As we left Yosemite the park service map showed a Mono Lake Visitor Center outside the park and a short distance north of the direction we intended to go. Having no other plans, we went. There we discovered that I had been pronouncing it wrong; it’s MOH-noh. From the visitor center, there was a great view of… smoke. So, we toured the displays in the visitor center and learned that a remarkable feature of this very salty lake is the tufa. Tufa is limestone formed at the outlets of the springs in the lake. They are visible above the water because the lake has receded. The lake has receded because LA steals the water from the streams that feed it. The water is too salty for fish, but Sea Monkeys thrive (ok, they’re really brine shrimp). We returned the next day to clear skies allowing us to actually see the lake and to visit the South Tufa area – accessed via gravel road.
This was one of many places we were able to use our Senior Passes.