Cresting over the conclusion of Tioga Pass into the Eastern Sierra, an ethereal glinting lake looms like a mirage. Mark Twain called it “one of the strangest freaks of nature in any land,” but we prefer to call it a high-desert sea. Mysterious, tranquil, and ancient, Mono Lake is the second oldest lake in North America and a vital habitat for millions of migratory and nesting birds. It’s famed for its bizarre, salt-white “tufa” towers, rising up from the lake like gnarled fingers pointing skyward. These once-submerged limestone formations began to appear in the 1940s after Southern California began tapping the lake for drinking water. Get up-close to the otherworldly “tufas” by paddling right to them. The Mono Lake Committee
leads one-hour guided canoe tours, elaborating on the lake’s history, controversy, and peculiar mystique. And don’t worry if you fall out of your kayak (a highly unlikely occurrence): the lake’s vigorously salty water will help keep you afloat.
BONUS: Don’t miss what’s hailed as “The most unusual deli inside a gas station you will ever visit.” The Mobile gas station at the intersection of Highway 120 and Highway 395 boasts the Whoa Nellie Deli, featuring a menu even the most discerning foodies will appreciate. Get a jumbo juicy burger or try a signature specialty like the Legendary Lobster Taquitos. Grab a seat at one of the outdoor picnic tables overlooking Mono Lake.
The Mono Lake Committee (760-647-6595) offers one-hour canoe tours from the end of June through Labor Day on Saturdays and Sundays. The cost is $25 per person. Book online or call and reserve a spot.