On the Road Again: Springtime in Utah travel blog

Tufa rock formations at Mono Lake







Ruddy duck

Negit Island

Jonathan on Darwin Springs trail

Note the water pipes

Water flow where pipes were leaking


One of many creek crossings



We visited Mono Lake this morning. The Visitor Center was closed—that’s California for you!—but we thought the Lake looked pretty close from up at the VC so we set off down the hill to the shore. Looks were deceiving—about a mile later we ended up in a bog and so retraced our steps back up to the VC.

From the VC we had a beautiful view of Negit Island, an island composed of black volcanic rock. This is where 80% of the West Coast’s seagulls come to nest, every spring and summer.

Mono Lake is 60 square miles of alkaline salt water. It’s more than a million years old. The lake is composed of water from the mountain streams of the Eastern Sierras. It has no outlet so the water evaporates, leaving salt and minerals.

In 2010, due to NASA-funded “astrobiology” research, scientists discovered a bacteria in Mono Lake that uses arsenic instead of the normal phosphorus in its DNA—the only organism of its kind on Earth that thrives and reproduces using a toxic substance.

We went on to the South Tufa area and hiked the loop trail to the shoreline and back. Beautiful tufa rock formations!

Our next stop was Panamint Springs in Death Valley. We left the trailer at our campsite and drove three miles to the trailhead for the Darwin Falls trail. This is a trail through the desert into a canyon and then along a creek, and crossing the creek several times, to a 25-foot waterfall—in the desert! It was only a two-mile hike but it took us an hour a half because a lot of it was climbing up and down boulders. We were in awe that a creek and a waterfall and the surrounding trees, ferns and other lush plant life existed in this dry place. You’d never have guessed it from the terrain outside the canyon. The creek is partly taken by pipe to Panamint Springs and the rest just disappears in the ground. This was a great hike, very shady, perfect for a hot day.

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