Sunday, June 12, 2016

Busy times.... Mono Lake, Tioga Pass, Yosemite, Mammoth Mountain Skiing in June

A Stunning View Through Tioga Pass to Mono Lake and the Valley Below

Roger here... Yesterday, we decided to take a Jim and Ann car trip.  Jim and Ann were my parents.  I was blessed to have them.  They both felt that travel was an important part of my upbringing.  They even insisted that I take a trip with them to the Canadian Rockies when I was twenty.  You will hear more about that trip in August.  

Mom and Dad loved taking my brother and I on long vacations via automobile.  I always wanted to get out and explore.  Mom and Dad wanted to stop, take pictures, and move on.  I honestly now enjoy doing both. 


Since our intent yesterday was to travel in the car to see things we had never seen before with no intent to spend much time out of the car, this was a Jim and Ann trip.  Our first stop was the green (and very salty) waters of Mono Lake.

We intended to go to the Visitors Center on the north side of the lake, but mistakenly turned at a sign post that directed us to the south side of the lake.  It was a good mistake.

After a five-mile drive while second-guessing the wrong turn, we arrived at a one-mile informative trail along the shore of the lake --- a good opportunity to stretch our legs and walk the dogs.

The most recognizable features of the lake are the tufa formations.  These interesting structures were formed when spring waters underneath the lake, highly rich in calcium, mixed with the lake waters forming calcium carbonate (limestone).  As the lake receded the structures became visible.  Sorry, always the science teacher. 

The lake itself is VERY salty --- three times saltier than the oceans.  Fish cannot survive in the waters, but brine shrimp that attract gulls thrive.  Tequila got a good slurp of the water.  We wish we had gotten a picture of her face.  She shook her head and licked her lips continually until we got her some fresh water back at the car, which she drank vast quantities of.  


Our next Jim and Ann activity was a drive through the Tioga Pass, the highest pass in the Sierra Nevadas --- nearly 10,000 feet.  Our Toyota handled the twisty climb well, in 3rd gear.  Look closely at the colorful picture below and you can see the roadway that was cut into the side of the mountain.

The Tioga Road is closed ninth months during each year due to snow, sometimes reaching depths of thirty feet.  It was actually still closed a couple of weeks ago when we were down the road in Lone Pine.

This is a vertical view of the rocky face of the pass that was taken from the car.  It is amazing that trees can grow out of that solid rock.

Flowers too...

As we neared the highest levels of the pass, a spectacular waterfall appeared, plunging into the abyss below.

We were soon driving between patches of snow.  Our south Texas dogs had never experienced snow before.  Bandido was fearful at first.  A little later, the fear abated, but he really wanted to warm up his paws.  Tequila's reaction was a little different.  She perceived it as a gigantic snow cone.


We soon entered Yosemite.  We had been there before, but spent most of our time in the iconic Yosemite Valley.  We had not ventured to the east side of the park.  

This rushing mountain stream next to the roadway led us to the very green and lush Tuolumne Meadow.  The way the stream in the pictures below meandered through the meadow at the level of the grass was so interesting.

In springtime this meadow is filled with wildflowers.  Unfortunately for us, we were a month early.  Spring at this altitude in Yosemite does not happen until July.

Soon, we were driving by rocky domes that had been smoothed by glaciers.

Lunch time was approaching.  We had bought overpriced deli sandwiches just before ascending the Tioga Pass.  It was time to eat them.  Since we were now in the national park, the dogs were not allowed in the picnic areas.  It was also chilly, so we ate in the car.  It was not too much of a hardship since our view was of Tenaya Lake.

Lunch with a View

The picture below shows Bandido and Tequilas' lunchtime view.

After lunch, we drove on to what I believe is the best view in Yosemite (outside of the Yosemite Valley on the west side) --- Olmsted Point.

The dogs were not allowed to explore the trail in the picture below, so we confined our viewing to the parking area in true Jim and Ann tradition.

Science teacher alert... As the glaciers receded, smoothing granite surfaces, they left behind the giant boulders that they had been slowly moving.

I was not able to restrain myself.  There I was in the middle of all those easily-climbed rocks.  I had to go climbing.

Look!  There is Tenaya Lake, where we had lunch.

One of the best features of Olmstead Point is a clear view of the back side of Half Dome.

I was not going to use the picture below of a wind-blown Dianne with Half Dome in the background because it was fuzzy.  Dianne informed me that people our age look their best in fuzzy pictures :-).  So....

A little air-brushing never hurts....

Here is one last shot of Tenaya Lake (in the valley) before our return trip.  A fitting end to the Jim and Ann tour.

See Tenaya Lake and our curvy road on the left


We intended to go on a hike in the mountains the next day, but it was cloudy and chilly with the possibility of rain.  Trudging through the snow and mud with wet dogs did not appeal to us.  Plan B....  We drove up to the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area in search of coffee.  Coffee in a lodge --- something Ann would like.  When we arrived, we actually needed to search to find a spot in the very full parking lot.  Hey, are those people actually carrying skis on June 11?  Surely not.

As we approached the lodge, it was evident that the ski lifts were running and that skiers were gliding down the mountain.  We walked to the third floor of the lodge, bought some very overpriced coffee, and watched the early summer fun on the mountain.

Gondolas, Chair Lifts, Skiers, and Snow Boarders

Other activities in this busy outdoor area included zip-lines, bungee jumps, and a climbing wall.

Below is a picture of the Mammoth Statue of Mammoth Mountain next to the climbing wall.

I can't forget to mention what seems to be the major summer outdoor activity in Mammoth Lakes.  BICYCLING, not only along the pervasive paved paths throughout the town of Mammoth Lakes, but also down the steeply sloped paths of Mammoth Mountain.  Buses actually transport bicycles and their riders to the ski area so they can ride the treacherous paths through the pine forests and down the mountain.  I wish I were a little younger.

Bus with trailer full of bicycles

By the way.  It did begin to rain as we walked back to the car.  We got wet despite our efforts to stay dry. 

After our morning on the mountain, we took the dogs for a walk along one of the hike/bike trails in town.  When the rains seemed imminent and the top of Mammoth Mountain disappeared in snowy clouds, the picture editing and blog writing began.

The forecast for tomorrow --- 80 percent chance of rain and/or thundershowers.  We have been so lucky with weather thus far.  A quiet reading day in the motor home does not sound so bad.  

The pet picture of the day shows Tequila posing (or being posed) between a hole in one of the tufas at Mono Lake.


JunieLou said...

Beautiful beautiful pictures. Loved the different reactions the dogs had to the snow. :)

heyduke50 said...

quite a diversity of climates