Panoramas from East of the Sierras

In 2018, I took a friend of mine on a short trip to the Eastern Sierras. It was my first time spending an extended period of time there, having driven through that place twice before — the first time in 2017, going from Yosemite to Lake Tahoe, and the second time only a few months earlier when I took my parents on a road trip.

I didn’t know back then that Eastern Sierras were going to quickly become one of my favourite places, one where I’d be coming back with the same feelings coming back home after a long journey brings.

There are three panorama shots I took during that trip that, even after those years, I still haven’t deleted, which talks about something. I’m generally not a huge fan of panorama pictures simply because they don’t do the place justice on small screens. If I could print it onto a 15 meters long sheet, it would be somethign different, but on screens, panoramas usually just make me suffer.

Even so, I still decided that I’d try and share those three photos here with you, since they survived about 12 different rounds of photo-deleting sprees. After all that, they probably deserve their place on this blog. So gere goes nothing:

The photo shows Mono Lake with its numerous tufa columns
First of all, there’s Mono Lake. It is beautiful and geologically fascinating place. Tufa columns, petrified springs, stand tall on the shores of the lake, a silent testament to the origin of the place.
The tufas columns were formed when fresh-water springs interacted with the alkaline water of the lake. Mono Lake itself is over 1,000,000 years old, which makes it one of the oldest lakes in North America.
Since the lake has no outlets and all the water that collects there goes away by evaporation, all salts and minerals washed there from Eastern Sierras stay in the lake. This is why Mono Lake is nowadays about two and a half times as salty as the ocean.
The high concentration of minerals and salts is what makes the water feel slippery when you dip your fingers in.
The lake is also a sanctuary for between one and two million birds that feed and rest around Mono Lake every year.
The photo shows a rock formation in the Nevada Desert with a mountain in the background.
Second, there are the rock formations welcoming you to the Nevada desert — a part of the Great Basin Desert.
The Great Basin Desert is the only “cold” desert in the US. It exists thanks to the rainshadow created by the Sierras (the moist air from the Pacifis Ocean cools above the mountains, causing precipitation, and only dry air is left for the area East of the Sierras, which further dryes the land). the Great Basin Desert gets most of its moisture from snow and snowmelt.
The photo shows the Nevada desert stretching into the distance, with a few low conifers and shrubs.
And third, there are the few conifers and shrubs on the background of the vast plain of Nevada Desert.
The farther you go from Sierra Nevada, the less vegetation you see, and with every crossing of a low hil-range, you can see a slight change in the vegetation occupying each of the flat wide valleys.
The conifers in this picture are the last trees you’ll see until you rach Great Basin National Park, an oasis of greenery and life focused around 13,063-foot tall Wheeler Peak.

I hope you enjoyed this litte tour of the beautiful places East of the Sierras. The Sierras themselves are the most beautiful mountain range I’ve ever seen with my own eyes, but the vast plains to the East of these mountains are a gem of its own.

I never thought I’d be the one to love deserts, having grown up in a place that’s green most of the year, with stormy summers and white winters. But there’s just something magical about those places, brimming with life even though we might think them dead.

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