This grand show is eternal: Eastern Sierra Trip Day 2

More Muir to set the mood for my beloved mountain journey:

"Another glorious Sierra day in which one seems to be dissolved and absorbed and sent pulsing onward we know not where. Life seems neither long nor short, and we take no more heed to save time or make haste than do the trees or the stars. This is true freedom, a good practical sort of immortality."

We started our day heading up the road a piece to the bizarre lunar landscape of Mono Lake. Quite a saga of history, culture and geology right here at our feet. One of the oldest lakes in North America at 760,000 years old, Mono Lake has a fascinating ecology that provides a crucial link the to food chain of the Great Basin region, aided way over on the east side of this arid region by her sister the Great Salt Lake, both remnants of long ago ice age climates that now provide oasis for millions of migratory birds among other creatures in this strange vast land. 


The famous tufa towers are caused by a build up of calcium carbonate that happens when the lake's briny waters meet underground freshwater springs. The tufa creates the haunting jagged silhouette of this amazing place and Darin was so excited to get up close and do some photography and filming. But in actuality, the tufa towers have been exposed like this because of dropping lake levels since 1941 when the city of Los Angeles started diverting waters from these regions. The whole East side if full of horror stories about what LA did to their waters. Luckily in the 70s people started fighting back. You can read about the formation of the Mono Lake Committee here and their inspiring impact on the environmental history of this region.

Mono Lake is twice as salty as the sea!

I started tripping out on the tiny brine shrimp, realizing their world is as complex and full as ours, thinking of the great tufa towers as their sweeping rocky kingdoms and the alkali flies as their buffalo herds. Do they have parties? Make love? Build homes? Feel fear? I watched them for a long time.

Some tufa look like praying hands, some look like visiting kings, some resemble hobbit holes or dinosaurs. They are both phallic and vaginal, smooth and bumpy, ancient and fresh. The feeling you get in their presence is remarkable, both humble and powerful.

We learned more here in the little town of Lee Vining. There were international travelers all around us, renting bikes, getting backcountry information for Yosemite, drinking coffee, speaking in all their lovely lilting languages. These tiny eastern Sierra towns are so fascinating: for all their miniscule 400 or so populations and old fashioned village feel, they are bustling international hubs due to their famed location in the mountains.

After a quick homemade veggie burger lunch in our own tiny kitchen, we headed over to nearby June Lake for a swim. It was a nice hot day in the mountains, warmer than forecasted, so as a water soul i was in luck!
Darin took the first plunge though, bravey. I'm not claiming it's not cold, brrrrrrr! but it feels so great to swim in the glow of that Range of Light. You feel as though your own skin is just light and water too, and you could as easily rise into the air.

I recently found this old-fashioned style swimsuit at a thriftshop here in Placerville. i love the belt! i've never had a bathing suit with a belt, plus the candy pink and white stripes makes me feel like a 1930s circus gal.

Refreshed, invigorated, we headed out for an afternoon hike. We drove two miles down a very bumpy dirt road to the trailhead. I tell you, when you start at the little wooden sign, and looking up, this is your view......

You know you are in for a treat!

Especially when you pass through evergreen glades and wildflowers and mosquitoes and shifting shadows and crashing streams and finally see these glimmery turquoise waters through the trees:

What a reward! Now THAT water is ICE COLD. i had thought i might swim, but by now it was late afternoon, shady and relaxing and just being next to the water or walking around in it did the trick. Darin took a hundred dreamy weird-lens photos and i just soaked it all up and read a little, using my scarf as a seat.

"Oh these vast, calm, measureless mountain days, inciting at once to work and rest! Days in whose light everything seems equally divine, opening a thousand windows to show us god. Nevermore, however weary, should one faint by the way who gains the blessings of one mountain day; whatever his fate, long life, short life, stormy or calm, he is rich forever."

