This summer I returned to an old haunt. I used to take a lot of photographs during my visits. Afterwards it seemed like every other person I shared them with would comment how the landscape looked “like a Pink Floyd album cover.”
Well that’s because a picture of the place was featured on a Pink Floyd album cover. (Actually it was the inner sleeve of Wish You Were Here. )
The place is Mono Lake, located at the eastern base of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range in northern California. I used to be a regular visitor –nearly every summer and fall in the 1990s. At the time we had a condo in Mammoth Lakes which was only a thirty minute drive away.
We sold the condo in 2000. To this day it remains my only divested possession I wish I still owned.
Much has changed since our last visit well over a decade ago. Many of Mono’s feeders were diverted in 1941 to expand the Los Angeles aqueduct. By 1990 the surface level had dropped 45 vertical feet. Then in 1994 a court order required seven of the tributaries to begin flowing into the lake again.
Twenty-two years later the water is still 37 feet below the 1941 level. As shown in the photo below the eight foot rise has significantly changed part of the landscape. But as indicated by all the large tufa formations there is still a lot of exposed lake bed that used to be under deep waters.
I have fond memories of the place even when the lake was at its lowest ebb. The expansive desert sky, blue-gray waters, tufa, and snow-capped mountains always combined to create a lonely, strikingly unique atmosphere –the kind you might see on a Pink Floyd album cover.
I can also recall when there was no visitor center and “admission” was free.
In that regard all I have is memories.
But they’re all priceless.