I saw Mono Lake for the first time while driving back from Lake Tahoe a couple of years ago. We cruised south in that relaxed sort of road trip rhythm, while I allowed my eyes to rove over the scenery from the 395. There's a hypnotic fluidity to the way the land unspools from the car window, the Eastern Sierras on a seemingly endless loop punctuated occasionally with a shift in vegetation. When I saw the shimmering disk of the lake flipped like a coin into the ground, I took a mental note: Someday, I'm coming back here.
Two years later, the tug of wanderlust set a plan in motion with my fellow up-for-anything adventurer friend, Darian. The proposal, delivered with crossed fingers over Google Chat on an otherwise dull work day, was essentially this: Are you willing to drive into the middle of nowhere with me for the weekend?
"I've driven further for less," he replied. And so a trip was born.
We recruited a rag-tag team of intrepid explorers, filled our water bottles, took advantage of Mammoth's Summer months to book a home base for the weekend, and set our compasses due North. The landscape along the Eastern Sierras is fascinatingly varied. The staggeringly tall peaks, toothed jawlines against the horizon, crept skyward until they devoured most of the view from our car windows. There are geological marvels to rival any cubist's painterly interpretation of life. The ancient bristlecone pines, at ten thousand feet, have calmly outlived any known signs of civilization on this continent. There are lakes upon lakes, verdant alpine valleys, sleepy communities, derelict shells of former residences, and more than one opportunity to sample exotic game in the form of jerky.
And then there's the lake. Mono Lake, the luminous apogee of the trip, whose mysterious tufa towers array themselves like spires in King Triton's castle. Spending a consecutive sunset and sunrise on the south shore only deepened my fascination with the place.
At the end of three exhausting days of exploration, the conclusion I drew while we left California's Gold Country in our rear view mirror was this: Someday, I'm coming back here.
All photos are sole property of Laurel Dailey, and cannot be reposted or used without permission.