Guest post by Becca Skinner
I have to admit, I hadn’t planned for a blizzard on our kayaking trip. Or the consistent rain, or having to rent a Uhaul. But it seems like my friend, Clare Fieseler and I always attract these kinds of adventures.
The last time Clare and I were together, we were circumnavigating an island in Panama in the Coasts, avoiding machetewielding locals and making up for losing our GPS the first day into the expedition.
Our objective this time seemed more simple: to kayak around Mono Lake, an ancient body of water (approx. 1 million years old) on the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. But the whiteout blizzard we were driving through wasn’t building confidence that we could pull it off.
At an elevation of nearly 6,400 ft., Mono Lake contains more salt than the ocean. This salinity in the water creates an incredible ecosystem to migratory birds, brine shrimp and alkaline flies. It’s best known for the calciumcarbonate tufas that rise out of it’s waters, making it look like a Caribbean scene with a high alpine backdrop, so it was an obvious choice for us to explore.
By the time we fought the snowstorm and arrived in Lee Vining at 10pm that night, Clare and I were not prepared to camp like we had originally imagined. She had forgotten to pack a sleeping pad and I had forgotten closedtoe shoes other than cowboy boots. (Should’ve double checked that packing list).
We collapsed in a hotel to wait for the snow to pass, then rallied at 4:45 a.m. to get a headstart on the morning light. When we arrived to the lake, we set up the boats and tiptoed through the muddy salt flats on the bank of the water. The water below my kayak was an algae green hue and salt dried on my legs and feet. Clare and I watched pairs of Osprey come and go from the large tufas holding their nests and gawked at the wild landscape around us.
When the wind and rain started to pick up, we hightailed it to shore before the wind and rain picked up.
We sat in the car at the visitors center and looked at the weather.
“Rain for the next 3 days, Clare…” I trailed off.
“What’s the percentage of that rain?” she asked.
Time for a Plan B: we would drive to Nevada and make this trip about exploring interior salt lakes.
When we arrived to our next campsite in the middle of Nevada at the edge of sunset, we stared across a large body of water, Walker Lake.
After breakfast and coffee the next morning, I went to start the car when the engine made a funny chugging noise. We hadn’t touched it for 12 hours but the ‘check engine’ light was on. I told Clare we needed to skip paddling and get it into a mechanic. As we drove back to town, I could hardly go above 30 mph without making the entire car shake.
Both of us were frustrated when we pulled into the mechanic. We had gotten delayed by snow, by rain and now, car trouble. But it was to all of our surprise when he popped the hood and stated that a mouse had made it’s bed in the engine compartment. I peered over the bumper to see a pile of sage and frayed wires. We wouldn’t be driving anywhere anytime soon.
There was confusion with the rental car company and we sat in the mechanic’s office for 8 hours before we decided to make alternative plans with the new vehicle delivery. Our rental options to get to our third lake were slim in the middle of Hawthorne, NV.
Our only option to get to the next lake in time was to rent a Uhaul.
Cruising down the highway in our now, trusty Uhaul, we made our way toward the third lake destination: Klondike Lake. When we finally pulled up to it’s shores, the sun started to set over the Sierra’s.
After paddling and warming up some water in the Jetboil, Clare and I sat watched until the land started to turn blue with low mountain light.
Sometimes things don’t go as planned. But then we both agreed: “It’s not an adventure until something goes wrong. It’ll make a good story later.”