Mono Lake & Tuolomne Meadows

 July 2014

Day 1 – Santa Cruz to Lee Vinning

We left Santa Cruz right after school. We swung by the store to pick up camping food, and ate a delicious dinner of bread and cheez-its/goldfish. At one point there was some panic because I thought I forgot my camera, but it turned out it was in the car after all. Sunset was very vibrant.

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We got to our campsite around 12:30, pitched the tent, and went to bed. At some point in the night, I heard this big crash and assumed somebody had kicked over a trash can. I went to the bathroom and was wandering back, when I realized it was actually a fully grown black bear rooting through the trash, 20ft from our tent! I woke up Nick and Dmitriy and we all watched it for a while. It was a bit hard going back to sleep. We could hear the bear roaming the camp knocking over all the trash cans.  Nick and I had never seen a wild bear before, so it was pretty neat!

Day 2 – Mono Lake and Gem Lake

We went to see the tufas at Mono Lake, by the South Tufa Trail.

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The tufa towers are deposits of calcium carbonate that form when freshwater springs leak into the lake and interact with the alkaline lake water. The places where this happens it looks like oil has been spilled into freshwater.

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Mono Lake is extremely salty because it has no outlet to the ocean, so water evaporates but the salt has no outlet/escape. Tufa towers can only grow underwater and all the ones currently on land used to be submerged. Part of why the lake level has lowered so much is because LA tried to drain it for drinking water.

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There were lots of brine flies. I loved walking through the patches and there would just be these huge “WOOSH” as they all flew away.

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Here is a close-up.

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This must be the coolest place in the world to go SCUBA diving!

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 When Dmitriy came out, his legs were coated in white stuff. We weren’t sure if it was salt or calcium carbonate.

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Mono lake was a cool place to see, but the tufas are found in a pretty small area, so its not really more than a morning activity. We asked the park ranger for suggestions of hikes for the afternoon and she recommended doing a hike off the June Lakes Loop.

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We decided to hike to Gem Lake. It is located in Inyo National Forest, and it was nice because there weren’t a lot of people around.

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The view was very nice, but there was also a lot of human stuff. There was a railroad track going up the mountain, electrical lines, human dams, etc., so I thought it was very pretty but wasn’t expecting anything particularly amazing. I was wrong.

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Here Nick is at the top, looking out over the valley we climbed up from.

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Here is Gem Lake. This is one of the most beautiful views and best hikes I’ve ever done! 10/10! It was incredible, and the water was super blue and it was so isolated and perfect.

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We started hiking around the perimeter of the lake and decided to stop for lunch in a small bay. We went for a dip, and then climbed the small mountain you can see in the following picture (the taller of the two). It was pretty steep, so you had to use your hands.

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We swam to an island in the middle of the lake and jumped! (I went first, and then later took a photo of Nick and Dmitriy)

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This is the view from the top of the mountain.

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Goofing around.

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We were sad to leave. Next year when Nick visits (wink wink) we’re going backpacking in Inyo!

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After the hike I wanted to go see sunset on the tufas because I thought they would get illuminated and turn reddish (from photos I had seen). The tufas didnt really change colour,  but we enjoyed hanging out on the beach.

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Moonrise at Mono Lake.

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We drove by Nicely’s restaurant (my Dad has a shirt from when we went to Nicely’s 10+ years ago and it is apparently very good advertising), but it closed at 9 so it was too late for us to eat there. We had dinner and went to sleep wondering if the bear would come back that night (he didn’t).

Day 3 – Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite

*Tuolumne is pronounced Too-all-uh-me*

We packed up first thing and drove to Yosemite through the Tioga Pass, which is only open in the summer. This is one of my favourite photos of the three of us.

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By the time Nick made reservations to come to California it was way too late to make reservations at a campground so we went for a walk-in. I read on the internet that if you get there before 12 it should be ok, but we wanted to be extra careful so we got there at 9:30 and were fourth on the list. The rangers told us to come back at 2 to find out if there were any vacancies. We decided to bum around the meadows, which was really nice for me because I slept badly and had a horrible headache.

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You can see Cathedral Peak in the background, just to the left of Nick’s head.

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We had peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. While packing for the trip, Dmitriy purposefully only packed his massive knife (and no normal ones) to ensure it got some use : P Here I am using it for spreading peanut butter. Nick and Dmitriy are both really picky about their PB sandwiches.

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The sloped mountain on the left is Lembert Dome.

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Nick and Dmitriy jumped into the stream for a dip. They said it was super cold, and it was very funny to watch their reactions.

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We saw a lot of wildlife on our trip, including this guy.

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Just before 2 we went back to the campsite, and it turns out everybody who showed up on that day got a site. I couldn’t believe it because it was the most beautiful, perfect Saturday morning. We hung out at the campsite for the rest of the day, and it was very enjoyable and we got to make a campfire (special because many places are banning them right now because the drought is making wildfire risk extremely high). Look what happened to the marshmallow bag because of the high altitude! My toothpaste bottle actually exploded. Some of it got on my sun lotion bottle, so I assumed that had also exploded and started rubbing the “sun lotion” onto my face in the morning… until I realized only my toothpaste had exploded and my face now had a big patch of toothpaste rubbed on.

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We dined on sausage and ramen burritos.

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Then we watched the sunset. We saw a family walk by and their young kid was collecting rocks, and he mistook a giant blob of horse poop for a rock.

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Day 4 – Tuolomne Meadows, Yosemite

Nick slept very poorly, if at all. I felt bad for him and am very impressed that he made it all the way up on the hike.  We went on the Cathedral Lakes hike, which was supposed to be 3.5 miles each way.

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There were a ton of purple wildflowers.

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We reached the top of the trail!

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This is Cathedral Peak. It is one of the only two point/jagged peaks in Yosemite because all the other mountains in Yosemite were beneath glaciers during the last ice age, and therefore the tops got eroded and rounded.

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See the slope on the left hand side in this photo? Dmitriy decided we should climb it.

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Best idea ever! The view from up there made the hike! (The water on the left is not the Lake, it is a small pool about 20ft down)

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The elevation from here was just under 10, 000ft.

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I like this photo because you can just see how much it looks like it could have been carved out by glaciers.

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Before heading home we went for a dip in Cathedral Lake. It was very refreshing, and we saw a rainbow in the clouds while swimming.

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On our drive home we stopped at Olmstead Point for a view of Half Dome. What a great trip :)

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