort=Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No&qvq=q:caltrans;sort:Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No;lc:RUMSEY~8~1&mi=21&trs=86

1969 State Highway Map,-California,-1969?sort=Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No&qvq=q:caltrans;sort:Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No;lc:RUMSEY~8~1&mi=19&trs=86

Interestingly if you look at the 1969 State Highway map the modern expressway of US 395 isn't completed yet and an adopted alignment is shown.  That means that CA 203 extended east to Old Highway over the modern expressway, this appears to have changed to the modern terminus point by 1970:,-California,-1970?sort=Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No&qvq=q:caltrans;sort:Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No;lc:RUMSEY~8~1&mi=17&trs=86

Mammoth Lakes was a very much different place than the tourism crowd might see on a trip to the ski resort.  The area known as "Old Mammoth" was the original site of "Mammoth City" which was built for the Mineral Hill Mine which opened in 1878.  Apparently the mine at Mineral Hill was large enough that two smaller mining camps known as Mill City and Pine City also popped up.  Apparently Mammoth City almost died out with far less than 100 people by the early 1900s before rebounding to a population sizable enough to warrant post office service by 1923.  Apparently a gold boom in 1905 near the Devils Postpile likely played a large role in reviving Mammoth. 

The Postpile was originally in the boundary of Yosemite National Park but some of it was made public during the gold boom.  The Postpile was made into Devils Postpile National Monument in 1911 and really has been the subject of conjecture from things such as a reservoir or even a Trans-Sierra highway.  The Park Service actually has an interesting article on the subject that would lend suggestion that CA 203 might have be in part realigned from Lake Mary to the modern alignment as part of a longer reaching plan to cross the Sierras via the San Joaquin River:

Max Rockatansky:
So....CA 203 starting from southbound US 395:

IMG_1968 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

The first couple westbound miles of CA 203 are an expressway to Mammoth Lakes.  The Postpile was closed apparently due to winter storm damage:

IMG_1969 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_1970 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Entering Mammoth the speed drops but the expressway remains until Minerat Road:

IMG_1972 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

CA 203 turns right westbound on Minerat Road:

IMG_1973 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_1974 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Which traverses the modern ski-resort downtown area:

IMG_1975 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Before leaving Mammoth for the Ski Area and points beyond:

IMG_1976 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Interestingly the "Mammoth Scenic Loop" was originally called the "Mammoth Escape Route" which was built after the 1980 Long Valley Earthquake.  The Escape Route was built for an additional way out of Mammoth if there was some sort of disaster on the Long Valley Caldera.  Apparently the name was changed because the business owners in Mammoth don't like being reminded...or more importantly probably would like the fact that the town is on top of a volcano to be on the down low.

IMG_1978 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Despite what the advisory signs might say the climb to the Mammoth Ski Area and Madera County line is actually very tame which is odd for the Eastern Sierras.  Hard to believe the elevation is so high, no wonder the idea of a state highway to Fresno was explored:

IMG_1979 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Max Rockatansky:
CA 203 ends a mile or so east of the Madera County Line with Mammoth Mountain in view:

IMG_1980 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_1986 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Still a copious amount of snow on the mountains:

IMG_1984 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

End of the line at the Mammoth Ski Area....they weren't even allowing traffic to Minerat Summit much less the Postpile:

IMG_1983 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Which really sucks because there wasn't much of a crowd, usually the ski area is just a mob of people.  Minerat Summit is worth a look but the Postpile is dicey if you have to ride the shuttle bus...I wouldn't recommend it personally.  Thankfully I have pictures from last year of both:

hm insulators:
The late summer of 1976, my parents and I rented a little condo for a couple of weeks up there.


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