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The Lady had our coffee ready before dawn. I had the camera on the tripod to try some long exposures as I wondered how the pastel colors would come out with the early predawn light.
We returned to camp for breakfast and put the chairs on the north side of the wash in the sun. The sun warmed us nicely, although, if my memory serves me well, I believe the low was only 44°. The Teds were a bit down with colds coming on. The Lady and I returned to the basin for further exploration. This amazing landscape demanded it.
We found Ted chatting with a lone photographer as we were returning. Ted joined us as we climbed up through an area of spires.
I have a suspicion these outcroppings may be petrified wood.
These spires may be pyroclastic flow topped with harder material. Remember, I'm barely an amateur.
The colors and types of the small stones covering the ground could have kept us occupied for hours.
What a special morning this was!
In several areas in the basin there were thin harder vertical layers weathering away.
We used up much of the morning with our rambling before we made our way back to camp.
We dropped the camper tops and drove to find a road that might provide a view from the rim. We found what we were looking for. The Lady, of course, went scrambling for a high point with a view.
As the Teds and I were watching the Lady scramble about, we discovered an incredible surprise....................
"What do you think Ted? A possible breeding pair?" I asked.
"Don't move!" Ted whispered, "Let's not disturb them. This is too special."
We retreated as quietly as we could.
Now you can understand why I am providing no exact locations. Perhaps we will return someday and find happy little Plineys rolling around.
"What's the gestation period?" I asked Ted.
"Depends on the yeast. It's all about the yeast," he answered.
Ted seemed almost overpowered with emotion; a strong paternal feeling perhaps.
We wanted to get closer to home to shorten Monday's drive. The Teds also wanted to return via 120 to 395. We relaxed for a while at Benton Hot Springs.
There are many interesting farming and ranching antiques.
The old main station still stands but is closed.
A safe sat with the door partially open.
"I think we have the start of a good population of Pliney here in the Great Basin," Ted said. "I'm harvesting this one!"
Satisfied and winding down a wonderful weekend trip, we relaxed and took in the surroundings.
We explored areas north of 120 between Benton and Mono Lake for future camping spots. We had an close encounter with a feral horse.
For our last night out we returned to a campsite the Teds have used in the past on the south side of Mono Lake. This was an evening of color.
Ted celebrated the end of the weekend with a traditional campfire. Well not quite traditional since he used good leave no trace practices and did not build an unsightly fire ring.
The fire was extinguished and completely buried and the area leveled. There was no trace. Ted gets it done right.
A strange thing happened on Monday morning. The lady wiggled to life around 5 am, her usual time, and clicked the thermostat and furnace to life. 23° was the overnight low. We both fell back into a deep sleep and came to at 6:30 am. That was sleeping in for us and we hope not a sign of getting older. We were pretty shocked, but it was pretty damn cozy.
The Lady and I wandered down to the lake edge, not an easy walk with all the brush dodging. The Teds had a longer drive home so they started on their way.
Although it looked much closer, it was a little over an hour down to the old (pre LA diversion) shoreline.
We came upon a wondrous area of sand tufa.
The air was calm with very little wind, a nice surprise.
The tufa towers pictured above had springs at their base.
These towers of limestone developed underwater as underground springs bubbled up to the surface leaving calcium carbonate deposited as the towers grew.
Mono Lake is only around 3.5 hours from home so we lingered and enjoyed the warmth of the sun.
I hope we know how lucky we are. I believe we do. It is a treasure to be able to explore spectacular territory for the first time, and in relative solitude. It was a pleasure to share the weekend with the Teds and we thank them for their friendship and hospitality and company. Another great trip!
No Pliney the Elders were harmed in any way during this adventure.