The Grotto at South Tufa, Mono Lake in the Eastern Sierras
I was first introduced to the Mono Lake Basin in September 2011 on a trip with my son Charles and his Green Tortoise Travel bus and have since had the opportunity not only to spend a lot of time exploring there, but more importantly to become acquainted with and a part of the Mono Lake Committee, a conservancy organization co-founded by the late David Gaines that has been in operation at ML since the mid-80’s. It’s very safe to say that lacking the efforts of the MLC there would be no Mono Lake today. It would have long since gone the way of Owens Lake a little further south of the Basin. Owens, despite its ‘lake’ designation, is now a very large salt flat: Picturesque. Toxic.
Not so Mono Lake, which even bearing a salinity level exceeding twice that of the Pacific is one of the liveliest (and loveliest) bodies of water on earth. It plays host to trillions of brine shrimp which control the lake’s algae levels and provide a critical food source to the millions of migratory birds that use Mono Lake annually. The shrimp are also a staple for about a third of the world’s California Gull population that calls this place its nesting home.
I became a volunteer with the Committee this past spring and commuted up from Los Angeles over a period of several weeks to get the training necessary to the work and then to actually deliver on that investment before leaving for the east coast in mid-July. The photographic materials piled up and for the most never got posted so I thought I’d better do something about that before it slipped away entirely. I’ve culled through my logs and come up with a couple hundred shots. It’s overkill I suppose but does offer a reasonably good view of my activities over these many months. It also includes shots of the volunteer group I was a part of, led by a very dedicated former California State Park Ranger, Janet Carle. Janet, and her husband David, also a former ranger at Mono Lake, have published a book entitled Traveling the 38th Parallel which ties together global water issues common to the latitudinal band that intersects the Mono Basin. Well worth looking at.
And Mono Lake is well worth visiting. If you find yourself traveling to Yosemite or anywhere in the Eastern Sierra area you’d be well rewarded making the trip to the Lake, to the Bodie Hills and Mono Craters and to the little town of Lee Vining hard by the shoreline. If you happen there next spring look me up. I’ll be the guy hanging around the Old Marina on the west end sporting a Mono Lake Volunteer vest and a spotting scope to keep an eye on the Osprey that nest in the towers. Be happy to give you a tour. By next year I might even be able to name a few of the other species that call this place home.
I arrived in Los Angeles late last October with the idea of spending a few weeks before heading south to Baja for the winter and then working my way back east and home to Virginia. Well, it didn’t quite work out that way. And I’ve been in LA ever since. I’ve yet to change my voting registration and driver’s license but I’ve come to think of this beautiful place as home. For a died-in-the-wool Virginian that’s hard to believe – but it is what it is. Still, there are places back east I need to be in the near future – principally my daughter’s wedding in September – and people scattered between here and there I need to see so next week after dawdling lo these many months in the SoCal sun I begin the long trek eastward.
One of my projects, not that I’m burdened with many, is to visit and photograph each of our National Parks at least once. There are 59 all told and so far I’ve taken in 27. Nine of those by the way are in California, the state which is home to the largest number of national parks. The trip back will consume 37 days primarily because I intend visiting a few more along the way. Eleven in fact. This project gets tougher as the number increases simply because at some point it’s no longer possible to drive to my destination: there are parks in America Samoa, the Virgin Islands and Hawaii. And eight in Alaska!
I’ll figure it out.
For now I thought I’d share the itinerary in word and image:
22 – 23 Great Sand Dunes National Park, Alamosa, CO
23 – 25 Black Canyon of Gunnison NP, Montrose, CO
25 – 27 Rocky Mountain NP, Estes Park, CO
27 – 28 Wind Cave NP, Custer, SD
28 Badlands NP, SD – Stopover
28 – 29 Jamestown, ND – Layover Point
29 – 31 Voyageurs NP, International Falls, MN
31 July – 2 Aug Isle Royale NP, Grand Portage, MN
2 – 3 Ironwood, MI – Layover Point
3 – 4 Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, MI
4 – 5 Saginaw, MI – Layover Point
5 – 6 Parma Heights, OH – Layover
6 – 7 Cuyahoga Valley NP, Brecksville, OH
7 – 12 Elizabethtown, KY – Layover
12 – 14 Great Smoky Mountain NP, Gatlinburg, TN
14 – 16 Triad, NC – Layover
16 – 17 UVA, Charlottesville, VA
17 Aug Arrive Reston, VA
The trip covers a little over 6,000 miles and will consume about 115 driving hours. I’m won’t get to spend as much time in each of the parks as I’d like but I know I’ll get back to many of them over the next several years.
I’m looking forward to visiting my longtime friends and maybe to making a few new ones along the way. More about the wedding later. For now I’ll just say I’m probably looking forward to it as much as any father does when it comes to his one and only (and favorite) daughter. But I’ve known my future son-in-law now for half a dozen years or more and he’s a wonderful young man. I’m sure AnnaSummer will mold him into something workable. 🙂
I’m in California this Memorial Day (spoken as an Easterner) and I’m certain there are hundreds if not thousands of image possibilities nearby that would be appropriate for posting on this holiday but I’m stuck inside getting ready for the next week’s trip to Mono Lake for my continuing volunteer training. So, I dug into my archive and came up with these shots.
They were taken in June 2012; not on Memorial Day but close. I was downtown to attend a Summer Solstice ceremony being put on by the local Lithuanian Community, within which I have several friends.
I tried to take advantage of the early evening sun and then decided to stay on and attempt a few night shots of the WWII Memorial. To my eye it’s much more attractive at night than during the day. The shadows lend to the ethereal air. You can judge for yourself.
Click the photo to go to the portfolio containing all the photographs.
I met Duffie – and his human, Jason, at Navy Beach along the south shore of Mono Lake. They had just finished kayaking and were packing up for their trip home to Bend, OR. Duffie brought me this ball – and then dared me to toss it away. I did. It came back, and back and back. Duffie is a great ballplayer.