Mono Lake - Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area, California
Last July we spent two days in Yosemite National Park. It's such an incredible place and worth visiting at any time of the year, even in the summer months with the impossibly huge crowds. On our first day in the area we took the Tioga Pass Road across the upper section of the park and followed it down the other side of the Sierra Nevada mountains into the Mono Basin Scenic Area.
I'd done a little bit of research before hand, just enough to know that I wanted to see Mono Lake and some of the tufa formations the area is famous for. And soon we'd left the cool air behind us, snow still on the mountains, and made it down the other side into shifting sunlight and warmth.
Mono Lake is almost twice as salty as the ocean and tufa are formed when limestone is pushed up through underground springs. It's a little more complicated than that but you can read more about it here. Tufa towers only grow underwater and the ones around the lake are visible because water started to be diverted from the lake in the 1940's exposing the towers.
Seeing the formations in person was amazing; I had no idea they’d be so big. The landscape felt alien to an extent, an everyday with a strange object in the middle of it. They look a little like ruined buildings, decaying concrete, and if you told me they were the remains of an ancient civilization I would absolutely believe you.
We stood at the edge of the lake, clouds moving over the sun, the light coming and going, shimmering on the water. It was surreal, even with sand in my shoes and flies buzzing in my ears, a completely strange and beautiful place.
The best place to see the tufa is the south side of the Mono Lake. There's a short trail from a parking lot to the edge of the lake that continues on, past tufa formations towering out of the water or standing tall in the scrubby landscape.
Afterward I told my parents that we’d stopped at Mono Lake and my dad told me a story about my mom and him of camping there once when they were younger. It made me happy to think that over 30 years later I’d ended up in a place they’d loved too.
So go! See the decaying castles and towers and imagine strange worlds and then find me on twitter and tell me all about it!