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.



  1. Wonderful your photos Adeline. And always magical your comments.
    Yes indeed, your posts are good and soothing to my soul !

    1. Merci for your very nice comment ~ how lovely to hear from you through the blog! I am working on part 3 or is it part 1?! - of my adventure in the East Sierras - Yosemite is next :-)


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