in The State We're In, Things we do

Sightseeing solo in the Mono Basin: a tufa one special

You see what I did there?

No?

No, because you probably don’t know that a tufa is a particular kind of limestone spire that you see if you visit Mono Lake in California’s eastern Sierras.

And I went to see them on my own. Tufa one.

Get it now?

These are tufas.

These are tufa.

This is how they're formed.

This is how they’re formed.

When the lake was higher, as little as 60 years ago, all these tuftas were under water.

When the lake was higher, as little as 75 years ago (a blip in its 1- to 3-million year history), all these tufa were under water.

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I learned a lot about the tufas, Mono Lake, and water politics on a guided tour put on by the Mono Basin Visitor's Center.

I learned a lot about the tufa, Mono Lake, and water politics on a guided tour put on by the Mono Basin Visitor’s Center. You can read about the lake’s history here — a fascinating story involving water diversion to Los Angeles in the 1940’s, a grassroots “save the lake” effort in the 1970’s, and a compromise reached between the two — but I don’t want to take up blog space with it. This sign marks the lake level that was mandated by that compromise, 6392 feet above sea level. It’s still got some growing to do.

Our ranger, Duncan, did a demo showing how fresh water interacts with the briny lake water, which has a PH level of 10. That's salty! (Also, I did not take this photo to sneakily capture the hottie biker guy sitting on that rock, but I can't say I'm disappointed. His eyes.

Our ranger, Duncan, did a demo showing how fresh water interacts with the briny lake water, which has a pH level of 10. That’s salty!
(Also, I did not take this photo to sneak-capture the hottie biker guy sitting on that rock, but I can’t say I’m disappointed it happened. His eyes, y’all.)

No fish in the lake, just brine shrimp. Remember sea monkeys from the 70's? Same dealio.

No fish in the lake, just brine shrimp. Remember sea monkeys from the 70’s? Same dealio.

Oh, and why I am I sightseeing solo? It’s only temporary. Tim and our younger son are hiking the John Muir Trail, and I am doing the opposite of sitting at home pining for them.  My goal: an adventure a day.

On a related note, we’re all a little sad that Tim’s dad didn’t get to accompany us on this adventure after all (read this). He learned that the knee pain he’d been powering through during his training hikes is in fact a torn meniscus, so hiking the JMT was not a possibility. Sigh. Maybe next year?

Anyway, back to me. So far my adventures have included exploring Lee Vining, our hometown-of-the-month, and driving the nearby June Lake Loop.

Lot's of character in this 3-block town...

Lot’s of character in this 3-block town…

... like the old school house museum...

… like the old school house museum

... and this 1935 shit-I-thought-I'd-remember-it truck (apologies to those who get into makes and models)...

… and this 1935 shit-I-thought-I’d-remember-it truck (apologies to those who get into makes and models)…

... and Nellie Bly's upside down house.

… and Nellie Bly’s upside down house.

Yep. The boots are by the bed, but everything's on the ceiling. Gives new meaning to the song, "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under."

Yep. The boots are by the bed, but everything’s on the ceiling.
Gives new meaning to the song, “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?

The town also offers spectacular views of Mono Lake.

The town also offers spectacular views of Mono Lake.

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Scenes from the June Lake Loop

Scenes from the June Lake Loop

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I pulled in to stop at a scenic overlook, and found a slot machine in a rock. If you can't read the story about why it's there, click here.

I pulled in to stop at a scenic overlook, and found a slot machine in a rock. If you can’t read the story about why it’s there, click here.

Just south of the June Lake Loop, on Hwy 395? A whole lot of wow.

Just south of the June Lake Loop, on Hwy 395: a whole lot of wow.

What’s coming up next in my adventure-a-day schedule? A ghost town, an alpine hike, maybe some hot springs, and of course, Yosemite National Park. I bought the pass; I’m just waiting for a weekday to go, in hopes of avoiding the biggest of the summer crowds.

You’ll know where to find the full report!

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