This will be the last posting on our trip to the Sierra Nevada in October 2019. This will feature four other places that did not have any fall color but are significant photo opportunities. I will give a brief preview of each of the four sites.
The first is the Devil’s Postpile National Monument. We first visited this site over 50 years ago because I found a photo of it in a geology book. It features volcanic formed hexagon shaped 60 foot long columns of basalt.
The second site is the Ancient Bristle Cone Pines, some of which are 3-4000 years old.
The third site is Mono Lake which is near Lee Vining. I will tell more about the limestone tufa’s later.
Finally, we visited a mining ghost town called Bodie, which is the best preserved mining town in the West.
Click to the blog for some more photos and interesting facts about these four places.
Devils Postpile National Monument
About 80-100,000 years ago a basalt lava lake of up to 400 feet deep was formed. As the lava lake cooled, the rock columns formed and contracted forming cracks which allowed the heat to escape. Powerful erosive forces exposed the postpile with glaciers being the main reason that we see the postpile today. Glacial polish and striations are evident on top where the tops of the hexagon columns are exposed. Much more info is available at: https://www.nps.gov/depo/learn/nature/geology.htm
Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest:
This forest is located south of Bishop and east and north of Big Pine. Here at over 10,000 feet elevation up a steep and winding road, we found the oldest trees on earth. Some exceed 4000 years old and the oldest tree is believed to be 5070 years old. These oldest trees are not marked in anyway to prevent vandalism. The trees are dated by counting the growth rings. There are two groves of trees, although you can find others scattered in the Sierra’s. We did not visit the highest grove which would have required a 10 mile gravel road. The wind, snow, and ice polish the wood to a smooth almost varnish like appearance. Even though there may be little live bark on the tree it is sufficient to keep the tree alive.
The following tree had a marker giving the following info: This tree died in 1674 and was 3,200 years old. As you can see these trees are practically immune to decay.
Mono Lake is one of the oldest in the western hemisphere and is currently 70 square miles in a natural basin of 700 square miles. It is located near Lee Vining, CA. The lake was formed over 760,000 years ago and has no natural outlet. Therefore it is twice as salty as the ocean, but supports brine shrimp eaten by migratory birds. At one time Los Angeles was diverting to much of the freshwater streams that fed the lake and led to drop in the lake level. After much negotiation, it was mandated not to drop lower than about 6,390 feet in elevation.
The rock towers called tufa are really just limestone which is calcium carbonate. The water contains large amounts of calcium, bicarbonate, and carbonate. At the bottom of the lake are springs/vents which bubble up water and the afore mentioned calcium and carbonate. These immediately solidify around the vents to form the columns. When the lake waters fell, the towers are exposed. Many are also now on dry land.
Bodie Ghost Town
Bodie is now a California State Park, located east of Route 395 by 13 miles. The last three miles are gravel road. Gold was found as early as 1857 and a small band of miners worked claims until a major good strike in the mid 1870s. Ten thousand tons of rich ore was extracted to yield $15,000 over 25 years. By 1879, Bodie had a population of 8,500 and over 2,000 buildings. By 1886, the population had shrunk to 1,500 people. The mine had a resurgence up through 1932 when a fire destroyed all but 10% of the buildings which we see today. The buildings are preserved in an “arrested state of decay” with interiors not open to the public and preserved as when the people left.
To me, two the most amazing buildings are those that have bay windows! One is a regular bay window on the side of a house. The other has the bay window on the corner of the house! Have you ever seen anything like this in hundred year old houses? And the glass is still original – just amazing!