Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Tufas of Mono Lake

By Monday, May 22, we’d decided to head back to Lee Vining, California, higher up in the mountains, because the weather was way better and we’d be able to get in and out easily now that the temperature was in the 70s.  Yahoo.  There was a lake calling to us there. 

So, back we went, again covering some of the roads we’d already ridden.  But they were beautiful roads with some awesome twisties and gorgeous mountains and rock formations. 
More postcard shots.  The colors were vivid and it was hard to leave this spot.
We stopped at a pullout at the top of a canyon and walked about taking photos of flowers and mountains.  The noise was deafening and there they came.  We were treated to fighter jets whizzing by, up and around and through the canyon lying in front of us.   

The jet is about the middle of the photo, flying away.  What a cool thing to see.  The Panamint, Saline and Eureka Valley portions of Death Valley National Park remain military training areas.  The region is used for low-level flight training, but is not allowed in other areas of the park.

This looks like multiple flowers, all in one.  It's a Desert Five Spot.
It was a great day of traveling and riding.  And by the way, this time I killed that pass – the 8,036-foot one that killed me last time.  I was wearing just jeans and a shirt.  Yep, shirtsleeves all the way, baby.  Take that, Deadman Pass.

The cut of the road added to the beauty of the area, in my mind anyway.
We got to our motel and when I went to charge my battery for going to the lake the next day, I discovered my charger and my backup battery were gone.  Then I remembered … I’d forgotten it, left it behind at the Beatty motel.  Crap.  I called the Atomic Inn, and they said they’d look.  There was someone in the room we’d stayed in, so I was kind of figuring I might not see it again.  It’s a good thing Stef and I have the same camera so I could use her charger.

We walked around Lee Vining, at 6,761 feet and with an excellent temperature, and we found the Upside Down House.  Is this Dorothy's?  Nellie Bly O'Bryan built this tourist attraction in 1956.  It was inspired by two children's tales, "Upside Down Land," which Nellie recalled after seeing a tipped over miner's cabin, and "The Upsidedownians."  It was originally located along Highway 395, but moved here in 2000.  O'Bryan was Hollywood's first female projectionist and appeared in several of Charlie Chaplin's silent movies.
When we got up it looked like snow all around the bikes.  Cottonwood trees ... ugh!!!
We got up Tuesday morning, May 23, and got ready to head to Mono Lake.  We’d been here a few days earlier, but had decided we wanted to do it right, spending time walking around through all the tufas.  My only thought was that I didn’t like the nearly mile of gravel you had to travel to get to it, not hard-packed, but a bit deep and rolling about like marbles.
We got there and parked in the lot.  There weren't many people around yet, which was pretty nice.  This path leads you down to the tufas, and I was looking forward to walking around through all of them.
These cream-colored rock towers are called tufas.  The towers reveal where springs once emerged beneath Mono Lake.  As the lake level dropped the tufa towers were exposed and the springs that formed them dried up.

Mono Lake's mineral-rich water is much denser than fresh water, or even the ocean.  This means objects float higher than normal.  Gulls have a difficult time keeping their feet in the water when they paddle, although we didn't notice that.  Perhaps we weren't looking.  Fully-loaded canoes float as if empty, and swimmers find it hard to sink.  We did not test that.

The lake water feels slippery.  We tested that.  It has a salty and bitter taste.  We did not try it.  The taste is caused by minerals washed into the lake by streams and springs.  Two key ingredients are sodium chloride (table salt) and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda).  These make the lake 2.5 times saltier than the ocean and 100 times as alkaline.

Mono Lake is too alkaline for fish, although it is full of other creatures ... we only saw some birds and bugs.

The tufas are all over, and have some incredible shapes.

It's like a forest of tufas has sprung up out of nowhere.
I couldn't stop taking photos of the lovely things.

Each place you looked the tufas were there, in the water, out of the water, and I expect there are no two alike.  The lake is often described as an oasis in the desert.  Up two million birds, including 100 different species, use the lake as a stopover on their north/south migrations.  The waterfowl have drastically declined with the loss of wetland as the lake levels have dropped, but efforts are being made to restore these in the hopes that the migratory bird numbers will increase.

The mountains provide a nice backdrop for many of them.

I also had to try a black and white ... this looks like a little city on the ground, complete with skyscrapers.

I couldn't help taking so many photos of the tufas while we were here as they were truly fascinating.  Plus, it was great fun to walk all around the place and parts of the lake and beaches.
After visiting Mono Lake we still had plenty of daylight left and decided to take a run around the June Lake Loop.  There are a number of little lakes, a town, and even a place for lunch. 
Even the dogs get into fishing around here.

This was one of the most incredible waterfalls I've ever seen.
While there I got a phone message saying my battery and charger had been found and I could send a self-addressed box and they’d drop it in the mail for me.  I called them and told them I’d be by to pick it up … after all, Beatty was kind of on the way back to Phoenix. 
It's some beautiful country around here.

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