An occasional journal of the Life of Reilly

Monday, May 1, 2006

Crater Views


Mono Craters are prominent symbols of the active geologic history of the Eastern Sierra. Rising from the valley south of Mono Lake, the features are young enough to still retain a conical shape with truncated tops. It was time to give the uphill muscles a challenge, so we set off to hike to the top.

We approached the craters from the east side. This might not be the shortest route, but the idea was to find a sunny ridge that did not have snow. We managed to avoid all but the largest patches. The temperatures have been warm and above freezing during the night, so the snow was not firm enough to support our weight and the consistency was much like bottomless mashed potatoes. John was much more careful than me when crossing the snow. He would step carefully, stomping the snow several times with each step to compact it so he would not sink above his ankles. From behind this motion resembled that of a cat walking across a puddle. At times we did sink down and the snow would get into the top of the boots, and we would need to stop and clear it out before it melted. I tried leading at one point, forging ahead, managing to sink down thigh-high, and requiring assistance to get out. I guess the tortoise won out over the hare.

Crossing the slopes and as we reached the rim of the crater, we walked across the gravel, which was a salt-and-pepper mix of obsidian and pumice. The obsidian came if a variety of states – some pieces were freshly broken and showed the glossy sheen of broken glass, some were rounded and frosted so they were dull and looked like ordinary pebbles. Others were layered records of molten material instantly solidified – glassy in one band, frothy bubbles in another. Geologists notice these things as they trudge uphill with their eyes focused downward.

We reached to top of what we thought was the high point. The rim, however, consisted of three prominent knobs, and the highest was to the west and was not the one we were standing on. So down a few hundred feet we went and then back up to the summit of Crater Mountain, the northernmost crater in the chain. On top were a Sierra Club register with entries back to 1972, and a USGS survey marker placing the peak at 9,172 feet in elevation.

We ate our lunch, dried our socks, and soaked up the 360 degree view from the top. To the north was Mono Lake (the featured photo), to the west and south the snow-covered expanse of the Sierra range, and to the east the basin and ranges of Nevada. We could clearly see the routes of dirt roads criss-crossing the valley below, the trucks and RVs traveling up Highway 395, the former shorelines of Mono Lake, the June Mountain ski area and string of June Lakes, the town of Lee Vining at the entry of Tioga Pass, the water treatment ponds and the County landfill. Afternoon puffy clouds began to build and obscure the warming sun, so we left our perch to descend back to camp, sunburned and happy.
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6 comments:

Laguna Geosciences said...

Brad knows where Washoe Lake is. He caught catfish in there. WE are at work, eating lunch around my computer and wishing we were fishing.

Laguna Geo said...

We also want to see a picture of the Truck and Tom wants to know what okind of coumputer is being used.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, more mountains with snow on them........I'm not jealous, really!
#%&@% :O)
Lynne

Northern California Cousin said...

Hey Cousin,
You're mom emailed me about your blog today. I read the first couple and will read the others at another time. I like your writing style. I laughed at the geologist comment when you were describing the rocks because I was thinking that very thing, only a geologist would focus on the rocks so much.
Love to you both,
Peter

Anonymous said...

Your website has a useful information for beginners like me.
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Anonymous said...

I love your website. It has a lot of great pictures and is very informative.
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