Driving Past the Peaks That Inspired Ansel Adams in California
The main route to Yosemite from the Bay Area, Hwy 120, climbs high above the valley into Yosemite’s high country, where titanic granite domes lord above Tuolumne Meadows, the Sierra’s largest sub-alpine valley. From Tioga Pass (9,943 feet)—California’s highest vehicular pass—the tortuous road drops an ear-popping 3,500 feet in just ten miles to Mono Lake, a giant and eerie saline desert lake famous for its tufa towers (giant minarets of calcium carbonate). Bring your binocs: Mono Lake is a major stopover for millions of migratory birds, many of which arrive in late summer. The place to stay across from Mono Lake is Tioga Lodge. The rustic cabins are not fancy, but loving owners have fixed them up with simple, attractive furnishings that manage not to be tacky. Have dinner overlooking the lake at the Mono Inn at Lake Mono, owned by Ansel Adams’ granddaughter (the master’s work hangs on the walls).