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Local Caltrans crews repair damaged Lee Vining Creek Trail

July 29th, 2015 by Lisa, Eastern Sierra Policy Director
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On Monday, July 13 after several days of heavy rains, the Lee Vining Creek Trail at the south end of town was so damaged by erosion and undercutting it was no longer safe to use.

Within 24 hours of putting a call in to the Lee Vining Caltrans maintenance facility, the trail was fixed and safe again for visitors to use. Thank you to Randy Walker and local Caltrans workers for the swift and expert response! The creek trail—a local and visitor favorite—is once again available for those wanting to explore the beauty of Lee Vining Creek below town.

Before and after. Photos by Arya Degenhardt and Greg Reis.

Looking down the eroded trail on July 13, and looking back up on July 16 after the trail was repaired. Photos by Arya Degenhardt and Greg Reis.

A naturalist’s view of the Caltrans rockfall project: Spiders, cranes and giant tube worms

July 27th, 2015 by Sandra, Birding Intern
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The Caltrans staff working on the Lee Vining Rockfall Project have a stunning daily view of the Mono Basin, and they share their work site with some strange "species...." Photo courtesy of Joe Blommer, Caltrans.

The Caltrans staff working on the Lee Vining Rockfall Project have a stunning daily view of the Mono Basin, and they share their work site with some strange “species….” Photo courtesy of Joe Blommer, Caltrans.

A confirmed “sidewalk superintendent,” I am fascinated by construction sites. At least once a week I drive alongside the Caltrans Lee Vining Rockfall Project on Highway 395 just north of town and watch the progress of hillside stabilization, erosion control, and revegetation preparation with great interest. As a naturalist and one of this year’s Mono Lake Committee Birding Interns, I am also on the lookout for interesting and unusual species. With observations enhanced by an active imagination, I’ve noted some strange mechanical creatures assisting their human counterparts in the effort—spiders, cranes and giant tube worms! … more »

Guided canoe tours: The best way to experience Mono Lake

July 23rd, 2015 by Sara, Mono Lake Intern
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If you’re a Mono Lake Intern, mornings start early on the weekends. Six-thirty finds three sleepy interns and the Canoe Coordinator all making their way, eyes half-closed, through the crisp morning air in Lee Vining to meet at the back door of the Mono Lake Committee. Despite the early hour and memories of warm and cozy beds, spirits are high. It’s canoe tour day!

Caption caption. Photo by Erv Nichols.

Canoe tour days involve a sunrise wake-up call for Mono Lake Interns. Luckily, sunrise is one of Mono Lake’s best times of day. Photo by Erv Nichols.

Every Saturday and Sunday the ritual repeats. Canoe days are hard work. It takes a lot of energy to load and unload the fleet of shiny silver canoes from the canoe truck, to spend the entire day paddling Mono Lake’s (hopefully!) glassy waters, and all the while maintain the excitement of sharing the wonders of the Mono Basin with a fresh group of visitors—three times in a row. Yet there isn’t one among us who would even think about trading a canoe tour shift. On days like this, we all feel like we have the best job in the world. … more »

I love Mono Lake

July 21st, 2015 by Erv, Birding Intern
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I love Mono Lake…. That being said, let me tell some reasons why.

Early  morning at Old Marina. Photo by Erv Nichols.

Early morning at Old Marina. Photo by Erv Nichols.

Mono Lake is beautiful. It has the beauty of wisdom only learned through age and hardship with the scars and wrinkles that serve as medals to that. And this is never more evident than on a stormy, cloud-filled, grey morning. On these mornings, dreary to most, I can be found in the early hours wandering the shores from Castle Tufa to Old Marina with just thousands of birds for company. Or maybe along an old shoreline high above the present lake where Native Americans long ago left their mark in the form of rock petroglyphs.

Since coming here two years ago with my partner and working for the Mono Lake Committee, I have made it my duty and passion to record these moments as best I can. Usually with my camera at hand, but sometimes just in my mind’s eye hoping Mono will reveal some of her ancient wisdom to me. Maybe before I leave here I will learn more of her secrets.

I hope so.

Eastern Sierra loses James Wilson

July 18th, 2015 by Lisa, Eastern Sierra Policy Director
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It is with heavy hearts and punch-to-the-gut reactions that we convey the news of James Wilson’s passing this past Wednesday at Renown Hospital in Reno. He died from complications of a stroke suffered the week before. He was 67 years old. He is survived by his wife Kay, his daughter Rosanne, son-in-law Bayard, and grandson Ansel.

Kay & James Wilson pictured last September at the Mono Basin Outdoor Education Center. Photo by Arya Degenhardt.

Kay & James Wilson pictured last September at the Mono Basin Outdoor Education Center. Along with Kay, James was a steadfast supporter of the Mono Lake Committee’s work on behalf of Mono Lake. Photo by Arya Degenhardt.

For residents and frequent visitors to the Eastern Sierra, James’ accomplishments are familiar and numerous. He was the founder of Wilson’s Eastside Sports in Bishop, co-founder of Friends of the Inyo, active member of Eastern Sierra Audubon, the California Wilderness Coalition, and the Bishop Rotary Club; the list goes on and on. Suffice it to say that James was involved in almost every environmental issue that emerged in the region for over 30 years, bringing his calm, principled, and collaborative approach to the table. He was driven by his passionate love for the Eastern Sierra and his strong desire to protect its wild places, encouraging others to get out and experience it firsthand.

As a dedicated and steadfast conservation leader in the Eastern Sierra, an avid birder and naturalist, and friend to many, James Wilson will be deeply missed.

The last of the day's light reflected in a pond in Lundy Canyon last Wednesday, on the evening that James passed away. Photo by Lisa Cutting.

