After that brief Brexit rant, back to SCENERY!! Our journey took us onwards South West, past such sights as Mono Lake, which is a destination in itself. The excellent information centre, which we visited on the way back, told me that it’s a saline lake with a unique ecosystem based on brine shrimp native to the lake which provide food for thousands of migratory birds, and indeed it is. More germane as we drove past it were the formations of limestone tufa caused by mineral deposits from underwater springs. These are basically organically formed statues of water fountains, and they’re visible thanks to the City of Los Angeles diverting water from the lake’s inflow rivers in the second half of the last century, which caused the water level to drop and left white deposits around the shoreline and numerous tufa towers on show. This ain’t great for the ecosystem, so they stopped doing it and the lake is gradually recovering, but in the meantime you could take a picture of it and put it straight on the cover of a sci-fi novel about a far-off planet. It’s that extraordinary looking.
Not my pic – it’s from Wikimedia Commons
And yet even that paled into insignificance as we headed sharp right along the Great Sierra Wagon Road (even the roads have scenic names). This was built in the nineteenth century to access a silver mine which promptly went bust, and was subsequently gifted to the Parks Service as an approach to Yosemite. This gifting was not actually as generous as it seems, since it doesn’t really go anywhere but Yosemite, but then it doesn’t really need to, partly because, Yosemite!, but also, OMG TOTALLY AMAZEBALLS ROAD!!!
It climbs up and up through the Tioga Pass looping up the valley sides and providing incredible, vertiginous views until it finally tops out at just below 10,000 feet. Aspens flared bright gold in the valley bottom, by contrast with the white rock and grey scree of the mountainsides. And these were mountains – real, proper, Middle-Earth stylee mountains. Cars on the road below us were tiny as toys and we could look back down the pass to the plain we had left, 4,000 feet below. And then on we went across the Sierra, past Ellery Lake and Saddlebag Lake, Mine Creek, Nunatak Trailhead and Glacier Canyon, until finally! We got to Yosemite!