Practically across the street from our home base at Mono Vista RV Park, is the Mono Basin Visitor Center. Mono Lake is unusual in that it has no outlets, which has made it highly alkaline and salty. Fish cannot survive in the lake but brine shrimp and alkaline flies flourish and draw several types of birds by the thousands each spring and summer. There are also the tufas, limestone towers visible along the shoreline in several places around the lake.
The visitor center is an excellent place to learn all about this unique body of water, with detailed displays and informative movies playing throughout the day. There are also a couple of trails accessible from the visitor center. We took the Lee Vining Creek trail, a three mile round trip of fall foliage, tumbling water and not another soul, on a Saturday afternoon no less!
|Excellent views of much of Mono Lake from the Visitor Center.|
Here you can see the trees indicating Lee Vining Creek as it enters Mono Lake.
|October is an awesome time to hike Lee Vining Creek trail!|
We drove just a short distance into Yosemite National Park one day and hiked Mono Pass Trail. This eight mile round trip hike took us through forest and along small meadows for the first 3.5 miles, then opened up into wide open meadows with views of the surrounding massive peaks and past several small lakes. The grand finale was an impressive view down into the Mono Basin.
|After miles of forest the scenery opened up around us.|
The shiny spots on the hill opposite Hans are great, rounded granite rocks catching the sun.
|We were in awe as we looked down into the Mono Basin and saw Mono Lake.|
|But walking just a little further gave us a double lake view!|
Sardine Lake was our stopping point and a perfect place for lunch with a view.
|What do I spy down in the meadow???|
|On this Sunday hike we saw 7 deer and 1 person.|
Nice balance, don't you agree?
From the parking area it's hard to tell how big this crater is. We walked the Plug trail which took us up into the heart of the volcano, full of fascinating jagged rocks of many colors and types, including shiny patches of obsidian. The Rim trail takes you around the cone shaped crater rim.
|Taken later in the day from a couple of miles away, this is a shot of Panum Crater.|
Mono Lake is just visible in the background and the sloped edges of the rim are easy to see from here.
|Here we are standing on the rim which you can easily see swooping along the right side.|
At this point we took the Plug trail which goes up on the jumble of spikey rocks in the center of the crater.
|The variety of rock in this crater cannot be overstated!|
Here, obsidian shines and is embedded in other magnificent, colorful rocks.
|Once on top of the plug it was much larger than we expected.|
Large Ponderosa pines grew here and there, pumice crunched underfoot, and views of the
next set of larger craters to the South and the Sierras to the West expanded before us.
|Fascinating rocks all around had us imagining the powerful forces that created this incredible pile of rubble.|
Just down the road from the crater is the South Tufa area of Mono Lake. Here you can get an up close look at the limestone tufa towers which are visible due to the low lake level, which is due to decades of fresh water being siphoned off for Southern California. Efforts are underway to bring the lake back to pre-siphoning levels so this unique habitat can be preserved.
|Note the photographer on the left. We visited mid morning, |
at sunset this area is packed with people looking for the perfect shot.
Next we motored on down highway 395 to the June Lake Loop. This 16 mile horseshoe shaped loop off of 395 takes you past several lakes and offers up many camping, lodging and restaurant options as well as incredible views of the Sierras and steep trail access into the mountains.
|June Lake was the perfect place to stop for lunch and an off kilter photo opp!|
|The beach "sand" here is pumice!|
|Along Silver Lake the aspen were in fine form.|
|This photo is untouched and does a good job of depicting the grandeur we played in on this beautiful fall day!|
|I was eve captivated by the colors resulting from a drop in water in Grant Lake.|
|Exiting the North access point to June Lake Loop we were treated to excellent views |
of the volcanic mountains on the East side of hwy 395.