Mono Lake is an ancient lake that is over 1 million years old and is one of the oldest lakes in North America. It covers about 65 square miles and serves as a nesting, feeding and resting grounds for 1 to 2 million birds that feed on the brine shrimp that number in the millions. Tufa towers, are calcium spires formed by the interaction of freshwater springs and alkaline lake water. Salts and minerals wash into the lake from Eastern Sierra Mountain streams. The lake is 2-1/2 times as salty as the Ocean.
I had a week off over Christmas and New Years, so I decided to take a few days and go on a photo shoot. I was hearing a lot of stories about the Tioga Pass being open to Yosemite, which hasn’t happened in about 30 years. It has been so dry that there hasn’t been any snow in the Sierra’s. So of course I had to see it. I decided to drive to Lee Vining, home of the ever changing moods of Mono Lake. I left friday morning December 30th and treated myself to a starbucks on the way out, for a three hour drive south on hwy 395. The plan is to stay at the Murphy’s Lodge in Lee Vining for the weekend. It’s close to everything I plan on doing. Second day I will drive into Yosemite, and third day spend at the famous Ghost Town of Bodie California. The largest preserved ghost town in the United States. When you come over the hill to Lee Vining, there’s a cool turnout that is famous for this view above, of Mono Lake. Today, there happened to be a lot of air traffic.
It hasn’t been windy for over a month and the second I pulled out of the driveway the wind started blowin’. I was hoping it would calm down by the time I arrived, but no luck there. In fact this picture above, the winds were clipping about 50 to 60 mph and creating a dust storm on Paoha Island in Mono Lake. I read that this is common when the wind blows here.
It was actually pretty cool to see in person. I stopped at another high spot to take this pic of the dust storm. The waves were about 2′ and the water was green. The wind was blowing in sheets across the lake. It was very dramatic.
At first I was really bummed that it was windy because I had to hang on to my camera and tripod for dear life. Then I thought wow, this is awesome!!!!! Go with it Sal!!
At times the waves looked like surf rollers splashing on the tufa and the dust changed the color of the sky.
This is the sign when you enter the Old Marina parking lot.
Here’s an example above of the wind blowing in sheets……the wind would blow so hard that the waves would almost disappear. Picture me trying to hold on for dear life. I don’t weigh much. I was going to take a self portrait of me blowing in the wind but I couldn’t let go of the tripod.
I was just awestruck at mother nature at work.
Here the sun peaked out of the dust cloud and lit the white tufa.
When I got into Lee Vining I stopped at the motel and unloaded a few things. Then I headed for the history museum but it was closed for the winter. From the parking lot up above the lake I could see some dirt roads. So I headed down without a map. I went a few miles and ended up here. The Rush River had flooded the road. It was about 2′ deep with thick chunks of ice. I probably would have tried to go through it if I wasnt alone, but woman’s intuition told me to stay put and have my lunch by the river. My sister Becky can attest to that. I called her on my cell while I was eating lunch( homemade turkey wrap and chips) to check in and let her know that I made it to my first destination.
I parked my truck by the Rush River to eat my lunch. It was so windy I had to stay in the truck.
After lunch I found a turn off for the boat launch and drove about a mile. I ended up at a turn around that had a boat dock and a beach. Oh , I forgot to mention, aside from it being really windy, it was a balmy 55 degrees, and mostly sunny. T shirt weather!!!! Nice Beach eh? You wouldn’t want to go swimming in it though.
I found this beautiful piece of what I think is lake mullien. It was like driftwood.
I headed back to Old Marina for the sunset. It was starting to get colder and the wind just wouldn’t stop. I had to sit on a wooden bench on the boardwalk trail and wrap both my legs around the legs of my tripod to hold it still. I had to sit because when I stood up to get a pic without the meadow grass in it, I almost blew over. No kidding! Right about the time I was asking myself what the heck I was doin out there, this beautiful sunset started to happen and made it all worth it.
The pic above is the New Years Eve 2011 Sunset. No wind, no waves, no meadow grass. What a difference a day makes eh?
HERE COMES THE SUN , do, do, do, doooooo….and I say….Its aright…
Woke up at 5:00 on New Years Eve to catch the sunrise at Old Marina. Im headed for Yosemite today but first things first…..It was really peaceful. I was the only one there.
It was really cold! Picture me breathing hot air on my finger tips! I stood here for over an hour and got some awesome pics. I learned the day before not to walk too far off the beaten path because you will sink ankle deep in salt muck. It wasn’t pretty.
This is the boardwalk you have to take to get to the tufa’s. I think it’s about a quarter mile. If you look close you can see the frost sparkling on the wood.
Sunday, New Years Day 2012, I awoke at 5:00 again to head to South Tufa for sunrise. It was about 15 minutes from town and was very dark when I arrived there. Another photographer was there when I pulled up. I grabbed my gear and flashlight and followed a bit behind her down the path. I didn’t know where I was going and she looked like she did. I hung a right at the end of the boardwalk and kept going….I didnt know what I was in for until the sun started to rise. WOW!
I met this guy yesterday and we were talking about the lake. He asked me if I had been to South Tufa yet. I said no, I have never been there. He said, go! It will blow you away! (I was hoping not literally because I had, had enough wind for a while) He told me it was better than Old Marina for photographing…so I went… and he was right, I was blown away at the beauty!!!
Just imagine being able to sit here in perfect silence and watch this sunrise happen. I was pinching myself to make sure I was awake.
Happy New Year 2012!!!
The Sun had many different colors as it was rising through the clouds. The water kept changing too.
Just an amazing place.
The water was so calm and it was very quiet there. I could hear a few grebes and birds, but that was it.
I turned around and caught the sun rising on the mountains.
As the sun rose I noticed some steam coming up off the lake. It’s the Hot Springs. Maybe I’ll take a dip!!! I decided to hike over there.
I don’t know how hot it was because I couldn’t get close enough without sinking. It looked too hot to get in, thats for sure. It was Bubbling Hot!!!
I walked from that tufa area beyond. There are paths that take you over here but not right up to the springs. You have to find your own way and watch your step! I kept seeing dead bird carcasses with feathers. It must be good hunting ground for some animal and I was keeping my eyes open for it.
What a great Morning it is….It’s starting to warm up!
Well, its time to leave South Tufa and head for Bodie. I hope you enjoyed The Mono Lake Journey.
Stay tuned to my blog for the Yosemite and Bodie Adventures.
“The journey that you take is more important than your destination”