Last week, the Carson botany team and I went on a four day seed collecting excursion in the Mono Lake area. It was such an incredible experience for all, and was highly productive as well. The first day, we drove to the Inyo National Forest and made our way to the Ancient Bristle Forest. Many of you probably already know that this bristle cone pine forest is the home of Methuselah, the oldest known living organism in the world. We decided that as botanists, we should hike the Methuselah trail and observe these ancient trees, and take a gander on which one of these bristle cones could be the great Methuselah.
It is amazing that these bristle cone pines live thousands of years, and we were very fortunate to be able to see them in all their majesty.
The next couple days were just as exciting. We made several seed collections, and saw more breath taking sites. We drove a little bit up Tioga Pass, which is one of the passes that leads to Yosemite. We surveyed a lovely riperian area and also made a collection of Scirpis. There was a solar eclipse occuring on the third day of our trip, and were actually able to view the eclipse through a telescope outside the Mono Lake Visitor Center, which was fascinating. You could actually see several sun spots through the telescope!
The history of the Mono Lake area is quite fascinating. Not only was the area glaciated at one time, but it is also home to the Mono Craters, a volcanic chain stretching many miles. Seven hundred sixty thousand years ago, an eruption occurred near Mono Lake, creating a blast that was 2,500 times greater than the blast of Mt. Saint Helen. Ash from this blast has been found as far as Nebraska. Because this is an area of high geologic activity, there are many hot springs in the area. A friend of our supervisor’s allowed us to spend the night at her property in Benton, CA, a tiny town which resides over some of these hot springs. The property was quite lovely, and also had hot spring tubs, which was such a relaxing treat for us. We headed home the next day, making a few more SOS collections and also stopping to survey an old volcanic area near Luck Boy Pass, which is near the Walker Lake area. The trip was highly successful, as we made several SOS collections. It was also a wonderful experience, having had the privilege of working in such a beautiful part of the country.