Unfinished Business - Fall/Winter - 2017/8 travel blog

lone tree

salty

tufa

tufa

tufa

tufa

tufa

tufa

tufa

tufa

tufa

view from above

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brine flies


As a navigationally impaired person, I wouldn't dream of going anywhere I've never been before without a GPS. These devices are a life saver, but every so often they screw up, so I always have a map on my lap as well, especially when we are traveling in the motor home. U-turns are not fun when you are 62 feet long. The other reason I love my AAA map is that it tells me when the route is scenic. Today's route was dotted on my map the entire way. As we traveled south from Reno we had the snow topped Sierra Nevadas on one side and less imposing mountains on the other. Since our route followed the flow of water from the snow melt, cottonwood trees glowed bright gold in their autumn garb, their roots digging deep into the ground even when there was no water to be seen with the naked eye. And then there was that bright blue sky. The sky has been washed clean from the forest fire ash by the recent rains. The drive was spectacular.

And then we went over the 9,100' Conway Summit and a huge, blue lake loomed surrounded by desert plains. We've come here to visit Yosemite National Park after a 45 year hiatus, but Mono Lake is spectacular, too. This vast inland sea is fed by fresh water streams, but has no outlet and was about twice as salty as the ocean. It evaporated about as quickly as the water flowed in until 1941 when a thirsty Los Angeles started sucking water out of the lake. By 1982 the water level had fallen over forty feet and conservationists finally convinced the powers that be that enough was enough. Some of the birds that used to stop here as they migrated no longer do, but the lake still supports a population of brine shrimp and brine flies that some birds still find tasty. The local Paiute that used to live here, also collected the brine flies and used them as their primary form of protein when other pickings were slim. Maybe we should collect some and bring them home for Thanksgiving...

The blue waters of the lake are beautiful, but a unique feature that attracts photographers from around the world are tufa. These formations occur when the water from underground springs containing calcium combine with the carbonate in the lake water. They look like the stalactites you might find in a cave, but they are growing up and out of the water. Since the water levels have gone down, more of these unique formations are visible. We've read that there are times when so many photographers gather here that you can hardly find a place to stand on the lake shore, but this time of year there was plenty of space for us to wander. We went there late in the afternoon and the setting sun illuminated these formations with a golden glow. I hear that we will be going back again for sunrise. Better hide that alarm clock.

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