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mono lake

Doris, John and I set off in the morning in their car for a day trip that will encompass the area around June Lake, Mono Lake and Brodie. We start by driving past the series of lakes on the scenic route into June Lake which I skipped the previous evening in the very uncharacteristic, for me, pursuit of efficiency.

June Lake is a tiny holiday resort town – a kind of poor cousin to Mammoth Lakes a little further south – with people coming up from around the LA area to enjoy mountain pursuits. Doris and John have chosen a early semi-retirement, from busy careers as geologists, here in June Lake, where they can indulge their passion for outdoor activities to their heart’s content.

The autumn colours impress me even though Doris and John tell me that this year they are something of a disappointment: apparently a couple of sudden cold snaps have meant that the foliage shifted from green to yellow to brown without the intervening reds and oranges.

Autumn colours on Grant Lake.

Autumn colours on Silver Lake.

Picture postcard stuff - especially for an Australian, like me.

And again....picture postcard stuff - especially for an Australian, like me. It makes so much sense to call autumn 'fall' here.

I guess a few reds and oranages would have been nice but it's still very pretty.

Aspens: I guess a few reds and oranges would have been nice but it's still very pretty.

My main interest for the day’s adventure is Mono Lake: a day ago I didn’t know Mono Lake even existed but I am now completely fascinated by it. Mono Lake is a saline hyper-alkaline body of water that supports an unique ecosystem. The environment is one that doesn’t sustain fish but is, instead, home to millions of brine shrimp and alkali flies which provide food for thousands of migratory birds which visit the lake each year and nest on its islands.

Unfortunately, the birds have already flown off to their winter quarters so the only wildlife I see is some brine shrimp which are too small to photograph very well. However, there is still plenty to see. Weird limestone formations, called tufa towers, line the shores of the lake and provide plenty of visual interest.

The shores of Mono Lake.

The shores of Mono Lake.

Tufa towers on the lake shore.

Tufa towers on the lake shore.

More tufa towers. They feature on the cover of Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here.

More tufa towers. They feature on the cover of Pink Floyd's album, Wish You Were Here.

The lake has been a central part of the ongoing, and bitter, water wars in the US south-west. From the early twentieth century, to meet Los Angeles ever increasing water needs, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power began diverting water from tributary streams feeding into the Mono Basin and Owens Valley via a giant aquaduct over 350 miles long.

The water levels of Mono Lake dropped drastically, while its salinity levels increased equally radically, bringing the entire ecosystem to the brink of collapse in the 60s and 70s. Fortunately a group of concerned people got together during the 70s to fight for the lake and through a combination of public education, negotiation, litigation and legislation has forced the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to reduce the amount of water it drains from the Mono Basin and allow the water levels of the lake to gradually increase again to an agreed level over an set period of time.

Tufa formations. It is probable that these formations were at least partly under water when the lakes water level was higher.

Tufa formations. It is probable that these formations were at least partly under water when the lakes water level was higher.

The view from the lake back towards the mountains. That snow is the water source.

The view from the lake back towards the mountains. That snow is the lake's water source.

Unluckily, further south, Owens Lake didn’t have such staunch defenders and it is now a dry sun-baked mud flat – a source of toxic alkali dust which plague the local residents with respiratory problems.

After a hour or so exploring the shores of Mono Lake, we jump back into the car and drive north to Bodie – a picturesque ghost town in the hills. Bodie was founded in the late 1800s during the Californian goldrush and survived until the 1940s when the last people abandoned it. Apparently the harsh environment and climate don’t make it a particularly appealing place to live.

There is something very intriguing about the detritus of people’s live that make ghost towns particularly fascinating and Bodie is one that contains multiple layers of history. Doris, John and I spend an happy afternoon exploring the town.

Abandoned houses.

Abandoned houses.

A kitchen scene.

A kitchen scene...

... and the bedroom...

... and the bedroom...

Wallpaper detail.

Wallpaper detail.

Wooden walls to keep out the howling winds and sub zero temperatures.

Wooden walls to keep out the howling winds and sub zero temperatures.

Another approach - pressed tin.

Another approach - pressed tin.

The general store.

The general store.

Look at the state of the planet! A globe of the world in the old schoolhouse.

Look at the state of the planet! A globe of the world in the old schoolhouse.

Picturesque trash.

Picturesque trash.

Another building, with the mine visible in the background.

Another building, with the mine just visible in the background.

{ 5 } Comments

  1. Sila | November 9, 2009 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Hi Anna…
    These are really great photos! The views are amazing!
    I hope you are doing well and enjoying your trip.

    Happy mushroom hunting!

    Cheers,
    Sila

  2. anna | November 13, 2009 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    Hi Sila

    Nice to hear from you and thanks for the kind words.

    Hope we can meet one day in Jakarta.

    A.

  3. julie | November 17, 2009 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    I love ghost towns and the stories that you can read into the objects abandoned by the people who have lived there. I remember visiting Red Robin Mine on Mt Hotham years ago and everything was intact as though people would return very soon . This one looks amazingly well preserved and untouched. The globe is a treasure – what a find!
    I hope the new sleeping bag is keeping you nice and warm. It sounds as though you would be needing it as the weather gets colder. LOL Julie xxx

  4. Sila | November 20, 2009 at 5:17 am | Permalink

    Yes, I hope so too!
    Happy riding and keep writing :-) Looking forward to reading more stories..

  5. Paul Joseph Park | January 23, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    Yes, indeed, fascinating; essentially a museum, created unintentionally, and generally in tact despite the lack of security. Great pics.

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