Indeed I felt rich forever.
I had brought along my recently thrifted  John Muir Laws field guide to the Sierras. (side note, i've never in my life been so excited in my life to find something at the thrift store. best guide ever and you NEVER see it used!!! it is in perfect beautiful condition and it makes my heart soar) I wanted to identify some plants and wildflowers on the hike back, so I took my time, photographing their angles and shapes and curves, loving them each cell and ripple and breath.

if you have a negative thought, or remember something that tears at your heart, i found something out: you can pass it along. these waters can take care of anything, they are full and flowing and strong. you can send it sweeping through these mountain rivers where it dissolves into the universe and the world is full of peace. i had tears in my eyes at this sublime discovery. there were times i skipped merrily and times i subdued and had to stop and soak in the details of pinecone and leaf and rushing waves. there was poetry in my head all the while.

Back at our cabin, I changed into my special dress. June 30, the day of our actual anniversary, I always wear this dress that my mom made for me for our wedding; it was the summery dress that I changed into for cake eating and dancing. She made it from a 1970s pattern out of white eyelet cotton and it is the most comfortable and pretty dress ever. I put it on to go out to dinner.

But along the road to Mammoth from June Lake Loop, guess what?! Not a tough guess because this always happens to us on trips. Our car broke down.

Luckily once we filled the radiator back up with water we were able to limp into Mammoth and get our
much awaited meal. We were starving! Right into town we found a cute casual cafe called Base Camp that served the most delicious homemade chips and salsa...we dug in. To finish thinking about car problems later!

I never order pasta dishes but this was scrumptious with grilled red peppers, mushrooms, squash and even jalapenos and a mix of pesto and marinara. I scarfed it and felt so satisfied, renewed energy to go figure out what to do about our poor faltering automobile.

We made it back to the cabin and decided to deal with the car tomorrow, got cozy and got down to business: reading. Darin had to put on his hat for the picture.

Essentially a perfect anniversary and perfect end to the enchanted month of June! We got to enjoy everything that makes us ourselves (yes, that means you car troubles, ha)  and the things that we love together.  Exploring new places in wonderment, photographing and reading and eating and walking and swimming. It has been fun to relive this magical day while posting this, having been there amongst those waterfalls and pines, bears and wild iris and sage, I feel "near the heart of the world" as John Muir would say, carrying that beauty inside me.


ashley said…
First of all, I love that opening Muir quote. Stirred a little warmth up in my heart, reminding me of how lucky we are to live where we do, and be so close to such amazing earth.

And these photos are killing me! Those of Darin in that scenic mountain-surrounded snow melted water, and you looking out over mono lake and all its inhabitants! That dream of a swimsuit! Lordy, how incredible.

I must admit, I have never heard of tufa towers- but I am intrigued! Looks like such a beautiful place to escape to, and a perfect little getaway for you and D. I hope you keep wearin' that gorgeous dress for years to come!
Andrea said…
awww... for a moment there I was not sure how the story would end :) I'm glad that you all decided to worry about the car another day and enjoy your anniversary. The day looks like it was amazing! There is nothing that soothes the soul more than a dip in fresh clean cool waters. Love love when you share your adventures in nature (and food)! That dish did look really really good.
That lake is amazing! Although I did at first read "Darwin was excited to get close and film it," and was a bit confused, hehe. ; D

This does actually look like the perfect anniversary, minus the car troubles, and I love that you always wear the same dress!
Celynne said…
What a lovely day! And that dress your momma made you! So pretty!
Milla said…
The last paragraph actually made me mist up. You guys are the most wonderful people, the most wonderful couple and you make the world all magic. So much love to ya!
Amy Beatty said…
Awe..... Such beaut all in one post. Such a dream land. I lay here at pops in wonder. Cool lakes and shapes!! Belted swimsuit is divine. I would love to be with you to find everyone of those lovey ladies in your book. That is such a favorite past time of mine along with all the good reads you have. Love your tradition of wearing your white dress. I think it is going to be timeless!! And makes me wish I had a sweet tradition!! I love you guys. Looking at this makes me miss you already and Darin ( my jar charmer, priceless). We need to make sure to do something like the river or ades. Xoxo
i love mono lake~we were parked up there once for a while as we were heading to mammoth as they were creating the man made avalanches after heavy snow.such good memories

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