Sunday, December 5, 2010

Mono Lake - Solo

A hellish week - and the walls in my office seem to be closing in. Racing home for a quick lunch, I pack in about 25 minutes: camera, tripod, cold weather gear, sleeping bag and tent are thrown into the trunk of my car. I have no fixed plan, just an intense longing to be somewhere other than where I am.

Later that night, somewhere south of Lone Pine, I stop to take some night time exposures of the Owens Valley. The pictures don't turn out - but the dark, velvety expanse of the desert under the starlight brings a sense of freedom and excitement.

Waking long before dawn the next morning, I drive north. There is the same sense of urgency as one usually feels before a long hike, and I have to force myself to slow down, breathe. There is no destination I am trying to reach, no reason to hurry.

A lavender dawn gives way to a faded, wintry morning. It is outstandingly beautiful but the intense cold and incessant wind seem to have scoured all color from the landscape.

Independence, Bishop, Tom's Place, Mammoth, and at last - Mono Lake.

I wander for some time along the shores of Mono Lake - platinum grass, turquoise water and blue gray mountains stretch endlessly - to the horizon and beyond. The wind is fierce, throwing up huge clouds of sand and dust.

A storm is blowing in, and I reluctantly turn south again. I cannot resist a quick side trip to Convict Lake - whipped by the wind and mirroring the stormy skies:

I end the day with a trip up to Whitney Portal. It is completely and utterly deserted - and in the fading light it is too lonely even for me. After watching the moon rise over the darkening Inyos I retreat to my overheated room at the Dow Villa.

I lie there for some time, listening to the storm - and then a sudden longing for home has me up and packed, heading south through the rain washed desert, a brilliant moon lighting the way.