Travelog II || Mono Lake
Wow, that was an insanely good weekend―albeit the long drive. Before this trip, I have never even heard of Mono Lake or what a Tufa (too-fah) is. No one really talks about it like they do for Yosemite and Tahoe. A good friend went to Lee Vining the weekend before and sent me a gazillions of photo from his trip, which sparked my motivation and adventurous spirit to make the long drive out there for a weekend.
By far, this was one of my most spontaneous trips. Was it worth it? Hell to the fur-reaken yes!
The drive from San Francisco to Lee Vining was roughly 5 1/2 hours, via I-80 E, US-50 E/El Dorado Fwy and US-395 S. The road-trip started at the (butt)crack of dawn on a Saturday morning at 6AM. We made our arrival to Lee Vining at 12:30PM, there were a few pit-stops along the way.
My tiny tip for Mono Lake: don't go at 12PM-3PM. Why? On a sunny day, it can get quite hot and you'll feel the desert heat. Carry lots of water with you, this is especially important if you're with a pup. The environment is dry without any shade. Also, photos won't be as spectacular as you would have otherwise imagined since the sunlight gets harsh around this time of day. Not to mention with the Tufas being near white, the reflective it gives off might overexpose your photos. Just be prepare for this kind of weather when there are no clouds.
Here's what you can do while waiting for the sun to set: make the extra short drive to June Lake (roughly 14 miles away from Mono Lake depending on which route you take). Either take CA-158 near CA-120, which takes you on a loop around June Lake (20-30 minutes), or continue south of US-385 and then turn right onto CA-158 (10-15 minutes).
June Lake is a small town with a population of about 604, it's full of friendly people with a chill atmosphere. Not to mention that it's also pet-friendly, so you'll be okay with letting your pup swim in the lakes. Cooper had a blast at Gull Lake and June Lake, he went for a swim with the ducks in both.
After chillin' around June Lake for a couple of hours, it was time to head back to Mono Lake. We explored more of the reserve the second time around and it was a lot cooler at 5PM than it was at 1PM. Even then, the sun has yet to set and I haven't been able to capture the kind of photos I had anticipated. So to kill more time, we left to go check into our motel (Yosemite Gateway Motel); which was only 10 minutes away.
You know that saying, third's time the charm? I made it back to Mono Lake at peak sunset (6:45PM) and found the entire shore to be perfectly calm with very few humans around. The blue and purple gradient from the mountains helped reflect the colors into the water, making for a drop-dead gorgeous view of the entire lake. The wind calmed down near sunset and gave off a stunning reflective surface, which added that extra 'oompf' for a spectacular scenery of the Tufas.
Fun Facts about Mono Lake: It is one of the oldest lakes in North America and has been around for over 760,000 years. The lake's salinity is saltier than the sea and you're allow to swim in it!
Highly recommend this gem for those that are looking for a mini road-trip in California. You'll only need a day or less to explore everything so don't rush, just take your time. When you have that adventurous spirit and urge to travel, do it. It's good for the soul.
:✘: Outfits :✘: