Showing posts from January, 2015

California 30th October, autumn colour on the way to Bodie

After breakfast we set out for Bodie, a deserted mining town to the north east of Lee Vining. It is managed by the National Park Service and has been kept in a state of 'arrested decay'. Everyone I knew who has visited this part of the world said that we must visit Bodie and I wondered why, as it sounded a little bit of a Disney experience. Rest assured it is not and I would love to go back there.
The road to Bodie is north on the 395 and then you turn off east for 10 miles the last 3 of which are just a dirt track and make for an interesting trip.
Going up the 395 we noticed a lovely group of aspen trees still in their autumn colour, great for us as most of the trees had lost their leaves by now. They were on the other side of the road but we (rather dangerously as we were nearly mown down by a lorry on the return) crossed over to a lay-by.
Then as a bonus on the dirt road we saw some more trees and a golden eagle overhead. I only had my 24-70mm lens on so the eagle pictures …

California 30th October, dawn among the tufa

Lee Vining lies near the shore of Mono Lake, a large expanse of extremely alkaline water. The lake formed in a depression after a volcanic eruption. Several streams feed it, but as there is no outlet, the water only leaves by evaporation and so the salt levels have gradually grown more and more concentrated. This alkaline water does not support much life except for brine shrimps which feed off algal blooms, but these shrimps and the black flies that eat them provide for a very large population of migratory birds. As Los Angeles enlarged the city created the rights to take water from a large area of southern California, including Mono Lake. Owens Lake dried up completely and Mono Lake was severely depleted, so much so that the tufa which is now seen along the shoreline emerged from above the waterline and the birds using the tufa islands for nesting were threatened by predators which could walk out along the exposed spits to eat the eggs and chicks. The salinity of the lake grew from 5…

California 29th October, Cathedral Lakes Trail

We stopped at the parking area by the Cathedral Lakes trailhead and read the notices. Bears were apparently very active in the neighbourhood and there was only one other car in the vicinity, this side of Yosemite was really quiet. It was suggested that all food toiletries etc were emptied from cars and placed in the provided bear lockers. As any passing bear would have only a couple of cars to go at we thought it sensible to comply. Bear damage is not covered by any hire insurance and the hire company had told us of returned cars with trails of bear claws down the side and smashed in windows. Having lugged all our gear including the chiller into the locker we made some sandwiches and set off on the 5 hour journey.
The first part was pretty boring as we laboured upwards through the conifers but we soon reached the base of the north side of Cathedral Peak, unrecognisable from this angle and saw a glimpse of smoke and smell of burning from the distant forest fires. We could see evidence …

California 29th October, back along the Tioga Road for sunrise.

The campsite in Lee Vining was very comfortable compared to the National Park site we had had in Yosemite valley. The Park sites are normally very basic and all that is provided is drinking water, loos and means of disposal of any waste, so to get up in the morning and go to a room with showers, mirrors and warmth was lovely. We did drag ourselves away very promptly though and drove up the Lee Vining Grade in the dark to get sunrise around the head of the Tioga Pass. I have included a picture of the plaque on the top of the pass for information and so I don't have to type it all out. It was bitterly cold there and there was much stamping of feet and blowing of nails.
We were lucky that some small groves of aspens still had some leaves as the colour stood out so well in the gloaming.

When the light had finally come up we drove back to our picnic site of yesterday by Lembert Dome to get make some breakfast and coffee. As a luxury we had bought ourselves a cafetiére in San Francisco,…