Posted by: GeekHiker | July 31, 2007

Bodie & The Eastern Sierras, Part 3

Part 1 here, Part 2 here

A few of the other stops that we made along the 395:

MONO LAKE

Mono Lake is one of the dominant features of the Eastern Sierra.  And of course, I didn’t manage to snap a single decent photo of it.  Damn.

Mono Lake is actually the remnant of a huge ancient lake that covered a large swath of land here.  The lake is estimated to be over 1 million years old.  Now reduced in size by the passing of geologic time (and a little help from the DWP), Mono Lake is still a fascinating place.

For one thing, Mono Lake has the best flies ever.  Why?  Well, they’re called Brine Flies, and all they want to do is get the hell away from you.  Put your hand down into a swarm of them, and they all take off.  If we could replace all the annoying flies who seem to be obsessed with my ears on my hikes with these little guys, the world would be a happier place.

Mono Lake also stands at the northern end of a series of lakes that millions of migratory birds use each year.  One of the most common seen here: seagulls.  Yep, seagulls.  They fly inland from the coast, then fly up the series of old lakes (mostly dry, now, though often wet in winter) to feed on the brine flies and have offspring.

In fact, standing on the shore of Lake Manly in Death Valley two years ago after a record rainfall, my Father and I were amazed to look up and see a flock passing overhead, heading north towards Mono Lake.  A flock of seagulls.  Flying through Death Valley.  I never got a picture.  The sight was too surreal to move.

Also of note are the Mono Lake Tufa.  Exposed after the lake level dropped due to diversions by Los Angeles, the tufa are calcium carbonate spires formed due to the interaction of freshwater springs with the salty/alkaline lake water.

Nearby to Mono Lake are the Mono Craters, some less than 600 years old.  They comprise the youngest mountain chain in North America.

Sorry I forgot to charge the batteries.  Pictures next time I go, promise.

Websites:

Mono Lake Committee

Mono Lake Tufa State Reserve

CERRO GORDO

Reached via dirt/gravel road from CA Highway 136, Cerro Gordo is another ghost town of the Eastern Sierras.  Less well preserved than the more expansive Bodie, Cerro Gordo is perhaps a better example of the true hardships of the time.

Located in the Inyo Mountains high above Owens Dry Lake (which was wet prior to diversions by the DWP), Cerro Gordo was, at various times a silver mine, a zinc mine and a lead mine.  Like Bodie, it was a typically dangerous frontier town with bars and brothels aplenty to appease the miners.

Today, only a few buildings remain, including a hotel and a house that are both available for overnight stays.  The hotel, The American Hotel, is also the oldest hotel in the Eastern Sierra Nevada.

Cerro Gordo 1

Looking east past the American Hotel towards Owens Lake and the Sierras.

Cerro Gordo 2

Looking out from the Assay Office.

Cerro Gordo 4

Old bell in Cerro Gordo.

Tours are available for $10.  The rough road to Cerro Gordo is generally best for a high clearance vehicle, but it is passable by passenger vehicle if caution is taken.  The road is single-track in several places, and vehicles traveling uphill have the right of way.

Website: http://www.cerrogordo.us/index.html

JUNE LAKE

June Lake is a resort community located on the shore of June Lake, part of a series of lakes tucked in the hills just where the mountains fall off into the desert.  Located just west of highway 385, the area has both hotels and camping, lakes for swimming, hiking trails, etc.

June Lake 1

Along the shore of June Lake

June Lake 2

Looking over June Lake towards the Sierras.

June Lake is reached via CA State Highway 158, known as the June Lake Loop.

I didn’t stay there, but I know I’ll make plans to in the future.

Website: http://junelakeloop.org/

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