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USA: California: Bishop, Coloma, Hearst Castle, Laguna Beach, Lone Pine, Los Angeles, Mammoth Lakes, Mono Lake, Monterey Bay, Palm Springs, Pismo Beach, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Solvang, Yosemite National Park
Mono Lake, California, USA: Hauntingly beautiful
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
One of the oldest lakes in the western hemisphere, Mono Lake is hauntingly beautiful, reflecting the snow-capped Sierra Nevada in its shimmering blue waters (or green, depending upon the time of the year). An immense inland sea, the lake fills a natural basin, 695 square miles in size.
In a trip hosted by California Tourism Board, we were exploring Mammoth Lakes. On the last leg of our 3-day trip, we visited Mono Lake that’s about a 30-minute drive from Mammoth Lakes. After breakfast we left for Mono Lakes and reached as scheduled at South Tufa on the shores of the lake. South Tufa receives thousands of visitors annually and is one of the largest Tufa groves on the lake. It’s a bird watchers’ paradise.
On the way to Mono Lake, we crossed the June Mountain. I was categorically informed that the slopes out there are very scenic, though from a skier’s perspective, not as intense as compared to Mammoth Mountain. Lift tickets purchased at Mammoth Mountain are valid on the June Mountain too. Free shuttle runs between the two mountains. Skiers and snowboarders may want to try the June Mountain too.
The most distinctive feature at Mono Lake is its eerie Tufa towers. They are actually mineral structures created when fresh-water springs bubble up through the alkaline waters of the lake. The lake's salty water not only makes you float like a cork, but sustains trillions of brine shrimp, attracting millions of migratory birds to feast on them.
Mono Lake is a large, shallow saline lake formed at least 760,000 years ago as a terminal lake in a basin that has no outlet to the ocean. Because it lacks an outlet, dissolved salts make the lake very alkaline and saline. The lake reminded me of my visit to Dead Sea in Jordan.
With Los Angeles Department of Water and Power diverting the waters from Owens River and the Sierra, Mono Lake, deprived by the inlet, began to shrink. With water evaporation, Mono Lake began to become an alkaline slump affecting its brine shrimp and therefore the migratory birds. Realizing the danger, David Gaines formed the Mono Lake Committee in 1978. Since then the members of the committee are rendering yeoman service to preserve the phenomenon of Mono Lake.
Mono Lake is open for visitors year round. Boating, kayaking, bird-watching, hiking are all part of the game. During every weekend in summers, volunteers of Mono Lake Committee organize kayak trips on the lake.
During our visit, 5 kayaks were organized by the Mono Lake Committee. Their volunteers were waiting for us when we arrived at South Tufa. They briefed us about the safety features and off we went on the waters… silently paddling and soaking in the wealth of information our ‘captain’ imparted whilst maneuvering the kayak.
We were on the waters for about an hour. One could easily spend a day out there, but that was not to be as we were on a schedule. Only a few miles away, on the other side of the shore is the Historic Mono Inn. That’s where we would be having our lunch.
Originally built in 1922 as a destination resort for Mono Lake, the Inn has gone through several different owners through the years including such notables as the granddaughter of Ansel Adams (the famous landscape photographer of yester years). A few years back, the entire building was beautifully renovated and is currently being run by Jim O'Meally and Mario Aguilar, both of whom have had extensive restaurant experience. We were treated to a gourmet lunch.
Jim and Mario made it a point to tell us about their special plans around the full-moon nights. Picture yourself; they said “Dining out on the back patio as the moon rises out of a purple velvet mist over Mono Lake.” The Historic Mono Inn has it all - delicious food, a great ambience and a scenic landscape that opens your soul.
It was 3PM by the time we returned to Sierra Nevada Lodge, our hotel in Mammoth Lakes. A quick shower and we were ready to leave for the Mammoth Lakes airport. Our flight to Los Angeles was at 5PM. Make it a point to take a seat on the right.
The view of the Sierra will haunt you for days.
Mono Lake Image Gallery Photo viewer
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