Tuolomne Meadows, Yosemite

July 2015

This July, my (Dmitriy’s) family came to visit me and Tash here in sunny California. They were here for two weeks, one of which we spent camping in Yosemite. I managed to convince them to camp in Tuolomne Meadows, which is the highest part of Yosemite. It is less crowded and developed than the better known Yosemite valley (the part with the iconic half-dome). The drive was only supposed to take five hours, but we kept on getting stuck in traffic so it took more like seven. Tash didn’t come with us at first (she was going to come up later in the week). That said, all of the photos were taken by Tash when she did come, during the last two days of the trip.

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This is a picture of Half Dome from Olmstead point, which is just a place on the side of the road where you can pull over for a nice view

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Lake Tenaya

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Tash arrived around 9  pm, and the next day we went East and crossed over Tioga pass to go explore the area known as the Mono Lake Basin. It’s a big flat area with a very salty lake in the middle. The basin is surrounded by mountain peaks. It’s empty, desert-like aesthetic creates a stark contrast with the largely wooded Yosemite national park.

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Of these two pictures, the first one is supposed to be angry and the second one happy, but it looks like my sisters didn’t get the memo.

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The most distinctive feature of the lake is its tufa formations. These spires of calcium carbonate are formed around fresh water springs bubbling up into the lake. When the level of the lake was lowered as a result of the great thirst of the evil city of Los Angeles, the tufas near the edge of the lake were exposed. They are intricate, fragile structures.

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Seb and I discussing science (I think).

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Tash managed to trick Masha into looking happy in  a photograph, it must have been the physical exertion.

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The most abundant creatures at Mono lake are flies and brine shrimp, the latter pictured here. The flies are actually one of the most fascinating aspects of the lake, though there are no photos of them in this blog post. They form vast mats on the shore of the lake, and show absolutely no interest in humans. Walking through such a mat creates a wonderful buzz of activity, without any need or desire for swatting.

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More happy / angry photos. I’m such a ball of joy.

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Salty after swimming in Mono Lake. Getting out into the lake is very painful, since you’re walking over baby tufas the whole way. Once you’re deep enough to swim, you realize that you can’t sink. The lake is salty enough that you just float in it, like the dead sea. Also, like the dead sea, it is very unpleasant to get into your eyes. I should explain that the reason for all this salinity is that there are no rivers flowing out of the lake, only coming into it. As a result, the only way water leaves the lake is by evaporation, leaving all of its minerals behind.

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Eliane thinking deep thoughts in this alien landscape.

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After swimming in the lake, we went to visit a nearby volcanic crater. The volcano is active; it last erupted several hundred years ago. It was very cool.

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The coolest thing about the crater was that there giant blocks of obsidian all over the place.

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The rock on the left is particularly interesting, because part of it is all porous and the rest is glassy obsidian. The reason for the difference has to do with the rate at which the rock cooled. The part that cooled quickly is porous, and the part that didn’t isn’t.

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Seb relaxing after an exciting day in a volcano.

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We were all salty from Mono lake, so we went for a swim in the a fresh water lake to wash off. This was Tash’s favorite part of the day.

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On the drive back to Tuolomne Meadows

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Fun with glow-sticks and long exposures.

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On top of Lembert dome, which is in the middle of the meadow and affords an excellent view. It’s about a 20 minute hike up to here.

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Big rocks on top of Lembert, probably left there by glaciers.

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On our way home, we saw this. We’ve driven past this spot before but have never gotten around to taking a picture… until now.

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