Mono Lake, California
Mono Lake in the eastern Sierra Mountains of California is at the western edge of the Great Basin. It is a salt lake, like the Great Salt Lake in Utah, which is on the eastern edge of the Great Basin.
The Great Basin is a large basin of land that has no outlet for its water. Many of the lakes are now dried salt beds. It is a desert remnant of what was once a large inland sea. At this time life barely subsists. Yet it does thankfully subsist.
I drove across the Great Basin to see what was there. It was in the spring, and there was actually a green tinge to the land. I surmised that only in the spring was there enough water to aid the vegetation present. The rest of the year, I assume there was drought and either extreme heat or cold. At the time of this new perception about the reality of the Great Basin, I was driving to one of Alain and Natalie Briot‘s Little Known Workshops in the eastern Sierras, and I was training my eyes to see artistically, not analytically. It was the usual awkward transitional experience of moving from a profession and scientific perception to an artistic perception.
One of our frequent excursions on that workshop was to Mono Lake. Mono Lake is truly a weird place. It has a prehistoric and unwelcome feel to it. The fact that it is an alkaline lake protects you from the fear of having your leg dissolved. Yet its antiquity leaves you with a feeling of smallness and insignificance. (Feeling insignificant is important to understanding our place in the universe.) Tufas stick up from the water as remnants of calcium-rich fresh water percolating into the alkaline salt lake from the bottom. The calcium in the fresh water concretized in the form of these tubes. Some are an average size of 6″-24″, and some are very large as can be seen in the featured image from this blog. That remnant tufa was about 10+ feet in diameter.
Millennia progressed, and life went on as usual at Mono Lake until recent years, when other parts of California secured the water rights for the inlet streams to Mono Lake. For many years the level of the lake has subsided. Tufas were exposed that had not been seen before, and soon began to erode. However thanks to many environmental efforts, the shore level of the lake has begun to rise again, as the water drainage to other parts of California has decreased.