Sunrise, The Great Basin, California
We dropped off the Sierra from Yosemite, a good four thousand feet down the canyon to the town of Lee Vining. The eastern portal town sits at the base of the mountains to the west and on the rim of the basin to the east, holding the alkaline waters of Mono Lake. We needed a shower and supplies, but not the civilization, and we were packed and going as the sky smudged red. A few miles south of town a road goes into the desert, skirting volcanic craters along the southern edge of the basin to drop down to the lake. Water wars in California diverted so much inflow to Mono Lake that levels dropped drastically to expose alkaline salt sediments in the form of towers, called tufa. The formations draw photographers and birds alike-- the birds to the trillions of flies that blacken the shoreline with their larvae (and you thought it was all glamorous?). Towards this background, we headed down the trail to the water. Whether it was the last moments before sunrise or the realization that there were other formations right at my feet, I risked the lakeside sunrise and walked into the scrub. Here, an exploding sea of rabbit brush stretched to the water pan, bright with impending daylight. Hence a tufa-less sunrise at Mono Lake (although a few are peeking in along the near left shore).