Sunrise light on a grove of tufa towers emerging from the water of Mono Lake with soft green and dusty-red wild grasses in the foreground, Canada geese in the shallow water with reflections of the rocky towers, and desert hills in the distance.

Mono Lake webcam restored to life

High atop the Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area Visitor Center resides the Mono Lake Committee’s webcam overlooking Mono Lake.

The author ascending into the upper story of the Scenic Area Visitor Center to retrieve the camera. Photo by Geoff McQuilkin.

This camera offers a small glimpse into the magic that is the Mono Basin with stunning sunsets and sunrises, as well as seasonal fall colors that emerge along restored Lee Vining Creek. Sometime in February 2018, as the sun was setting and a beautiful glow surrounded the lake, the Mono Lake webcam stopped communicating with us.

Why had our beloved webcam abandoned us? We called out to it every way we knew how, using command prompt. After several hours of troubleshooting, the black screen and white text of command prompt offered us little hope. I gazed into the abyss and the abyss also gazed into me.1 Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting…2

The only path forward was to ascend the highest peaks of the Scenic Area Visitor Center and confront the webcam. We organized a party and necessary provisions. Staff from State Parks, the Forest Service, and the Committee worked together and we managed to retrieve the camera, which had been undisturbed for over a decade.

We transported the specimen back to Committee headquarters and were able to revive it. We returned to the Scenic Area Visitor Center and were able to configure the camera to the appropriate network. We made one last ascent to the webcam’s nest and as we configured the final positioning of the camera, and the plastic mounting arm cracked and broke!

The arm was old, baking in the sun, and becoming brittle over the years. I sat there quietly for a moment with the rest of the expedition party and little was said. We reported the sorry state of affairs to headquarters, and were delighted to hear that there was a replacement stashed in storage. Within ten minutes, the new arm was delivered, the final ascent made, and the last screw tightened, and our webcam was back in action—hallelujah!

Thanks to all of our loyal members and webcam enthusiasts for bearing with us during this long process and we hope you’ll enjoy the increased update rate, now once every minute.

The view from the Mono Lake webcam, which is located atop the Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area Visitor Center. This image was one of the first the webcam captured after it was revived last week.

1 Friedrich Nietzsche

2 Edgar Allan Poe