Sun on the Sierra above our camp

Sunny Sierra morning above our camp

The sun on the Sierra Nevada mountains this morning was stunning. My mouth dropped open and I ran for the camera. Part of the beauty could have been because the snowy peaks above the trees provided a different view than what we had been seeing in the rocky, prickly, dry parts of southern California. I am making an effort in daily life to pay less attention to how something came to be and more attention to simply addressing what is in front of me. So the important point here: gorgeous!

In the morning we treated ourselves to luxury and bought tokens to take showers in Big Pine. Then, all cleaned up to a no-longer-offensively-smelly level, we ate breakfast at an actual restaurant. Stuffed and happy, we hit the road for what would end up being a 330 mile drive.

I am enjoying the warmth at the water's edge, and thinking about pulling off my black fleece

I am enjoying the warmth at the water’s edge, and thinking about pulling off my black fleece

Ever since we camped at Trona Pinnacles State Park, we hoped to be able to stop at Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve on our way home. The fascinating tufa formations revealed in both lakes once the water level dropped, are formed in the same way when mineral rich springs bubble up into an akaline lake. We wanted the benefit of being able to compare the 10,000 to 100,000 year old Trona pinnacles with the Mono pinnacles, which are younger and smaller.

tufa pinnacles reflect in the water at Mono Lake

tufa pinnacles reflect in the water at Mono Lake

an island of tufa

an island of tufa

The campaign to “save Mono Lake” seems to have effectively been stamped onto the public consciousness, because many people (myself included, prior to my visit) believe we need to save Mono Lake. What I found out was that the campaign was successful in reverting the damaging drain of water since 1941 from Mono’s sources. In 1994, an order to protect Mono Lake was issued, and the City of Los Angeles reduced its level of water diversion. Now we can wait for the lake to begin filling up again – not to pre-Los Angeles levels – but back up a few feet with no more danger of total evaporation because of people. So Mono Lake has been saved already – yay!

The water hosts life on many levels, to include plant life below the surface

The water hosts life on many levels, to include plant life below the surface

I was surprised at the numbers of birds there, assuming the water was somehow poisonous. But it’s not poisonous, just salty. Our morning had been a chilly one, and I pulled black fleece over my head to keep warm, but down at the south shore amongst the tufa towers, the sun quickly warmed us. We lounged and enjoyed the heat. And took photos.

A snowy egret perched atop a tufa spire

A snowy egret perched atop a tufa spire

A bird perches high atop a spire for a magnificent view

A bird perches high atop a spire for a magnificent view

Yellow grasses from last summer have not yet been replaced by this year's crop

Yellow grasses from last summer have not yet been replaced by this year’s crop

Looking west to the Sierra Nevada

Looking west to the Sierra Nevada

The solitary tube standing alone out there is a good illustration of how each tufa spire begins as a formation around a spring bubbling up from underground.

The solitary tube standing alone out there is a good illustration of how each tufa spire begins as a formation around a spring bubbling up from underground.

After that it was time to go. We had much driving ahead of us, and we had recently discovered that the iPod connection that Arno installed had stopped working. Best guess is that it got disconnected during all the back country roads we bounced over in the pickup. We were not able to listen to music or news or audiobooks. So I pulled the laptop from the back seat and read a few chapters to Arno from my Shemya book that has been about 10 years in the making. I will -I WILL- finish it someday. Sharing it with other people really does help me pressure myself to work on it more.

Since we’ve known each other, in fact since our very first date, Arno and I occasionally come across topics that are too big to discuss in the moment. Arno suggested on our first date, as we stood on the Troll Bridge, that perhaps it was a topic to bring up later over a glass of wine. In the meantime, we’ve had this come up often: a topic to be discussed over wine. If it’s a heavy-duty topic, we suggest it should be discussed later over whiskey, heh heh. In anticipation of the trip, I had done a subject search of all our old emails (I’ve kept them all) for the keyword “wine” and had a list ready of stuff we now had time to talk about. We were driving, so there was no wine, but that was ok.

Preoccupied with talking, we zoomed north through Carson City and Reno, barely noticing them. I did interrupt discussion to point at the Upper Air dome (the radar that tracks the instrument box attached to launched weather balloons) as we passed the Reno National Weather Service office. I bragged that when UA operations were moved from Winnemucca to Reno, I was the one who wrote the SOP and and trained the Reno staff on how to fill, launch, and track weather balloons.

Our camp beside the Lassen National Forest road

Our camp beside the Lassen National Forest road

In that way, we made it to Susanville and barely noticed the miles. It was getting late, and though a campground at Old Station had been recommended, we didn’t want to go that far. I was driving along Highway 44 when I saw a sign for Bogard Campground. I pulled off onto the red dirt road, and the truck got bogged a little bit in the mud. We came up over a hill and had to stop because the road was completely snow-covered. We were nowhere near the campground, but ready to stop anyhow, so we got out to take a look. When Arno found a fire pit, that sealed the deal. We found a dry-ish spot for the tent and settled in.

Yes, I am blogging by the campfire. In a skirt. And a down jacket.

Yes, I am blogging by the campfire. In a skirt. And a down jacket.

Well after dark, we heard a eerie bird call that was much like the Common Loons I had heard when living in New England. Perhaps they were Pacific Loons, I don’t know, but their call was so compelling I couldn’t bear to make a sound while I heard it. After the fire died and we went to bed, I turned up my face and was astonished to see a million gazillion stars! I forget! I forget how many there are, and how incredible it is to see them without light pollution.

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