09 July 2006 Sunday

We went back into Mammoth Mountain for the rest of the Energy Fair.  We got a lot of information on solar power, solar hot water, straw bale construction and lots more.  The fair was supposed to last until 2 pm, but around noon it started to rain.  And then the rain turned to a light hail.  People started to leave and the vendors were packing up.  We headed out too.

Our next stop is Mono (Mo-no) Lake.  Mono Lake  is unique because it has no outlet, it is fed thru snowmelt thru several streams and rivers.  Salt and minerals leached from the surrounding rocks drain into Mono Lake and are concentrated when the water evaporates.  The lake has bizarre formations of rock called “tufa” (too-fa) that show during the fluctuations in the water level.  Six of the waterways that fed Mono Lake were diverted in the 1940’s for water for Los Angeles.  The next few decades resulted in a gradual decrease in the water levels of Mono Lake.  In the 1980’s (I think) LA was forced to give up some of the water feeding Mono Lake and the lake level began to rise again.  The water levels still fluctuate with snowmelt and evaporation.

A rain storm is on the horizon, so we head out.  We stopped at a gas station that a ranger told us about.  We were told this gas station, The Toomey Tioga Gas Station has gourmet food, but we found so much more.  It was a gas station that sold gifts, of course.  Of the gourmet food, we sampled the fish tacos with mango salsa, but also on the menu was lobster taquitos and steaks.  While we were there, the live band was just setting up on the outside deck that overlooked the trapeze.  Yes, TRAPEZE!!  This gas station was so much more than just a gas station!

We moved onto Yosemite National Park and the rain began.  It was raining on and off as we entered the park and the sign on the side of the road read “Falling Rocks”.  Rocks were actually falling into the road… BIG rocks!  We were able to dodge most of them, some the size of baseballs and a few the size of basketballs!  You know, all the times I’ve seen the “Falling Rocks” sign, this is the first time I’ve ever witnessed them falling.  

We got into the park and drove out of the rain.  For some reason, I got a bad feeling for this park.  It’s very beautiful, Ansel Adams and others have photographed the park for years.  Maybe it was just the introduction of having rocks thrown at us as we entered, I just didn’t want to be here.  

It’s also visited by four million people a year.  I swear, all four million of them are here today!  Every pull out for a scenic view is packed with cars.  We got to an office with campground information, waited in line and found a campground with some openings.  This office is out of their newspaper, which usually has all the information on the park, current programs, precautions, road closings, etc.  So we’re kind of in the dark about park happenings.  

Yosemite is also renown for their bear population and their unwelcomed interaction with campers.  The problem is that some visitors feed the bears to get pictures or leave food out at camp that bears can get to.  The bears are opportunists and will eat what they can find.  After the bears begin to associate humans and cars with an easy meal, they become more aggressive and even break into cars to get at food.  As a result, the campsites have large steel “bear boxes” that all food and scented things must go into while camping.  All food!  Chewing gum, mints, scented hand sanitizer, sunscreen, anything that a bear may consider food.  We found out how much food we had stashed in the truck.  We had just purchased beer in Mammoth, CA and had picked up several bottles of wine discounted in Tonopah, NV.  Not to mention 5 to 7 days of food in the cooler and lots of dry goods.  It took us a while, but our bear box was full.  

It was a pretty normal night at a campground; children screaming and playing, a baby crying, some guy playing a guitar.  We miss the quiet and privacy we have while boondocking.  

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