Sunday, May 15, 2016

Lee Vining, Mono Lake and Bodie

May 8 - 10, 2016:

It's route 395 north, uphill to about 8,000 feet at Mammoth, California then down to around 7,000 at Lee Vining, California.  We turn onto route 120 west just before Lee Vining and go 3 miles to the Lower Lee Vining campground which is in the INYO National Forest.  It’s a large roomy dry camping site with fire pit and picnic table surrounded by Aspens and Jeffery Pine trees and within sight and sound of the Lee Vining Creek.  I made sure to look carefully at the trees for any potential weakness.  This is another beautiful campsite off route 120 which is an access road into Yosemite National Park.  Unfortunately the road is gated shut a mile from the campground.

View from the road

Twinkles following the acorn path to the Creek

The campsite

Lee Vining Creek is a beauty

My attempt at doing something more artistic

Lee Vining is situated overlooking Mono Lake and is another attractive, woodsy mountain town which is a gateway to Yosemite.  The town is named for Leroy Vining who founded the town in 1852 as a mining camp.  Mono Lake was another victim of the Los Angeles Water system in the early 1900’s when they diverted the water from 4 of the 5 sources flowing into the Lake.  As a result, the lake level started to drop and if it had continued, it would now be another dust bowl.  Luckily, concerned local citizens went into action and in 1994 the court forced LA to feed more water into the lake and a minimum lake level was mandated.  Mono Lake is a big tourist draw here, due to the exposed “Tufa” deposits and their otherworldly appearance.  The Tufa is formed as the calcium in the fresh water meets carbonates in the lakes salt water.  This creates a calcium carbonite deposit which builds up over time to form towers.
The Lake is also a bird and waterfowl haven and migratory fight stopover.  I read about a man asking a birding expert how the birds are able to fly thousands of miles and find their way back to the same places year after year.  The answer was, we don't know, we are only human, it's a God thing.

A view from the summit viewpoint north of Lee Vining

Negit Island is a volcanic cinder cone in the center of Mono Lake

The clouds made for good photo conditions

The Tufa towers extend underwater into the Lake

It’s back to Mammoth, California on Monday, which we had passed on our way to Lee Vining, to pick up a mail delivery.  While there, we see another Eric Scat’s Bakery and stop to get another loaf of bread.  It’s then a scenic ride on the Mammoth Loop road which is heavily forested with a huge project underway to thin out the trees and clear brush for fire suppression.  Mammoth is a major ski town with lots of development, condo’s and rental units are everywhere, not exactly my kind of town.  

The next adventure was more to my liking, the Hot Creek Geological Site a few miles from Mammoth.  It is an area that has been subjected to much geologic upheaval and the Hot Creek canyon area is sort of a mini Yellowstone with lots of thermal springs.  You can’t really get close to the hot springs unless you jump the fence as many people obviously have by the looks of the fence, I was tempted, but Twinkles would not allow that.  Anyhow, we did the trail that runs along the canyon rim and the Creek.  It was quite a view, a beautiful river valley with huge snow covered mountains in the distance.

The warning signs are serious

The water is scalding, as in boiling hot

View looking down from the rim of the canyon

The view at creek level

We then took the June Lake Loop road which passes several scenic mountain lakes, all picture postcard beautiful.

We took a walk at Silver Lake

Another attraction within sight of Mono Lake is the Panum Crater which is a volcano that erupted about 600-700 years ago, one of the most recent volcanic events in North America.  We walked the loop trail along the rim which afforded great views of Mono Lake, the cinder cone and the plug.  Obsidian which is a by product of a volcanic eruption was lying all over the ground.  This area has experienced much volcanic activity.

The rim trail was very scenic and weird

A view looking from the rim across the cinder cone towards the mountains

The Lee Vining museum is not yet open for the season, but there are a few interesting objects outside.  The most interesting is the Upside-Down House which was built by Nellie Bly O'Bryan in 1956.  She was the first female movie projectionist and performed in a few silent Charlie Chaplin films in the 1920’s.

The Upside-Down House

The Clampers mounted their sign upside down

One more attraction not to be missed is the ghost town of Bodie, California.  It is one of the most intact ghost towns in the country with about 100 buildings still standing.  It became a California State Historical Park in 1962 and is being maintained in a state of “arrested decay” meaning that roofs, windows and foundations are repaired and stabilized, but buildings are not restored.  Bodie was founded when W.S. Bodey discovered gold there in 1859.  However, it didn’t become a boom town until 1875 when a mine collapse revealed a rich body of gold.  Bodie’s population peaked during years 1877-1881 with  from 7-8,000 people.  As usual, the boom didn’t last long, but mining continued until 1942.

Bodie sits at a remote elevation of 8,379 feet

Lots of large heavy equipment was moved in here

The Methodist Church built in 1882

A mid 30's car sinking into the dirt

I took the following photos through the dusty windows by shielding the sun glare and reflections which gives sort of a ghostly character to them.

The gambling tables are waiting

This was an athletic club or gym

A very nice pool table

The store shelves are well stocked

The Standard Mill is off limits except with a guided tour

Another old classic left behind

Next stop is Carson City, Nevada,
Twinkles and Slick

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