My blog about knitting, teaching, and being a mother to two energetic young boys.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mono Lake & Yosemite

Hello again... So my last post was my poor attempt to reconnect in blogland. Now that I have access to hubby's computer and therefore all photos from this summer, I guess I can provide at least a bit more visual stimulation.

I think my last vacation post was about our arrival in Wisconsin. I hadn't discussed our trip to Mono Lake etc. So - here are the Cliff's Notes:

July 8th & 9th, 2008

About the time the temperatures were soaring into the 100's in Sacramento, we departed to visit the Eastern Sierras - specifically Mono Lake & the east side of Yosemite. Many of you may remember Mono Lake being the center of attention for many environmentalists back in the 80's. Essentially the Los Angeles basin was diverting water from the tributaries that feed into Mono Lake. As a result water levels dropped & had a negative impact on the ecosystem. Eventually (I'm a science teacher - I can use ambiguous terms for historical dates, like 'eventually') measures were passed to stop the diversion of water with the hopes the levels of Mono Lake will return to normal. Political history aside, the natural history of Mono Lake is very interesting. For specific details, you may want to go here.

The formations you see in the picture above are called Tufa Towers. They are formed over time from the reaction of dissolved calcium from underground springs and carbonates that exist in the lake water. In a nutshell - limestone (Calcium carbonate - CaCO3) is formed in what is called a precipitation reaction. Yes - chemistry in the real world; my students will be thrilled! The towers are so impressive due to the level of the lake dropping as mentioned above.

The chemistry didn't stop there!! The blurry photo above shows Iain holding a piece of pH paper. For those of you who have forgotten, pH paper helps measure the pH (power of hydrogen) or how acidic/basic a solution is. This color is indicative of a pH of 10. On the pH scale (from 0 - 14), pH values above 7 are considered basic. Soap is an everyday example of a basic substance. Soap is slippery - a property associated with all bases. After wading in Mono Lake, you feel a bit slimy & need a clean water rinse.

You might think that a lake that has such a high salinity (I believe Mono Lake is twice as salty as the ocean) and so basic would be devoid of any creatures. Au contraire Mon frere! Check this out:

**Sorry for the sideways video - don't know how to edit & apparently this is how I took the video.

Alkali (basic) flies are pretty neat! They are everywhere! Normally you'd think - gross, I don't want to touch those yucky flies. Apparently the feeling is mutual since you can run through a swarm of these things & it's like the parting of the red sea - the darned flies just get out of the way!! My boys had a field day w/this - running through the flies to watch them scatter. To their delight - I even ate a fly larvae! Crunchy & a bit salty, but not too bad. I ate one after learning that the indigenous people used to eat tons of the larvae as part of their diet - high in protein!!

Fascinating political & natural history. I just love this picture - the two boys totally engrossed in the wonders of nature - so cool!

During this time we also attempted to visit the east side of Yosemite. I say 'attempted' because of this:
If you look close enough, you'll see steam emanating from under the hood.

A quick fix - adding a little lake water... (don't worry - we read the owner's manual & it said under emergency circumstances, water can be added. We think this constitutes as an emergency)
As we were heading up over the pass into Yosemite, the temperature light flicked on letting us know something was wrong. Luckily there was a pull-out nearby & a lake. Turns out all of our coolant had leaked out... not good.

Here's something you certainly don't want to add to your vacation photo collection:

We had the van towed to Mammoth Lake to have a VW mechanic take a look. Turns out a hose popped off & that caused all of the coolant to drain out. Fortunately it was a simple fix - reattach the hose & fill up w/coolant. I guess we'll have to save the east side of Yosemite for another road trip!

Okay - more of our adventures & perhaps some knitting content (must get batteries...) next time. I need to make dinner so my 8 yo will stop climbing in the refrigerator.

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