While most travelers reconsidered their travel plans to the Eastern Sierra late July due to the Detweiler Fire just outside the southwest entrance of Yosemite, I was already committed to my travel dates. Not only was I starting out on a weekday (and avoiding the potential of more people in the area on the weekends), the timing was right in regards to the beginning of the new moon (it is the opposite of a full moon) given me a better opportunity to photograph the Milky Way in two areas I had roughly scouted out on a previous trip. Though I recognized the possibly of smoke affect the visibility of Milky Way, it was still worth the effort to spend some time in Eastern Sierra again.
As with any of my photography trips, a list of side trips are mapped out. The primary purpose is to provide me with something to see and do in the middle of the day when I tend not to be out shooting and to also fulfill my sense of curiosity to historic or geologic wonders around me.
This photograph is from one of these side trips out past the Aeolian Buttes next to the Mono Craters. The view is looking west towards the Eastern Sierra, likely looking between Mt. Lewis and Mt. Dana through the wildfire smoke.
Location Notes: The Aeolian Buttes are a well-known, though seemingly less popular than Bishop or the Alabama Hills, bouldering location consisting of large boulders of Bishop Tuff material. Orange in color, these rock formations are weirdly shaped and look out of place as they sit on sloped hills overlooking the Mono Basin.
The main reason I was even near the Buttes was to discover the location of the West Portal of the Mono Tunnel. This tunnel was built in the 1930’s by the LADWP for the sole purpose of transporting water from Grant Lake, through the Mono Craters for 11 miles, before exiting at Bald Mountain into the Owens River and arriving in Los Angeles 3 months later. I wanted to see if anything remained of the town of West Portal (nothing except a few foundations) whose sole purpose was to house the tunnel workers. I did manage to find the tunnel entrance with a heavy metal door and a “Danger – Gas” sign. I fully expected to see water entering the tunnel with all the snowfall this year and abundant run-off this summer, but yet nothing was going into the tunnel. I am not sure what to make of that. But on this hot and smoky day, I could feel the cool air emanating from the space between the concrete tunnel lining and the metal door.
EXIF data: Nikon D7000, center-weighted metering mode, ISO100, 110mm, f/13, 1/500 sec
Mono County (CA), Wildfire Smoke, Eastern Sierra Layered Ridges. Aeolian Buttes, Mono County, CA. July 20, 2017. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.