The winter rains in California this year have not relieved its drought. Mono Lake near Yosemite is not as bad as Lake Mead, but its level has dropped slightly in the past year. It is currently at about 6, 379 feet and has been near this level for the past year or so. It has only dropped half a foot overall. This is good news and no guarantee of future expansion because of global warming. It will take a statewide cooling trend for this to continue. Hopefully the storm that is predicted for California today and brought snow to Death Valley will affect Mono Lake’s level too, but that is not very likely. Death Valley is visible from the highest elevations in this national forest.
Mono Lake is an interesting destination, Ruth and I stopped there after visiting Manzanar and Bishop, CA. It is a salt lake said to be one million years old, and I was fascinated by the islands I saw from the distance in this lake. This lake is said to be the home of many brine shrimp, but I saw none of these that day. I was told that I would be bothered by flies but none were around the visitor center that day. People come to see this lake’s tufa, spires and knobs formed by calcium carbonate. I also passed on seeing the Mono Craters that are evidence of volcanic eruptions in the most recently formed mountain range in North America. Living not too far from Mount St Helens probably influenced this decision as did the displays outside the visitor center I was near. However, the tufa were not in evidence either that day. I resisted the temptation to walk around this grand but somewhat forbidding expanse of water while hoping to see the Bodie Hills to its north. We were able to stop and see this huge lake because we were driving California 395 north to Oregon on that day.
I regret now that I did not take the time to dine at the Whoa Nellie Deli in a local gas station at the foot of this pass that takes the curious to Yosemite National Park. We drove the high road to it several years ago and I still remember its grandeur. We also did not go into the town of Lee Vining or see its canyon. The Whoa Nellie is famous for its fish tacos, and I had not had lunch. However, I was not especially hungry and decided to wait until the next time I was in the area.
It was fear that Yosemite would be closed or at least difficult that kept me looking at Mono Lake instead of attempting to drive over the high mountains of Tioga Pass to it. I would have enjoyed passing through the Inyo National Forest, but we had just seen the ancient Bristlecone forest near Bishop. I really wanted to see Highway 120 again, but we had already experienced snow on this trip and I knew that the road in Yosemite was closed in winter. Maybe this year I will attempt it again.