Arriving at Mono Lake, CA

Lee Vining, CA

We stayed in Carson City for an extra day to let some rainy weather pass.  When Monday dawned with clear skies, we headed south on US-395 into the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.  Dave and Sue stopped to fill up their propane tank then followed us into the mountains.

Into theHills

US-395 in this area is an incredible scenic route through beautiful snow-covered mountains.

Snow in the distance

Rounding a bend we were greeted with a vista that takes one’s breath away.  Out in the distance below us was Mono Lake!

The highway drops steeply down into the Mono Basin, winding around the end of the lake.

We quickly set up at Mono Vista RV Park, the only option in the town of Lee Vining (pop. 222) and headed to Mono Lake to check out the sand tufa.  Mono Lake’s tufa towers (pronounced “toofah”) are spectacular examples of what nature can do with a few basic elements.  These unusual spires and knobs are formed when calcium-bearing freshwater springs happen to well up through alkaline lake water, which is rich in carbonates.  The calcium and carbonate combine, precipitating out as limestone. Over many years, a tower forms around the mouth of the spring.  This tufa-forming reaction happens only in the lake itself.   As the lake level drops and exposes the tufa towers, they cease to grow.

Salty lake water (carbonates) + freshwater springs (calcium) + sand  = Intricate Sand Tufa (calcium carbonate).

Young tufa that didn’t get a chance to develop.

There is so much to do and see near the little town of Lee Vining that our scheduled week stay may prove to be insufficient.  But we plan to get busy early each day this week and fit in as much as possible.

More on that later . . .

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24 Responses to Arriving at Mono Lake, CA

  1. RJRVtravels says:

    Have fun! We loved our trip down 395 – tons to see and do and some good hiking spots along the way.

  2. Mary says:

    That looks so interesting. How far north are you going to go? We start heading west to Seattle today.

  3. Gay says:

    It’s beautiful… just another example of how amazing nature is. Looks like you will be having lots of fun. We can’t wait!

  4. Laurel says:

    I like your explanation of the tufa formations. A whole week there! That sounds wonderful. We’re still hoping we can meet up with you somewhere along 395 — we head out on Friday. 😉

  5. Jodee Gravel says:

    Leave it to a “history guy” to make science interesting 🙂 Glad it was a nice drive south, that snow is so pretty. The Trona Pinnacles are another great place to find interesting, and weird, formations like this. It’s a short side trip when you get near Ridgecrest.

  6. You are going to have a very busy week! We spent a month there and still want to go back as we didn’t get to do everything we wanted.

    • placestheygo says:

      Yes, I have our six days packed full, for sure! We don’t want to lose the good weather and we still have Bishop and Lone Pine to go. But we can always come back for things we miss:)

  7. You are heading g down into our neck of the woods. We just returned from Ridgway/Ouray and places in between. Our month long equipment test. Now that we’re home, depression is already setting in. We need to be on the road. Highway 395 is a treasure. Enjoy. We’d love to meet you guys someday. Any stops planned in the Victorville area?

  8. Love all the snow already on those mountains…they need it badly!

  9. Janna says:

    How cool is that–see what we learn reading blogs!!

  10. Ingrid says:

    How unique and interesting!

  11. pmbweaver says:

    Love the header photo.

    Gorgeous Vista view!

    This is one of the coolest places I have ever seen. We have never ever heard of Sand Tufa. They are amazing and so beautiful. Thanks for sharing this unique place.

  12. LuAnn says:

    I am really drawn to Mono Lake, especially at dawn. This is also where a deer jumped out and hit us earlier this year. If you are like the rest of us, you will have to do 395 again and again, there is so much to see and do.

  13. Nancy says:

    What a gorgeous place this is. I have never seen a sand tufa. Quite interesting!

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