Take a cup of water, add a big spoonful of salt and two of baking soda. Take a sip. That’s how Mono Lake tastes like. The pearl of the Great Basin in the North Eastern part of California has several inlets, but no outlets besides evaporation. So all the salts and minerals stay in the lake, making it 3 times as salty as the ocean and giving it a pH of 10. Swimming in the lake is almost like taking a bath in bleach – stay in for too long and you’ll come out without your pants.
Before getting to the waterline we took some time and explored the coastline really deep. Literally. There is an old underwater volcano that is now fully exposed on the Northern coast of Mono Lake, called Black Point. When the volcano erupted about 13 000 years ago, the lava flowing out cooled quickly and as your physics teacher might have told you – most substances shrink when cooled, it hardened at the same time and then cracked, forming fissures or small canyons if you like.
A lot of people worry about finding the fissures because there is no certain trail over the black hill of volcanic ash, sand and hardened lava. We were more worried about getting to the parking lot with our car still in one piece. The long dirst road had more bumps than Kim Karadashian or Nicky Minaj could ever hope for and it took us about half an hour to drive the 7,5 km.
The view from the top was awesome, the fissures photogenic and fun to explore. We could climb into or jump over some of them to get the adrenaline going!
Then it was time for the beach. The beach was crowded, though. Not with people, but with calcium-carbonate formations called tufas. Natures artwork made visible by the dropping water level of the lake. Tufas form when the fresh water emerges from the springs under the lake and reacts with the alkaline water. Tufas are amazing, they come in all sizes and shapes and make the beach really unque.
Whats beachtime without bleachtime (swimming)! Rainer got into the greenish water only to discover that it’s not as easy to float in the water as he’d hoped, but at least the soap/bleach effect worked. Plus none of those components make the water any warmer. Oh well!
PS. The pants stayed on;)
Next up – ancient pines and Death Valley!
Days on the road: 23
Rabbits spotted on the Black Point hill: 3