The last of the day’s light reflected in a pond in Lundy Canyon this past Wednesday, the evening that James passed away. Photo by Lisa Cutting.

Trail Chic inspiration

July 17th, 2015 by Arya, Communications Director
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It’s T-minus one week until the Trail Chic fashion show fundraiser … is your runway gear ready? Here’s one minute of inspiration from years past for you:

Trail Chic video capture

If you’re wondering what Trail Chic is, click here.

If you’re interested in walking the runway, please contact me by email, and if you just want to come see what all the fun is about, we’ll see you at 7:30pm on Friday, July 24th at the Lee Vining Community Center!

The Mono Basin’s wettest July since 1965

July 16th, 2015 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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At the Cain Ranch weather station, five miles south of Lee Vining, as of July 13, 1.57 inches of rain had fallen in July. That makes this month already the second-wettest July on record after the 1.98 inches of rain in July 1965. Records at this location began in 1931. Rain fell on all but two days between July 1 and 10, and while it has been dry there since July 10, it still has been raining in other parts of the Mono Basin almost every day.

The wet July continues the wet May-June centered on Mono County. This map from the Western Regional Climate Center shows April-June precipitation in percent of average.

This wet July continues the wet May–June centered on Mono County. This map from the Western Regional Climate Center shows April–June precipitation in percent of average.

Lee Vining Creek above the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) diversion dam experienced its peak flow of about 124 cubic feet per second on July 11, from rain and melting fresh snow. Below the dam, the minimum flow is being released, and the floodwaters are being diverted to Grant Lake Reservoir, which has been slowly rising since May.

Aside from brief floods due to thunderstorms, the Mono Basin’s creeks are dropping to the very low levels that were otherwise expected this summer. If the thunderstorms stop, we will start seeing new low flow records later this month, especially in watersheds without glaciers, such as Walker Creek. The April–September snowmelt runoff forecast issued by DWP in May predicted 19% of average runoff, with a lower bound of 7% and an upper bound of 32%. Nineteen percent is less than half of the runoff measured in 1977, the driest year on record; 32% is still much drier than the driest year on record. Thanks to the recent wet weather, Mono Basin runoff is on track to reach 32%.

Seminar spotlight: Introduction to High Country Plants & Habitats

July 15th, 2015 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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It’s one of the worst droughts on record, so that means there aren’t any flowers in the Mono Basin this year, right? Wrong!

Caption caption. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

Species of paintbrush are blooming brightly at many Mono Basin elevations, from riparian corridors where interns measure streamflow to alpine meadows. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

It’s one of the best wildflower years in the Eastern Sierra, thanks to the above-average precipitation we’ve received in May, June, and so far in July. The flowers are responding enthusiastically, so don’t miss the Introduction to High Country Plants & Habitats field seminar, scheduled for the peak of the summer bloom. Plants, animals, insects, geology, and weather all interact quickly during the short growing season, and this seminar is a guide to it all.

Introduction to High Country Plants & Habitats • July 31–August 2 • $165 per person/$150 for members • sign up here … more »

Mono Lake Committee divests from fossil fuels

July 13th, 2015 by Geoff, Executive Director
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The Mono Lake Committee has now fully divested from fossil fuels. Photo by Arya Degenhardt.

The Mono Lake Committee has now fully divested from fossil fuels. Photo by Arya Degenhardt.

A worldwide fossil fuel divestment movement has begun involving governments, educational institutions, foundations, faith-based groups, individuals, and non-profit organizations. Participants range from Stanford University to the City of Seattle to the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation to Britain’s Prince Charles. We’re pleased to inform members that the Mono Lake Committee is part of the movement.

As inspirational climate leader and Mono Lake Committee member Bill McKibben says, divestment is a simple, direct action that counters “the scary new math of climate change.”

The Committee’s savings account hardly rivals those of big institutions. But similar to our solar panel installation several years ago, we need to continue to do our part to counter carbon pollution—an issue close to home as we grapple with the effects of a changing climate at Mono Lake.

While coal, gas, and oil companies were never a special focus in the Committee’s investments, they were often present in the diversified funds we used to safeguard endowment gifts, member bequests, and other savings. But no longer. The Mono Lake Committee has now fully divested from fossil fuels.

This post was also published as an article in the Summer 2015 Mono Lake Newsletter.

July, the new January?

July 11th, 2015 by Bartshé, Education Director
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After four years of drought in California snow has become a rare sight in the Sierra Nevada, but in July?! Last week an upper-level low-pressure system moved westward across California and generated thunderstorms, rain, hail, and a local dose of real snow to the Tioga Pass region, especially in the Lee Vining Creek headwaters. The area around Saddlebag Lake, in particular, received a solid coating of snow, estimated between 6-10″ in the early morning hours of July 9. The morning was reminiscent of January, except for highlights of bright green vegetation struggling through an unfamiliar white blanket. With a strong El Nino building in the Pacific, might this be a harbinger of the winter ahead? California, the Sierra Nevada, and Mono Lake are greatly in need of anything close to a normal snowpack, but as this past week illustrates, there is no normal with precipitation in California, just variability.

Mt. Dana, above Tioga Pass on July 9, 2015.

Mt. Dana, above Tioga Pass on July 9, 2015.

New snow above Saddlebag Lake

Mt. Excelsior and ridge in fresh snow behind Saddlebag Lake, July 9, 2015.

Saddlebag Lake and the Tioga Ridge

Saddlebag Lake, Shepherd Crest (upper-left) and the Tioga Ridge on July 9, 2015. Note heavy snow near the ridge and Dore Pass (from upper-middle to upper- right). Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Penstemon newberryi

Mountain Pride, Penstemon newberryi, in fresh snow, July 9, 2015. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

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