Sent from Mammoth Library, Mammoth, California

Wednesday 20th July
We left our parking spot reasonably early for the drive from west to east of Yosemite and what a beautiful drive spectacular scenery and gradually rising to 10,000ft. We stopped at Tenaya lake for coffee & some photo’s, beautiful (see Gallery) some climbers were practicing on the relatively easy rock faces behind us. We also stopped at the bottom of the Tioga pass as we saw a nice campground but it was full of mosquitoes so we pushed on to Mono lake which looked just like Crater lake with a volcano peak in the middle but at the Visitor Center they explained it was actually a salt lake three times as salty as the ocean with a cinder cone near the middle from a later volcano. There was no exit for the water so the mineral and salt content stayed high unfortunately though Los Angeles started taking the water from the feeding streams which kept pace with evaporation and the whole ecology of the lake was upset so the salinity trebled and the organisms started dying. However pressure groups fought through the courts and forced the city to reduce their extraction and raise the water level, not to where it was but 25ft higher than it is now where the balance may be adequate. Unfortunately it will take very many years to refill and the ecology to recover. After the visitors center we found a nice Forestry Service campground for the night where we worked our way through all the information we had trying to decide where to go tomorrow but got ourselves totally confused as the ranger had told us so quickly that we could not work out the order. So we would visit the Center tomorrow to sort things out.
Thursday 21st July
Left the campground to visit the lake at the end of the canyon we had been told about which had a new campground just opened. The campground was very tight with bushes and trees and there was nowhere to stop by the lake so we moved on. As we left Steve saw an exhibit of two safes with their backs blown out with a brass plaque between them. Probably Buch Casidy or their like as this was a gold mining area. Must try to stop at a quieter time if we come back this way.
So back to the Visitor center to work out in which order to see things also to connect to their Internet to send the last blog. All that done we headed for South Tufa, which is a collection of stone towers which are formed by fresh water laden with calcium peculating up through the saline lake floor and forming Calcium Carbonate, Sandstone pillars which are now exposed because the lake is 25ft below it’s proper level. We had a really nice wander round part of the lake the water of which is so alkaline it feels soapy. But teeming with life, no fish but mainly brine shrimp which feed the millions of migrating birds on their way to Argentina for the summer. A very simple food chain which is why it is so precarious.
After the lake we moved on to an old wood mill but there was nothing there except picture boards to explain, but it was very interesting.
Next was Panum Crater, this was an explosive volcano which erupted only 650 years ago. This volcano erupted mainly “Obsidan” rock which is basically black glass absolutely amazing. It was a very strenuous hike but well worth it to actually walk into a “dormant” volcano which could re-erupt at any time.
We then drove round June lake which was beautiful but very commercialized with boating activities. But on the way round we managed to see “Horsetail Falls” but there was nowhere to stop and hike up to them.
We had seen a forest campground in the papers from the Visitor Center so headed to it along a long dirt road, but very well worth it. A very large area with only a few sites spaced well apart amongst giant pine trees with the last of the evening sun streaming through the branches
We immediately went looking for some fallen wood and started a campfire in the grate provided. Steve cooked steak and sausages over the hot charcoal embers then we loaded on some of the enormous fir cones which were all around us and sat by the fire for the rest of the evening toasting marshmallows. Probably the best campground evening we have had and this one was free and no mosquitoes. For some reason there was no charge but grates, picnic tables and one pit toilet were provided, amazing. A real find and worth returning to if we come back this way.
Friday 22nd July
Reluctantly we left our lovely campsite and continued our sightseeing. We continued along the dirt road heading for Obsidan Dome which was another relatively new volcano this time almost entirely of Black Glass. There were glass boulders 3ft diameter everywhere another strenuous hike up to look into the crater and get a fantastic vista of the snow covered mountains in the distance. We continued on the dirt road but it became so narrow and bumpy that we had to turn round and return the way we came.
We were heading for Inyo Craters, these were a pair of explosive eruptions again only 6 or 7 hundred years ago where molten magma rose to hit the water table causing the superheated steam to blow craters a couple of hundred feet deep. Both now had water at the bottom but one was emerald green from the minerals it contained. (see gallery)
We then visited an earthquake fault which was a deep jagged crack in the ground about 30ft wide and about 50 ft deep, you could see that the faces would fit together. In the bottom was snow and the information said that the the early settlers would keep their food down there in the summer.
Onwards towards the Devils Postpile a collection of Basalt pillars similar by all accounts to the Devils Causeway from Ireland to Fingles Cave in Scotland. Fortunately at the Ranger Station they told us that the only campground with spaces was infested with mosquitoes, not for us so we turned round to find the town of Mammoth Lakes to get some fuel as we were very low then out into the forest to find some camping. We found a lovely clearing to have dinner and type up the blog before an early start to investigate the Devils Postpile tomorrow.
Steve & Judy

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