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Spectacular Mono Lake

See the Eastern Sierra's great salt lake, just east of Yosemite.

Characteristic tufa tower formations along the Mono shoreline. They're particularly concentrated at the lake's south end.
Characteristic tufa tower formations along the Mono shoreline. They're particularly concentrated at the lake's south end.

Highway 89 south out of Lake Tahoe to Route 395 has got to be one of THE most pleasurable rides in a stick shift.

It’s definitely a road reserved for the unfettered. The steep switchbacks require aggressive use of the gears and the views – if granted with clear skies – extend onto and into forever.

Coming down off the mountain pass into a Rock Monster–like canyon, the view reveals a wide-open valley as far as the eye can see: the Great Basin, the largest watershed in North America. And there, at the center of it all, lies Mono Lake.

the beauty of Mono from afar

Mono Lake, surrounded by the remnants of an ancient lava flow, is southeast of Yosemite National Park and the Sierras. Known for its tufa towers, mineral deposits that jut out from the water’s surface due to there being less rain to replenish that which evaporates, Mono is the largest natural lake in California. It’s 2.5 times as salty and 80 times as alkaline as the ocean.

As I drove, approaching the lake, its stunningly still surface mirrored the cool autumn pinks and blues of the late afternoon sky.

Evening shadows began to stretch long and low over Mammoth Lakes and Inyo National Forest as Mount Whitney came into view south of the lake. Juxtaposed with Death Valley at 282 feet below sea level, Whitney peaks at 14,505 feet, earning it recognition as the highest summit in the States, excluding Alaska.

Further south, a fault block geological formation – the contrast of the smooth, creased lowland hills of the valley to jagged un-weathered eastern peaks called the Needles – was pronounced as the sun began to set.

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Characteristic tufa tower formations along the Mono shoreline. They're particularly concentrated at the lake's south end.
Characteristic tufa tower formations along the Mono shoreline. They're particularly concentrated at the lake's south end.

Highway 89 south out of Lake Tahoe to Route 395 has got to be one of THE most pleasurable rides in a stick shift.

It’s definitely a road reserved for the unfettered. The steep switchbacks require aggressive use of the gears and the views – if granted with clear skies – extend onto and into forever.

Coming down off the mountain pass into a Rock Monster–like canyon, the view reveals a wide-open valley as far as the eye can see: the Great Basin, the largest watershed in North America. And there, at the center of it all, lies Mono Lake.

the beauty of Mono from afar

Mono Lake, surrounded by the remnants of an ancient lava flow, is southeast of Yosemite National Park and the Sierras. Known for its tufa towers, mineral deposits that jut out from the water’s surface due to there being less rain to replenish that which evaporates, Mono is the largest natural lake in California. It’s 2.5 times as salty and 80 times as alkaline as the ocean.

As I drove, approaching the lake, its stunningly still surface mirrored the cool autumn pinks and blues of the late afternoon sky.

Evening shadows began to stretch long and low over Mammoth Lakes and Inyo National Forest as Mount Whitney came into view south of the lake. Juxtaposed with Death Valley at 282 feet below sea level, Whitney peaks at 14,505 feet, earning it recognition as the highest summit in the States, excluding Alaska.

Further south, a fault block geological formation – the contrast of the smooth, creased lowland hills of the valley to jagged un-weathered eastern peaks called the Needles – was pronounced as the sun began to set.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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