Johnson 2017 Western Trip travel blog

Ellery Lake along Tioga Pass

Tioga Lake still has ice and snow on it

Half Dome in the valley below can be spotted at Olmsted Point

Bridal Veil Falls is unusually full

Upper Yosemite Falls

Half Dome with the Merced River in foreground in the valley

Mono Lake from Tioga Pass Road

Mono Lake overview

Mono Lake tufa

Mary Ann in front of Mono Lake tufa - all of this...

Tufa islands in the lake

Chunks of shiny obsidian in Panum Crater

Surprising that trees are surviving in the crater

Harsh terrain inside the crater

We are in the Eastern Sierra mountains and the scenery is gorgeous. Today we drove to Mono Lake, an endangered lake (because LA pulled water out of it for 40 years) that is 10% salt (more than the Pacific Ocean! The lake is still beautiful and efforts have been underway to stabilize it.

Then we drove over Tioga Pass into Yosemite, one of our all time favorite parks. Because of the snow melt, the waterfalls are full and spectacular. The pass just opened for the season earlier this week.

We returned to Lee Vining to Mono Lake to the tufa on the south shore. Tufa are the dried up springs that were underwater and fed the lake before LA started using the water and the lake levels dropped so dramatically. The springs calcified into rock and now are otherworldly formations.

Next to Mono Lake is the newest mountain range in the country - it was formed by volcanic action only 650 years ago - just before Columbus discovered America! Ken hiked up the smallest of the mountains and across its crater. The volcanic rock is either pumice (lava that had bubbles) or obsidian (lava extruded with no bubbles - a shiny black rock that can be flaked off to form one of the sharpest edges known to man).

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