One of California's (and the planet's) great natural wonders, a circumnavigation of Mono Lake brings a tremendous appreciation for the area's varied geographic facets, which together form a beautifully diverse geographic conflux of sky and geology. Embarking from the lake's western shore, near the town of Lee Vining, a clockwise journey brings dabs of exposed tufa into view along the shallow edge of the water. Rounding the northwestern aspect of Mono Lake, past a bright white shoreline, grass carpets a labyrinth of rivulets and small ponds. Farther along, on the northern edge of the Lake's shore, Black Point, a hill of volcanic ash and other ejecta, stands above a beach of orange, white, yellow, and black volcanic sand. The top of Black Point brings a view of Negit and Paoha Islands, summits of small volcanoes mostly submerged by Mono Lake's waters. Each year, the two small islands host tens of thousands of migratory birds that come to the islands to nest and lay eggs. Farther along in the journey, at the northeastern edge of the lake, a view of sand dunes emerges. An unimproved road through the dune field along the eastern shoreline brings visitors to a small stand of ancient tufa towers, long abandoned by Mono's waters.
ED DARACK is an independent author and photographer. Learn more at www.darack.com.