Several years ago, I remember seeing some photos of weird stone formations in a lake and after finding out that the lake was in California, I was determined to visit it someday.
Last week, during an impromptu road trip, I got the chance.
Mono Lake is in the northern part of California, east of Yosemite. It is very unique because it contains "tufas" which are essentially limestone pillars. These pillars are formed when underwater springs rich in calcium mix with the alkaline lake water and precipitates form. When the level of the lake drops (which it has over the past fifty years), the tufas are exposed.
If you're still confused about where this place is, I have provided a map. It takes about five or six hours to get there from Los Angeles.
I have never seen anything like this place. Beautiful, serene, almost alien. The largest congregation of tufas are on the south coast of the lake which is where the photos below were taken. I can imagine that dawn would be a great time to visit and the motivation to get great pictures would definitely make me get out of bed at 5am and slog my way down to the water's edge. Bishop is the nearest town and there are plenty of hotels to choose from. I suggest LaQuinta because you can make your own Belgian waffles for breakfast and they allow dogs.
If you're up in that area, there are a couple of other attractions. The ancient Bristlecone forest is nearby which has trees that are several thousand years old. (Photos to be posted later). Bodie, an deserted mining town, is north of Mono Lake but I didn't have time to check it out. I've also heard that the road isn't good and I would likely need a car newer than a 1997 Chrysler convertible to make the trek. There is also Mammoth skiing area if you like playing around in the white stuff.
This is a great area of California and I can't wait to get back.