Saturday, September 19, 2009
Canoeing Mono Lake
The water was like glass, and as you peered down you could see brine shrimp everywhere. They darted this way and that as they hurried in their never ending hunt for food. The surface of the water had numerous flies that were engaged in a breeding frenzy, flies that fed on algae and didn't bother or even land on you. No fish rose to dimple the surface, only the swirls of diving eared grebes.
Our first view of Mono lake had been as we drove down the steep and long pass on highway 395. Friends were waiting and a long and eagerly awaited canoe trip on Mono Lake beckoned. At last we were on the water!
Now Mono lake is really a strange place. Its only a shadow of itself as the city of Los Angles diverted the water in the 1920's and the lake dropped over 320 feet, exposing underwater towers of tufa(The lake has risen as a new agreement for a base level has been reached ensuring the feeding grounds for millions of birds).
An aroma of sulphur greeted us as we launched our canoe past the shore teeming with flies,(the Paiute Indians used to harvest and eat the pupae, 10 calories each). The water itself had a very salty and disagreeable taste and felt soapy because of its high ph, about 10.
Alan and Sharon were guiding us this day and they both looked at ease as they paddled their kayaks, pausing often to enjoy the moments. We paddled effortlessly across the smooth surface, towards the columns of tufa, that somewhat resembled a city of towers.
The tufa extended underwater. Old and empty Osprey nests topped several of the larger ones and you wondered how far the ospreys were flying to find rivers and lakes to provide them with fish, as none swam here. California gulls stood like sentinels atop their personal throne of tufa and a flock of red throated blackbirds posed as we glided by.
Time flew as it does when life is filled with such moments of fun. I handed the camera to Renita for the return trip to our launching point,(The reserve people strongly recommend that canoes and kayaks should be off the lake after noon as strong winds from the Sierras arrive suddenly and violently).
We ate lunch and shared our thoughts and impressions with Alan and Sharon and thanked them for the day. Their expert advice and intimate knowledge of the lake gave us insights we never would have known. Its such a joy to be able to share good times with friends. Clear skies.