Since the beginning of this adventure, I have seen many of my children's fears and anxieties disappear. When everything around you is so mesmerizing, it is impossible not to want to participate in the beauty around you, causing them to forget any phobia that may have prevented them before. This is especially true about the lakes we have encountered on our travels. It puts a grin on my face to see Asher, a kid who has anxieties about the pool, swimming with the fish and ducks in the icy dark waters of the lakes we have visited. However, salt water lakes are not the same as fresh, and we discover this the hard way on a visit to the Western hemisphere's oldest lake.
Mono Lake is an unworldly place. Calcium from underwater springs in the lake mix with the water's high concentration of carbonates forming limestone towers that emerge out of the water like alien cathedrals. It is truly a sight, and I was desperate to photograph it.
We arrived in our swimsuits ready to dive in. The high salt content of the lake makes you extra buoyant, and we were all eager to test its buoyancy. Locals also speak of the healing powers of the lake, and after a long camping trip, it felt like some healing and rejuvenation was just what we needed.
The first ten minutes were fantastic. We splashed and floated. We admired the millions of brine shrimp that swam across our bodies and watched the large population of birds that come to feed on the shrimp. We felt for springs that brought bubbling water from the earth below. It was turning out to be another fantastic experience when suddenly everyone started screaming in pain. What I had not considered is that every scrape (and trust me after nearly a month of biking, hiking, swimming, exploring, tripping, and falling we were covered in them) began to burn from the salt water.
We quickly became a spectacle to all the nature watchers enjoying sunset. All the kids came running out of the lake screaming at me, "I thought you said it was healing!" What had been a peaceful moment of nature became a howling disaster of man. After rinsing the salt off their legs with the few remaining bottles of drinking water in my bag, the kids began to settle down and together we sat on the beach watching the sunset.
Our trip to Mono Lake is now something we all laugh about, although I think the kids are still harboring a grudge about the whole thing. Every time the kids ask where are we going today, I now immediately respond, "Mono Lake anyone?" and they all scream at me "NOOOO!"
Our next stop is Lake Tahoe, and while the kids are all excited to sink their toes into another body of freshwater, they are slightly hesitant because of a newly developed phobia of alkaline lakes, of which I assure them we are doubtful to encounter again. We shall see if the powers of nature can assuage this fear as well.