Sunday, July 6, 2008

Mono Lake Tufa Towers 7.6.08

We had a nice leisurely morning as it’s Sunday and many people are leaving the RV park. It’s always fun to watch couples helping each other back the vehicle to the awaiting hitch…and the fireworks that come with it! It’s almost as much fun as watching the show at a boat launch (you know what I’m talking about!!). Right…a little more…NO LEFT….slow….slow….right, Right, RIGHT!! Keep coming…LEFT… Nope, pull forward, try again. Then there’s the quick switch… “you drive, I’ll direct”. You can almost watch the stress level rise as the attempts increase. Of course we’re tent camping so the worst we have is we forget to roll up the vestibule in the tent & have to start over.

We took a drive to town, purchase some fresh fruits, an LA Times newspaper (at $3.25!), & go to the south side of the lake to a place called ‘Tufa Towers’ for a guided hike by one of the Rangers, Mike.
What the heck is a Tufa Tower you may ask? Well, it looks like fun sand castles jutting out of the water and are created by the chemical reaction of the spring water (which has a high content of carbonate) that bubbles up from below the lake with the highly salty (or alkaline) lake water. When the two merge, they become calcium carbonate and over the years, they grow taller & jut out of the water.
Then when the LA Water District diverted the feeder streams, the lake level declined, exposing the tufas. Now they are the towers that make Mono Lake so distinguishable. They’re truly remarkable!

The lake itself is a terminal lake, meaning the water doesn’t go anywhere, just evaporates. So it’s extremely salty – about 4-6x more salty than the ocean. No fish live here but it’s home to trillions (literally) brine shrimp & alkali flies. The lake is also the place where dozens of migratory birds stop to fuel up for their journey – eating as many shrimp & flies as they can handle. Most of the California gulls (seagulls), 85% of them, return here year after year.

The tufas are amazing & the views of the lake even better. Just beside the Tufas is Navy Beach, where there are sand tufas, which are just like the tufas except they are made of sand!

LA Water District diverted the feeder streams in 1908. Subsequently, the lake was lowered & the salinity doubled. Then in 1976, an environmentalist, David Gaines, decided that the aqueduct was unlawful & together with several organizations, sued the LADWP – eventually (20 years later) winning! LADWP agreed to restore the lake level 20 ft in 10 years. They were doing good for awhile but Mother Nature has not helped in the last 3-5 years and they still have about 8 feet to go. The most amazing part of the story is that once the lake is restored, these tufa’s will be covered in water once again! So we’re seeing a little bit of history that in the future will be under water. Cool, huh?

We left there and drove through the 14 mile June Lake loop which takes you to 4 different lakes – Grant, Silver, Gull, & June. We stopped at a famous bar & grill, the Tiger Bar, for a late lunch/early dinner. The Tiger bar is a landmark in the area and Clint Eastwood even frequented it while filming here. They had hands down, some of the best hamburgers (even for a non-hamburger person) & a great atmosphere.

Back at camp, catching up on e-mails, checking on the fires, & planning our next 6 days at Yosemite. Michael has been reading throughout the trip – 3 books already but just started ‘Eragon’ and can’t put it down! He’s hooked. Luckily we have book #2 for him and book #3 comes out in August so I guess I’ll be pre-ordering it for him!!

More to follow…


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