June 11th was a busy day. We started the day looking at a set of 4 lakes in a high mountain basin located southwest from town. The lakes are reached via Lake Mary road (paved). There are many other smaller lakes that are reached via gravel road or by hiking trails. The lakes resulted from glacial action. Popular recreation sites, there are several lodges and campgrounds.
Our second activity of the day was a examining a fissure created by an earth quake. The fissure crosses State Route 230 west of Mammoth Lakes. (SR 230 continues to the Mammoth Mountain Resort, Devils Post Pile National Monument, and terminates at Red Meadows Resort.) The deep and narrow crack in volcanic rock (basalt) has snow banks at the bottom that last all year most years.
From the fissure we headed back toward Mammoth Lakes and turned northeast on Dry Creek Cutoff, a shortcut to US 395 for north bound travel. At the US 395 intersection, we turned north toward Mono Lake.
We made a 22 mile side trip along the way to Mono Lake. We turned west onto the southern junction of June Lake Loop and went past June Lake, through the small resort town of June Lake located in a small valley at the base of the mountains. After June Lake the loop continues to the northern junction with US 395.
We had to go south on US 395 about 1 mile to the intersection of SR 120 (Mono Lake Basin Road) to reach our last stop of the day at the southern edge of Mono Lake. The west branch of a side road to Mono Lake leads to a section of large tufa formations at the edge of the lake; the east branch goes to Navy Beach. The highway continues east and intersects US 6 near the Nevada border (which has potential as a future trip).
The area around Mono Lake includes a variety of volcanic formations including small cinder cones and large volcanic ridges. Tufa (also, tuff) is a light colored, porous rock formed from volcanic dust by heat or water.
It was very windy in the Mono Lake area and the waves on the lake formed interesting patterns. We also noted that lake water now covered a major part of the tufa formations that we had been able to walk through in our visit in 2001. The water level in Mono Lake is rising due an agreement by the Los Angeles Water and Power Authority to reduce its use of fresh water from streams that feed into the lake. (The agreement also covers the use of water in the Owens River watershed.)
We were also fascinated by large lenticular cloud formations visible north and east of our route. Lenticular clouds are formed in layers as the wind passes over high ridges. Each layer in the cloud resembles a double convex lens (curved top and bottom). The clouds shown in the pictures were formed by a tuff ridge south of Mono Lake.
Leaving Mono Lake, we turned south on US 395 and returned to our campground in Mammoth Lakes.