As a former travel publicist, I read Travel + Leisure and a thousand other similar publications on the regular. I recall an article detailing the strangest places on earth, within it a nod to Mono Lake, an alien-esque body of water famous for its tufa towers.
Skimming the article, I thought certainly I’d like to see Mono Lake someday, but was unsure of when that would be with my busy career taking precedence. And then, like things I read, I’d forgotten it existed – until I came across it en route to Yosemite. And with that, I checked off a bucket list item purely by accident.
This isn’t your friendly, cobalt mountain lake. As part of the dry Mono Basin, Mono Lake is seemingly devoid of life and overrun with salinity. Past attempts to stock its waters with fish have failed, but a flourishing brine shrimp population serves as sustenance for the 2,000,000 birds who visit annually. At an estimated 760,000+ years old, the lake is thought to be among the oldest in America.
I showed up for the guided sunset tour advertised on the official website, but I arrived to an empty parking lot. Website fail. Left to my own devices I created my own custom tour, skirting the shoreline as I passed from tufa tower to tower, each more extravagantly formed than the last with clusters of tufa towers creating a limestone maze at times. A standing sign suggested visitors taste the lake’s salty, mineral-laden water; best to do this without looking too closely at the shallow, dirty waves lapping onto the shore and full of buzzing, crawling insects and whatever the birds have left behind.
Learn more about Mono Lake and its tufa towers here.