01-Aug-2004 -- I have flown over Mono Lake probably a hundred times, driven by it at least a dozen times, and gone to the shoreline of this incredible lake twice – until today.
Today, my daughters and I would embark on a wonderful kayak adventure out onto the middle of the lake where we would locate the confluence of 38N and 119W.
I was able to find Caldera Kayaks (http://www.calderakayak.com) with a quick web search and set up the rental of two double kayaks and a tour guide for this adventure. Our trip was planned for the first of August so we would be able to land on Paoha Island in the middle of Mono Lake for lunch after a successful confluence visit. From 31 March until 1 August, you must stay at least 1 mile away from the shore because of the critical avian breeding grounds there.
Bruce Horn’s narrative contains a lot of excellent information on the lake and surrounding area. A stop at the visitors center is an absolute must when visiting the lake. We had spent a few hours there the day before learning all about the history and uniqueness of this lake.
We met our tour guide, TJ, from Caldera Kayaks at Navy Beach on the south shore of the lake at 8:00 am. We were underway shortly afterwards paddling on the glassy surface of the lake. Brawley Peak in the distance made a convenient visual reference to paddle towards. Millions of brine shrimp could be seen in the water. The lake is teeming with life! On a previous visit a few months earlier, we had collected a small half liter bottle of Mono Lake water for use in a Science Fair project describing the pH of various liquids and discovered that we had dozens of these little guys in the bottle. They lasted over a month at our house!
It was very quiet on the lake whenever we stopped paddling. We saw dozens of birds in the air and on the water around us. I had failed to bring a small towel to wipe sweat away or to dry my hands off (they get quite wet while paddling). Salt water from sweat can make your eyes sting, wiping your face with the back of your hand wet with the even saltier Mono Lake water became instantly self-critiquing. Wherever the water dries, a white film residue is left in its place. Eventually, we all would be covered with this film.
It took just under an hour and a half to paddle the 4.33 miles to the confluence point. Now it was time for some pictures. I had my camera and GPS’s inside separate clear waterproof cases. By the time we arrived at the intersection, they were covered in dried salt film from the evaporated lake water. I carefully removed them for my pictures and as I did, covered my camera and GPS units with this same white residue that I had no way to remove or even wipe off at the moment.
Our plan now was to head to Paoha Island for some lunch. We were almost there when we felt the southerly winds picking up. Radio confirmation of the same from shore resulted in an excellent decision by TJ to head back and bypass our planned stop at the island. As we neared the shore the wind velocity had increased significantly. An hour later after hot showers to wash the salt off (it’s nice to have a RV!), the winds were so strong (buffeting our parked RV) that had we stopped on the island, we most likely would have been stuck there on the island or unable to make it back to shore due to the strong wind and waves.
Picture #7 shows the successful confluence visitors: myself; my daughters; and our guide TJ. You can see the winds starting to pick up on the water in the background looking towards Paoha Island.
Overall distance paddled was 9.11 miles in 2 hours 53 minutes for an average of 3.2 miles per hour – about the same as a fast walk. An excellent workout and another great confluence adventure!