Mono Lake

Mono Lake

Only a mere twenty minutes from Mammoth Lakes sits the fascinating Mono Lake.  Unlike some of the alpine lakes we visited while in the area, Mono is the largest and spreads out for 695 square miles.

At 6,378 feet in elevation, Mono Lake can be seen from Highway 395 and is a neighbor to the nearby Sierras. In the distance the mountain range can be seen with small patches of snow at the tips.

The lake was formed 760,000 years ago and sits in a basin with no outlet. Because of this, high levels of salt accumulate making the water alkaline.

I was surprised to read later that they allow swimming and boats although on this day, I didn’t see any swimmers or boaters.

A Little Salt Please  
Because the salt is almost three times the density of ocean water, they say that when you swim, you are more buoyant. Floating is much easier than in sea water and is an unusual sensation reported by those who have actually swam there.

Navy Beach, just south of the city of Lee Vining is one of the swimming areas where you can also launch your kayaks and SUP’s.  Don’t forget to bring your binoculars as bird watching is prime here.

This desert lake has a productive ecosystem and although there are no fish, it does have a huge population of brine shrimp. Over two million migratory birds arrive annually to feed on them as well as the alkali flies.

On the Lake
We followed the signs from Highway 395 and arrived in a parking lot where a series of trails takes you down to the shore.  We saw a few guides/docents along the way available to answer any questions and one was even leading a tour of about twenty people.

These towers, unique to Mono Lake are mineral structures created when fresh-water springs bubble up through the alkaline waters.  They have become exposed because the water level has fallen.  With these strange pillars, it makes Mono Lake one of the most photographed and visited places in California.

There is a small $3 fee to use the area but children are free.

Since Mono Lake is such a short trip from Highway 395, I think it is worth it to take the time to view one of the oldest lakes in North America.

Our next story will be about Highway 395 where we stop in the nearby town of Lee Vining, visit an old internment camp, see a ghost town, walk along a lava pit, and finally make our way to the coast.

Story and photos: Debbie Colwell

Mammoth Lakes

Mammoth Lakes

All of my life I have known Mammoth Lakes as just Mammoth and I always thought it was surrounded by one large lake, appropriately called Mammoth Lake.

Much to my surprise it isn’t called Mammoth, it is called Mammoth Lakes and there isn’t just one lake, there are multiple lakes of various sizes around the area.

Sixty-four years after my birth, I finally decided to visit this popular mountain town.  It’s a place that I obviously knew nothing about, yet it is only a mere six hours away from where I live.

T-shirts, Lakes, and Elevation
At an elevation of 7,881, Mammoth Lakes also has a thriving ski area and numerous other attractions such as Devils Postpile National Monument, a formation of basalt columns, and the soaring Rainbow Falls.

For us, our quest was to do some fishing on the many alpine lakes and explore others that were just up the road off of Highway 395.

When we arrived in town and even before our engine had time to cool off, we set off to check out some of the nearby lakes. Some were conveniently just a few miles from the condo that we rented.


Lake Mary is only a few miles outside of the town of Mammoth Lakes

On this weekend we were only a few days into fall but the weather still had summer like conditions.

As an example, on the beautiful Grant Lake, the sun beat done on us so hard, we had to find refuge in the shade.  It seems weird being up in the mountains dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. However, after the sun sets, the temperatures start to pummel to a cool thirty degrees Fahrenheit.

The next day was just as warm so we drove around a loop that took us to some of the other lakes.

Lake Mary was our first stop and we were impressed by the beautiful scenery and the sparkling blue water.  Only a smattering of white snow patches could be seen at the very tip of the mountains although soon they will be fully covered in pristine white.

The pine tree-lined hills added even more color while the air was clean and crisp.

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Humphreys Half Moon Inn.

Humphreys Half Moon Bay Inn
When arriving at Humphreys Half Moon Bay Inn located in San Diego, we were greeted at the desk with what are now my favorite 6 words in the English language…”We have given you an upgrade.”

What a beautiful upgrade it was as it turned out to be a one bedroom suite with a huge kitchen, dining room, and separate bedroom.   However, we did order a mini suite originally so it wasn’t as if they moved us up from a regular room all the way to a suite. Still, it was well appreciated. I don’t know why we were given an upgrade but I shut my mouth and gladly took the key!

When arriving at the room, the first thing I noticed when entering the door was an immediate view of the bay.  There were Rows of boats and sailboats against a pretty blue sky with the spectacular homes of Point Loma in the distance.


I investigated every nook and cranny in the place and there was so much room, I felt like calling up every friend I know to come over!!

However, this was to be a mellow weekend starting with a smooth jazz concert by saxophonist Kenny G.

Continue reading “Humphreys Half Moon Inn.”