The Passport Trip – part 4

-5 journals of a summer trip through WA, OR, and CA in 2010-

– Mono Lake & Crater Lake –

* * *

Down just another 1000 feet, east of Yosemite, is Mono Lake.

An extremely salty lake that was a subject for tense fights with environmental activists in the past. It once was a major source for drinking water for LA, and they kept ruthlessly draining it. Eventually the lake is left alone now and gradually recovers to its original levels.

 There are countless freshwater springs feeding underground into the lake. Where they seep in from below minerals calcify around the spots and form these so-called Tufas.  These pinnacles are only exposed because the lake is unnaturally low.

 It’s fun to paddle around there. (Who would have guessed that our old 25-dollar canoe would ever get to taste Mono Lake water?) Early in the morning it’s totally still; it’s pure magic in the crystal clear air under the towering Sierra. There are at least 4 Ospreys now nesting on these Tufas – Ospreys at a fishless lake! (The creeks and other lakes all around are full of fish!)

 Some kind of flies gathering in millions at the rim of the lake. There is also a certain kind of shrimp in the lake, they seem to hang around the freshwater inlets and appear like amazing under water clouds.

 This is an even more amazing feature of Mono Lake: Eroded sand formations on the shores; extremely fragile, even just touching them with your finger breaks them. I’ve never seen anything like it so sublime and magical.

I’m so thrilled that all this is still intact and unharmed after discovering it for the first time some 23 years ago. It’s quite remote and off the beaten path but almost unprotected.

 * * *

Gradually heading home again, we find Crater Lake in southern Oregon worth another visit.

Also this park is just open for a few days. At 7000 feet elevation, it sees only brief summers, and most of the abundant precipitation of Oregon comes here in the form of snow.

Crater Lake is deep (almost 2000 feet), incredibly clean, and unbelievably blue. However, most of all, there is a mysterious, eerie atmosphere up there that goes far beyond such plain facts. I often wondered what it really is that somehow keeps you on edge up there. It’s not only just extremely beautiful; there is something else that somehow unconsciously grabs your attention, and you don’t quite know what it is.

My theory is this: It is a lake surrounded by the 1000 feet high rim of the broken volcano. The land all around, beyond the rim, is much lower; so, you see nothing beyond those rim mountains, even though you are standing on top of them. This is a very unusual reality. Our mind is accustomed to see a horizon behind mountains, at least something to that extent. It’s almost entirely missing here. We are not really aware of this phenomenon, but our unconsciousness is; of course not in any intellectual way, it just is aware of an unfamiliar condition. That’s how our mind works. We are alarmed. Combined with the almost unreal aesthetic quality of the scenery, the almost unreal blue, often the unusually low clouds, because it’s a very high mountain, and who knows what else, it all makes you feel as if you are on drugs or something.

Roadside picnic P&K style. This must be! You can’t just look, take a picture and run. Things like this must be celebrated appropriately. One needs time to let it all sink in. Each moment, each new sight you train the mind to open up to more reality.

 Once we took a boat to Wizard Island.

There are more and much more bizarre ancient tree corpses on top of that strange place. There are a few so-called ‘phantom logs‘ floating in the lake only inches below the surface, actually in a vertical position, that are believed to be floating there for hundreds and hundreds of years.

 * * *

                                                                           Klaus   End of June 2010

This entry was posted in 2010, Other Travels, Passport Trip 2010, Summers and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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