We arrived at Mono Vista RV Park just a few nights before they would close for the season (on Nov. 1st). A nice little RV park, it is just down the street from the Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center.
There we found the lovely creek trail we'd hiked on our last visit had been washed out by the raging snow melt this past winter so our post-drive leg stretcher hike was a sandy trek down to the lake shore instead.
Mono Lake is a large shallow lake with no outlet so it is highly saline and alkaline. The flies and brine shrimp that thrive there feed many thousands of birds on their annual migration. From 1941 to 1990 water was diverted from the streams feeding Mono Lake and the water level dropped 45 feet endangering this fragile ecosystem.
In 1994 a lawsuit determined that the lake must be allowed to recover to 20 feet above its lowest level. Fortunately the heavy rains and snow pack this past winter is helping to reach that goal, though there is still a long ways to go, it was good to see much more water in the lake than we'd seen in 2014.
|Wetlands and tufas around Mono Lake.|
The low black hill on the opposite shore is Black Point, an ancient underwater eruption...
we will climb that tomorrow.
|Tufa are limestone columns formed long ago by calcium rich underwater springs when the lake was much deeper.|
We began our one full day in Lee Vining with a hike to the Black Point Fissures. This small hill on the north edge of Mono Lake erupted underwater thousands of years ago and the fissures were created by the rapid cooling. There is no official trail, just head up the loose black cinder hill towards the top and continue past the high point until you come across the fissures.
|Loose, black sand-like cinders make the climb into a workout.|
|The fissures are similar to slot canyons we've seen elsewhere in the west.|
|I thought this was a neat hike, it's about three miles round trip with a treasure hunt feel as you search for the fissures.|
Not everyone will like the deep cinders and all the bushwacking involved.
Making the most of our limited time in the area our second hike for the day was to Parker Lake, a trail we'd learned about from Hans' brother, Norm. The trailhead is located up a short dirt road off of June Lake Loop.
This was a gorgeous trail! The long distance views, both back towards Mono Lake, and ahead into the towering Sierra Nevada mountains, the burbling creek, the enormous Ponderosa Pines, all served to take our minds off the fact we were hiking up at 8,000 feet!
|The trail starts climbing gently right away, |
the views behind us to Mono Lake and various volcanic mountains were beautiful.
|Parker Creek burbled away in the canyon to our right and the Sierras loomed ahead of us.|
|Lively Parker Creek accompanied us through the second half of the trail.|
|We saw numerous decent sized trout, both in the creek and the lake.|
|Parker Lake did not disappoint.|
|We decided to try to circle the lake.|
The going got a little rough at the far end but we made it all the way around.
|The big pile of sticks at bottom right is a beaver lodge.|
The water was so clear it was tempting to sit and watch until a beaver emerged!
There are endless adventures to be found around Lee Vining, one full day just barely scratches the surface. But we've got places to be...onward!