Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hey, Are we still on Planet Earth?

We left civilization behind Sunday morning. I am not sure how Marc has managed this, but since leaving Sacramento, we seem to have landed on another planet. Actually we may even be in another galaxy! I am starting to wonder if I have been abducted by aliens …

You be the judge.

Mono Lake, California

Our first touchdown was Mono lake, which like the Dead Sea, has very high concentrations of sodium. Except unlike the Dead Sea in Israel, this lake is quite alive. It is full of teeny tiny transparent shrimp the size of a grain of sand. It is also the home of a certain kind of fly that loves the salty habitat and reproduces in the gazillions. This brings flocks of seagulls to the lake, who, feast on the flies and the shrimp. In fact 80% of all of the seagulls in the state of California make their way here to mate. And to top that, the salt in the water forms into these amazing structures like stalagmites you would see in a cave, but there is no cave, just the open lake. And the water is PURE blue and is absolutely stunning. I have never seen anything like it. Maybe I was dreaming …

Dukes Bar, Sierra Nevada Lodge, Mammoth Falls California
We were returned to Earth momentarily for a very enjoyable night at Mammoth Lakes, Sierra Nevada Lodge. Great hotel, even greater restaurant (Duke’s Bar and Fireside lodge) and even tastier key lime martinis. I had two, which was one over my limit, thus the confusion ...

Sierra Nevada Lodge, Mammoth Falls California
The chocolate dessert was so decadent that I am sure it must have been drugged … I think that is when we were abducted again.

Bristlecone Pine Forest, California

Next thing I remember, we were in a forest of ancient Bristlecone Pine trees, some of which are the oldest living trees recorded. Interspersed within the forest, were those trees, that had not managed to survive for 4,000 years, but they still stand twisted and weathered, demanding our respect. Those that have managed to live thousands of years, look like they have been through hell and back, and according to the information we read, this is not far from the truth. Winters at this altitude are so severe that these 4,000 year old seniors, have to endure ice storms and severe winds. Walking amoungst these stunted, grizzled, twisted, ancient trees, was both spiritual and eerie at the same time. If I saw this scene on Star Trek, I would say it was fake!

Panamint Springs (Resort (!)), Death Valley
Then, it was sunset and we were entering Death Valley. The temperature was 90 degrees at 7:00 pm. Huge purple mountains surrounded us on all sides. Wide open spaces, so large that you feel dwarfed immediately. Was I dreaming again? The contrasting landscapes we had experienced over the last few days — could they all be in the State of California? The only explanation I can come up with is Alien abduction!

Darwin Falls, Death Valley
BTW, somewhere along the line, we also found ourselves at Tom’s place, a California institution. Originally built in 1917, as a much needed gas station for people exploring the Sierra’s. Soon, a cookhouse was added and a store and before long Tom was packing supplies for groups traveling into the mountains. The restaurant has changed hands several times, the buildings have been moved once or twice and there has been at least one fire, but the institution has remained and everyone knows where it is and what it represents. We stopped in to have a look see. We had already had breakfast, but enjoyed the experience of being there.

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