Why are so many hiking this California valley in Mammoth’s shadow?

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Hikers dribble in to this Sierra crossroads from dawn to dusk, all sizes, ages and conditions. Some look fresh and bouncy as a soap commercial, ready to explore Rainbow Falls, the eerie formations of Devils Postpile National Monument and other highlights of the Reds Meadow Valley. Others show up smelling like 900 miles of nasty trail. “Here comes one now,” said Bobby Tanner, longtime owner of the valley’s lone general store, café and horse-packing operation, on the late June afternoon that I arrived. As Tanner spoke, a bearded, weathered, wiry backpacker straggled in from the woods and paused …

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