After some debate I decided to take the 3+ hour drive to Mono Lake. That’s over 6 hours round trip, or for someone who hates driving- an eternity. Still, my attraction to water is so strong that I knew I had to make the pilgrimage. The lake is a little outside of Yosemite, and was formerly in danger of drying up because it was providing water to LA. Seriously LA? Go take a long walk…
Since I hate driving so much and especially hate driving by myself I was happy when I saw a father and son from my hostel waiting at the bus stop. I asked if they wanted a ride to the park (an hour itself) and as they conferred with each other I heard “blah blah blah Tak blah blah blah Dobry.” They were from Warsaw! The dad didn’t speak too much English but Konrad was fluent since he studies analytic math in Edinburgh. Imagine studying analytic math period, then imagine studying it in a second or third language… We talked about the Euro Cup, and changes in Warsaw, and the crappy weather in Edinburgh this time of year. It was a great diversion but after dropping them off I still had another 2.5 hours of driving. I had already exhausted most of my music from the last two days of driving and now found myself on Disc 3 of the 2nd volume of Bob Dylan’s greatest hits, which really aren’t great hits anymore at that point. Plus, my leg was cramping up because I’m an idiot who always forgets about cruise control. I kept convincing myself it would be worth it… and it totally was.
My love for water is so deep that I did the 7-hour drive just to see this lake. There’s hardly anything else I’d take a 7-hour drive for- maybe if my mother was stuck under a bus and I was the only one who could save her, maybe; but certainly not if it was just a close acquaintance. But again, water, it just gets me. Every time I’ve fallen for someone, no matter how shallow the relationship, it’s been at the water. Every time I break up with someone I go to the water. I brought my dog to the beach every weekend at the end of her life. My fondest childhood memories are from the beach. For me water is magical, and mysterious and healing- the calming sound, the cooling feeling, the gorgeous views.
When I was literally 2 miles away from the lake I had a funny thought “Forget it, you’re just going to be disappointed, go home.” I seriously considered this but I’m glad I resisted because check this shit out:
Those weird rock-looking formations are called “tufa” and they’re actually calcium-carbonate structures, born when fresh water springs make passionate love to the alkaline water in the lake. Who knew geology could be so exciting!? (I did, because I’m a huge dork).
Bonus- When I talked to the park ranger he said that you’re allowed to go in the water. Instant beach day! After my tufa photo shoot I sprawled my blanket out on the sand (which is COVERED with little bugs and thousands and thousands of larvae, there are so many of them that you can hear them buzzing on the ground even when you’re walking). I laid down without killing any bugs and began my favorite Yosemite pastime, napping, when a group of senior-citizen bird watchers came by. They were freaking out over some birds or something that they saw through their binoculars and I decided to move instead of cursing their existence. California is really chipping away at the New Yorker in me.
I moved to another part of the lake and within twenty minutes the bird watchers had migrated over. Now, I noticed on my drive to the lake that having a National Parks Annual Membership Pass instantly makes you feel like a better person. Nope, I don’t have to wait on this line, I just wave my pass and smile. I have this pass because I appreciate nature, and I’m willing to pay my share to preserve the national parks, I’m a good person, damn it. It’s an obnoxious sense of entitlement and these bird watchers have probably purchased memberships for the last twenty years, so you can imagine.
Even though I was resting on a completely empty part of the beach they put their telescope thing right next to me and one woman backed up and knocked over my water bottle. “Excuse ME,” (NY-er here and present!) and then the type of apology that you get from a bird watcher with a national parks membership.
They invited me to look through their telescope, so I did, hoping to see something moving or meaningful. Nope, just birds. I said a short prayer in my head that I will never turn into these people, although I fear it’s inevitable.
“These birds fly in from Canada and eat until they double their weight. Then fly non-stop to Argentina.”
“Wow, most airlines don’t even do that.”
They roared with laughter. For real people? You watch birds as a hobby and airplane jokes are still funny? They eventually left and I got to enjoy Mono Lake in peace for the next few hours. The water has an incredibly high salt content and feels slippery, when the water dries on your skin the salt is left there in mesmerizing patterns that unfortunately don’t come out in photos.
I drove home in that post-beach zen mode which lasted until some morons decided to go 15 miles an hour on the mountain roads. So after a week of the Sequoias and Yosemite, where do I recommend you spend your summer vacation? Why, In Yo’ National Forest.