Thursday, October 14, 2010

ES - Day 6: Bodie, Mono Lake

"Goodby God, I'm Going to Bodie"

Well, we got up relatively early, ate our Cheerios and walked up the street to the Mono Lake Committee's headquarters, store.   So far so good.  Did a bit of shopping (map, gifts, stuff) which entitled me to free membership in the committee and a travel mug.  We sat and watched their slide show to get a sense of the Lake and the history and headed back down to our motel.

Things went a bit wrong.  This was the day to switch lenses.  The feared left one turned out fine but the right one was off.  Turns out it was inside out - happens a lot with the soft ones and I thought that was the case.  Then we discovered my cool black and gold hat was missing.  After semi-frantically searching luggage and car, we concluded that it stayed in Bishop - probably during the fast room move (see Day 3, part 2). Phone calls will happen soon.  Then I misplaced my lens cap - that happens a lot, it was in the car.  Then we discovered my sunglasses were missing.  I hiked up to where I'd taken pictures and as I was coming down, Nick found it under the stairs at the motel.  Must have popped out of my pack.  sigh.

Eventually, we started driving to Bodie.  Bodie is an old mining community of the late 1800s which was abandoned and is now kept in a state of  "arrested decay" for historical reasons.  It grew because they found gold there.  It was apparently full of terrible people - they should probably make a TV show about it - deaths, usually violent every day.   Deadwood comes to mind.  The quote above was from the diary of a girl whose family was moving there.

Now it's just a quite place in the middle of sage brush between the mountains. There's 9 miles of paved road followed by 3 of unpaved.  Dusty, not quite as bad as the road to the Patriarch's Grove in Bristle Cone. On the way up, we passed a couple of herds of sheep complete with shepherds and sheep dogs.  We passed them on the way back down and one herd also had a donkey.  Beats me!

We wandered around taking pictures of this building and that.  I find that my photography, like my blogging, goes back and forth between creativity (artsy shots, cute commentary) and attempts at journalism.  After a couple of hours, I told Nick that I was at the point of "if you've seen five of these buildings, you've seen them all."  There were really dilapidated houses and not so bad houses; there were businesses - in the heyday 65 saloons; there were public buildings - post office moved from someone's house to a hotel; there were outhouses.  Near the top of the hill were the mining structures but we weren't allowed into all that.  As a former engineer, I found that more interesting and nowhere near enough info in the brochure.

Off we headed, back down towards Mono Lake.

Birds of a Feather

Mono Lake has a  northern approach and a southern one.  The really nice visitor center is at the northern one.  We got there about 20 before it closed so had time to look around.  Asked the ranger about sunset.  She showed us something that said 5:22 which was a surprise to us - I had thought 6ish.  She suggested going to the Southern Tufas for sunset.  

Here's the story - once again LA and their water is the villian.  In the forties, water was deflected from the tributaries to Mono (by the way pronounce Moe-Noe, not Mohn-noe).  The lake was nearly drained over the next several decades.  Then, about the time we came to California, people started campaigning to save and restore it.  As the water level dropped, these cool calcium formations, called tufas emerged.  Also a land bridge, which allowed coyotes to get to the island nests of the California gulls.  We could argue that gulls are problematic, but not here and now.  There's some neat info about shrimp and alkaline water and alkaline flies.  Now that I'm a member, I can point you at the Mono Lake Committee website for more details.

We got down to the lake by 5:15 and started hiking around and taking pictures.  As the sun slowly set in the west, we photographers all started convening in similar places.  I found one guy who'd been there a lot and kind of followed him around.  As the sun was fully set, around 6:15, there were a bunch of us at a tip, looking out at the color on the eastern hills.  Mostly there was chitchatting, but I was underexposing 2 full stops and got some nice color behind big tufas in the lake.  And then, my battery died.  Argh.  I charged it before we left and a couple of days ago.  I may need to get a new one.  sigh.

A Pleasant Surprise

Well we packed up and headed to where everyone kept telling us we should eat, theWhoa Nellie Deli.  Basically the Mobile Station on the opposite end of Lee Vining has a big convenience store.  In the store, is a deli style restaurant.   Having been raised on the east coast and jewish, I only have one thing to say - if there's no corned beef or pastrami, it's not a deli!   But they had a nice bison meatloaf which Nick had and a nice bison braised ribs which I got.  So much food again, that we have part of tomorrow's lunch.

The best part was when we walked in, there was my old photography teacher (the only one I've had, actually), Charlie.  We had known that he was somewhere in the area teaching a class with John Sexton.  Turns out John is the analogy guy and Charlie is the digital guy.  Charlie's going to be giving a digital printing class and guess who's going to find a way to take it!

Go to  Charles Cramer  to see his work.  If you've seen the photo of trees in my living room, that's a Cramer.

Goodnight, all!  Love
© 2010 Esther A. Heller


  1. Well, the 2 major breeding populations of the California gull species are Mono Lake and Great Salt lake. These breeding populations are probably mutually exclusive. So if you don't want gulls in Mono Lake, you doom them to extintion. There are several species I wouldn't mind if they went extint-- poison oak for instance. Gulls are important for our coastal ecosystems, even if you don't like them. The good thing is that their existence saved Mono Lake.

  2. Ah, but are these the same gulls who winter on the coast and feed at the San Francisco Zoo?? Cause, they are so quick and greedy that the zoo built a whole new covered dining area.

  3. Ah so now i know why you would prefer that there were no gulls in the world or at least none of the scavenging gulls that have lost their fear of humans. For those of you who have not heard the zoo story, it is here:

    Now that is a scarey story.

    More than one species of gull in SF. I don't know if this is the species eating off outdoor diners at zoo, piers, picnics and many other coastal outdoor dining venues. i think that many of the other gull species are more troubling than Calif gull. But yes Calif gulls do winter on the coast.

    I have no idea how to solve the zoo's problems.

  4. I started blogging! I think it's kinda crappy right now, but there's three posts so far. I finally made the leap into a full virtual self! (facebook, twitter, and blog)

  5. A post script to the missing black hat story. We spent a weekend in Carmel a couple of weekends ago, so I could take a class with Charlie! We stopped at the store in the Gilroy outlets (a couple of doors down from the Jelly Belly outlet) and found the same one. Happy head!