July 8, 1863: Mono Craters
July 8, 2013
Camp 120 [Today] Hoffmann and I visited a chain of extinct volcanoes which stretches south of Lake Mono. They are remarkable hills, a series of truncated cones, which rise about 9,700 feet above the sea. Rock peeps out in places, but most of the surface is of dry, loose, volcanic ashes, lying as steep as the material will allow. The rocks of these volcanoes are a gray lava, pumice stone so light that it will float on water, obsidian or volcanic glass, and similar volcanic products. It was a laborious climb to get to the summit. We sank to the ankles or deeper at every step, and slid back most of each step. But it was easy enough getting down—one slope that took three hours to ascend we came down leisurely in forty-five minutes. The scene from the top is desolate enough—barren volcanic mountains standing in a desert cannot form a cheering picture. Lake Mono, that American “Dead Sea,” lies at the foot. Between these hills and our camp lie about six miles of desert, which is very tedious to ride over—dry sand, with pebbles of pumice, supporting a growth of crabbed, dry sagebrushes, whose yellow-gray foliage does not enliven the scene.