Monday, May 2, 2016

Mono Basin - April 2016

please remember you can click on a photo to see a larger version

I had an answer when the Lady asked on our drive home last Sunday, "Where can we go next weekend?" It involved prehistoric rock art and I suggested a trip to attempt to find three sites I've been researching. One evening we went over my maps and material and the Lady was excited as I was.

Late afternoon Friday, we were again heading south on 395. Walker Burger is open again for the summer season and their garden setting makes a nice stop for a quick and simple dinner. It is also an opportunity to support an old fashion Mom & Pop business that employs local kids.

It was too early to pull into our favorite campsite along the Little Walker River, so we continued on past Bridgeport and over Conway Summit. Sunlight was fading as we settled in among the granite outcroppings north of Mono Lake.

Wind rocked the truck and camper through the night but we slept well. The Lady woke before dawn with the need for a bathroom break.

"I have to go outside," she whispered in my ear. "I'll be back."

"Watch the step," I warned. "It will be slippery."

"Why?" she asked as she wiggled out of our double bag.

"It is snowing. Snow has been hitting my side of the camper for awhile now."

She checked the outdoor temperature display as she climbed back into the bunk. "Nice skiff of snow outside and it's 28°."

Morning was beautiful. The drive, the trip, our time, everything was worth it, just being able to wake up here on this springtime Saturday morning.

We walked in the snow with our coffee mugs and visited old familiar places.

Fresh cottontail tracks in the snow led us to the perpetrator.

Our short respite from snowfall was over as the clouds again closed in.

We topped off the gas tank in Lee Vining and returned north up 395. The Lady was watching out over Mono Lake as I drove and she nonchalantly said, "There are mule deer swimming in the lake."

I turned the truck around. They were returning to shore as I got the camera out.

They must enjoy the buoyancy of Mono's alkaline water as Mark Twain did.

We turned east on highway 167. The storm and clouds moving over the lake held our attention.

Turning off the highway, our first stop was at the old limekiln along the historic Bodie - Benton Railroad.

The limekiln's location is marked on the 1984 Kirkwood Spring, CA USGS 7.5' topographic quad.

The kiln's base is built into a tufa deposit where spring water welled up into a much larger ancestral Mono Lake.

The Bodie - Benton Railroad was a narrow gauge that ran between Bodie and its source of lumber - Mono Mills on the south side of Mono Lake. The tracks are long gone but I found this interesting article about mountain biking the route down from Bodie to Mono Lake - Bodie Hills Abandoned Railway Loop.

It was time to begin our search for the first prehistoric site we wanted to visit. Research and map study paid off and we had success.

This habitation site includes stone circles and a stacked wall of rock that served as a hunting blind.

Remnants of the wall run for a half mile. There is speculation that the wall was also to turn deer toward an ambush spot.

The information I have states that this site was excavated and material sifted by relic collectors in 1953. Mounds of stone points and potshards were taken. It is thought that use and habitation here lasted for over 1000 years. It was noted that prior to 1953 the rock wall and stone circles were much higher.

We found some of the most unusual and intriguing rock art we have found to date.

The art incorporates petroglyphs, pictographs, and also fine scratching in the rock. This photo illustrates a most interesting design. The red pictograph predates the glyph tapped into the red pigment. The petroglyph is then augmented with fine scratches. 

We enjoyed studying these panels.

We were excited to continue with the search for the next two sites. Would the artwork be similar? We encountered gumbo mud that instantly turned our all terrain tires into large slick donuts. We know when to turn around - at least we have thus far. Our search will resume in dryer conditions.

We returned to a nice overlook of Mono Lake.

Mono Lake turns green with the first warm spring weather as microscopic algae bloom in the top layer of water. The water returns to blue and clear as the brine shrimp multiply and gobble up the algae. Mysteriously, Mono Lake has remained green the last couple of summers.

On the advice of our friend, Lighthawk, we circled the east side of Mono Lake by driving Dobie Meadows Road to its intersection with highway 120. We would spend the night at one of our favorite spots. 

The sky, weather, and light were dramatic and exciting. We were alone. The Lady wanted to explore. "Let's go up there!" the Lady suggested. "Up there" is kind of a nebulous term. With the Lady it usually means when we've reached the place where there is no more up.  We headed up into the Granite and explored wonderful terrain.

The high saddle between the distant high points was all the "up" the remaining light would allow. We headed back.

Wallflowers were abundant.

Our route down was the draw between two granite peaks. The granite to the west was fractured vertically.

The granite to the east was facing the predominate storm wind direction and eroded into fascinating hallows.

We studied the wall and were greeted with repeated piercing alarm calls of a raptor. The cries led us to the nest and we then quickly left the area.

The last rays of sunlight broke under the clouds and lit up the rock..............................

..................................and lit the way home.

This is a wondrous and amazing setting.

We ate a quick dinner and then walked in the growing dark. Two feral horses had been grazing below camp. We walked down to see if they were still around. They were. The young one put his head up first as we came into sight. The larger instantly charged toward us, a sign of a young stallion. He stopped as he realized we were not horses, turned sideways, and returned to grazing. They would tolerate our presence. The wind chill moved us back to camp and we were sound asleep shortly after our heads hit the pillows. Coyotes near the truck erupted in song during the night. The stars were bright outside our windows. We lay quietly and listened.

We woke to another fabulous morning of pure magic

The area south of camp is a broad volcanic plateau bisected by deep canyons, North Canyon, Dexter Canyon, Wet Canyon, Taylor Canyon. We wanted to explore a bit and get closer. We accessed the area with a small dirt road south from 120. We were first greeted by feral horses.

We hiked out to the edge of North Canyon.

Across the canyon was a nest. Enlarging the  photo shows what looks like a golden eagle on the nest.

We headed back up onto the broad plateau and returned to our truck.

We climbed in, looked at each other and laughed. "Where can we go next weekend?"

1 comment:

  1. I can smell the cold wet sage and the powdery snow!