Monday, October 24, 2011

Mono Lake

After leaving Carson City, we drove to Bridgeport, CA and stayed at Paradise Shores RV Park for two nights.  After paying, the owner told Steve it was supposed to get down to 12 degrees the next night.  Yikes!!  Fortunately, he was wrong; it did get down to the low 20s, and some people had their lines freeze, but thanks to Jake waking up in the middle of the night, Steve got up & unhooked the water line, and left our kitchen sink on drip, and we were totally fine. Though it was pretty wickedly cold at night, the stars were also amazing, probably the best I've ever seen!

After arriving, we drove down to the Visitor Center for Mono Lake, based on my brother-in-law's recommendation.  The drive was spectacular, with simply amazing displays of fall splendor on the aspens.We took pictures, of course, but they really don't do it justice.  These are the best fall colors I think I've ever seen.  They even had a display that explained why the fall colors are so spectacular here; warm, sunny days and cool nights mean the leaves produce lots of sugars and hold on to it, resulting in beautiful autumn colors.

High Sierra Wilderness Area
The colors were amazing

Mono Lake has a great little visitor center, but check the hours on it if you're planning on visiting.  It was closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and it closed at 4:30, before we were really finished exploring all it has to offer.  This was a great reinforcement for all we learned at Antelope Island; Mono Lake has no outlet, and has therefore turned into a salt lake, as well.  Yep, Steve was right about bodies of water without outlets being salt lakes.  Since the Great Salt Lake is the only salt lake I was familiar with, I needed to verify that he was right about that. :)  I'm pretty sure he's still gloating!  Just as in the Great Salt Lake, the only things that survive in these waters are brine shrimp (see monkeys, anyone?) and alkaline flies, and therefore is also a major stop for many migrating birds. We were all a little repulsed by the knowledge that the diet of the Paiutes that used to live along the shores of Mono Lake consisted largely of the larvae of the alkaline flies that today also feed numerous birds!  Later, we learned that they ground these up into a high-protein flour.  Yum, yum...not...

The view from the Mono Lake overlook

As soon as I saw Mono Lake, I suspected it was a salt lake by the lack of resorts and condos along the banks. 
After leaving the visitor center (no junior ranger programs here, unfortunately), we drove down to the lake to see the tufas that Mono Lake is well-known for.  The tufas are limestone that forms when the calcium carbonate from springs that feed the lake combines with alkaline waters.  The tufas are very cool formations that rise up out of the water, with some on the beach, as well.  Of course, we saw lots of birds, feasting on all the lake has to offer, and the girls had fun playing in the sand.


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