Sunday, July 13, 2014

Mono Lake Detour

There is a quiet stillness about Mono Lake in the Eastern Sierras. It is vast. It is ancient. It is over one million years old - one of the oldest lakes in North America. Its southern shoreline is a sight to behold - a bizarre sight - a surreal sight of weird, yet remarkable limestone rock formations called Tufas Towers. 

The road along the Tioga Pass from Yosemite to the lake is beautiful - breathtaking - with its graceful twists and turns, its snow dusted rims. You come across the last ridge into the town of Lee Vining on the western side of the lake. I waited until twilight to go to the shore. I knew the light would be softer. The tourists, would mostly have left. It was tranquil, just a few of us. It was eerie. It looked fragile. It looked elegant in a way I could not quite pinpoint. I felt as though I had left planet Earth for a moment, and caught myself looking around to get my bearings.

Scroll down for a little history, and to be mesmerized like I was. Uploading my photographs once I returned home made me do a double take - there is no place like home, but there is definitely no place like Mono Lake.

A little history… just a little… Mono Lake has no outlet. For centuries, freshwater streams and underwater springs have fed into it, and still do today. With surface evaporation came dense deposits of salts and minerals. These deposits stayed behind to intermix and accumulate into twisted ghostlike sediment towers. Tufa towers grow exclusively underwater - some as high as 30ft. When water diversions from the lake to Los Angeles began in the early forties, the level of the lake lowered, and exposed the towers. For different ecological and environmental reasons, a hard battle was fought and won in court to partially restore the lake level. Since 1981, the formations themselves are also protected under the Mono Lake Tufa State Reserve.

This is part two of my three-part East Sierra long weekend. Part one was Bodie ghost town. Next up is Yosemite National Park, where I started my awe inspiring long weekend. But first, if you ever go to Yosemite, make sure to take a detour and go further east. Mono Lake is a majestic body of water. The Tufa towers that grace the shoreline are magical. Oddly, they are calming. You walk away back to your vehicle, and you look back, just to be sure you really saw what you just saw. This is no mirage. This is Mono Lake, and yet again, this kind of detour is good for the soul.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Ghost town USA ~ Bodie, California

I am in the mood to start this 3-part blog with the last part! 
Growing up with my French family across several anglo-saxon countries before moving to California, 
we were caught up in watching Spaghetti Westerns on television; we would hear about the folklore of the enigmatic Wild West, the major Gold Rushes across California, and I would imagine warm howling winds across the wide open expanses of vast American landscapes. 

It was just last month that I headed to the Eastern Sierras to the most well preserved historic Gold Rush ghost town of Bodie, just a bit east of another grand Dame of American beauty - Yosemite National Park. With the discovery of gold in the hills north of Mono Lake, Bodie, at an elevation of 8370ft, is now a State Historic Park and a National Historic Landmark. What began as a mining camp in 1859, quickly flourished to a Wild West boom town in 1870 with over 2000 buildings.

The opium bars, the 65 saloons, the thriving mines are now closed; the thousands of migrants, laborers, young families, and the prospectors have all left - the streets are now deserted - only about 100 buildings remain on the gently sloped hillside, yet the authenticity of those far gone days is ever so present, preserved in an eerie state of arrested decay and stillness.

Camera in hand, I wandered around ~ childhood dreams under my arm.

Bodie is not far. Do venture there. In one long weekend, I was back home in Marin County. Working backwards to part two for the next blog, will be a visit south to Mono Lake with its very own eerie edge - the unusual rock formations known as Tufa Towers.

It won't be long until I post again.
For now, enjoy that ghostly sensation… it's good for the soul, remember…