Photo fun is worth a numb bum


A business trip to California required a Saturday flight in order to get a decent seat (without the hassle of explaining to management the need for a first class ticket).  What to do with some spare time out west?  Well, I had toyed with the idea of a trip down to Hearst Castle (four hours drive south) having seen some nice shots by Trey Ratcliffe there.  However, back in February with snow on the ground I drove up to see if I could visit Bodie, an old abandoned mining town in eastern California.  Alas due to road conditions, the pass across the mountains was closed and the road to Bodie itself gated and locked.
Stanislaus Forest

So, Bodie was the logical destination this time.  I had wanted to get there for sunrise (6am) but the park doesn’t open until 9am.  As a result, I drove through the Stanislaus Forest on Saturday and stayed overnight in Mammoth Lakes at a resort there, then left after a decent breakfast to visit Bodie.





Highway to Hell (CA-108)

The picturesque and very scenic California Highway 108 goes east-west from Sonora to just north of Mono Lake where it joins CA-395.  It’s a beautiful scenic drive through a vast forest with deep valleys and high peaks (9500ft or so).  It’s also an amazing pain in the behind to drive with lots of hairpin turns – perfect road if your car has a manual transmission like my Mini but a beast if you have a crappy Buick rental car.
Donnell Lake vista point
The Donnell Lake vista point is a nice place to stop and view the lake and surrounding peaks.  It also offers a break from the gyrations of the road and gives the weary traveller the chance to stretch the legs and exercise (running from a bear is not advisable by the way).
Looking down…

It’s quite a long way down I should add for those who don’t like heights.  The lake is quite a large one and appears to be pristine and ready for hikers to visit.

  
Lens dust!
I really loved this bench, situated up from the path and somewhat forgotten.  

No trip would be complete without finding some form of geographical marker.

Mono Lake

Seems to be a popular destination.  Yes, it is a nice lake but beyond that holds no real attraction for me. Mono Lake is a large, shallow saline soda lake in Mono County, California, formed at least 760,000 years ago as a terminal lake in a basin that has no outlet to the ocean. The lack of an outlet causes high levels of salts to accumulate in the lake. These salts also make the lake water alkaline.
Perhaps this makes it something of a Dead Sea and the salinity must be something else to experience when swimming.  The lake is famous for the Mono Lake brine shrimp, Artemia monica, a tiny species of brine shrimp which the migratory birds seem to feast upon. 

Approach to Mono Lake


The Mono Lake vista point on Highway 395 offers a good view of the lake (here, as the sun sets with the moon in the top right).  The lake is just over 6,000ft above sea level and seems to be unaffected by any air pollution.
Mono Lake

Sunshine through the clouds forming a weird column of light.

Light column

Mammoth Lakes

The town of Mammoth Lakes looks like a typical Californian ski town (in my opinion) – lots of alpine themed shops and restaurants and ski lodges.  They do have a good selection of food though and even in the summer, the town is still alive.  On the tops of some of the nearby peaks, there was still a decent layer of snow but nothing that could be used for skiing.

I put the Mammoth in Mammoth Lakes

Having checked into the resort, I went in search of food (Chart House steaks) and then went for a drive.  Being so far from major metropolitan areas, the nearby vista point had great views of the night sky.  During my time there, I saw close to ten shooting stars/meteorites and all the constellations were clearly visible.  Not since my trip to Iceland in January 2012 had I seen such clear skies.

Sky vista
The Plough

Categories: CA-120, CA-395, dark skies, Highway to Hell, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, Mammoth Lakes, Stanislaus Forest

3 comments

  1. Ah ha, I remember now~you tried to get up to this ghost town months ago but the road was closed for mysterious reasons–perhaps ghosts. Lovely post, fantastic photos and interesting commentary.

  2. Ah ha, I remember now….you tried to get to this ghost town months ago but the road was closed for mysterious reasons–perhaps ghosts. Super interesting post, great photos!

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