Van Hoose, Hilary L.

UCSC Merit Scholarship Essay:

Topic 2 Š salt, glacial, clouds, popcorn


The last time I visited Mammoth Lakes with my family was in the June of 2007. We all knew that it would be our last family vacation because my parents were planning to move away and I was staying in California to continue my education. When I was growing up, we took so many weekend trips to the Sierra Nevada mountains that IÕve grown to think of the area as my second home. Each time we went, we began by visiting Mono Lake and made a finale of hiking as far as we could on the Mosquito Flats trail.

It had been almost ten years since I had last seen Mono Lake. I had almost forgotten the humorous sight of the resident seagulls at the lake, who captured flies by waddling in straight lines along the salt-encrusted shores with their beaks open like little, feathery farm plows. As I strolled around the lake, I couldnÕt help but notice that the unusually low water level that year had exposed even more of the stalagmite-like tufa rock towers that populated the lake. One of the more eye-catching aspects of Mono Lake is that these sharp spires of rock protruding from the surface of the mirror-smooth water provide such a startling contrast to the gigantic cumulus clouds that float in the sky like hundred-foot tall pieces of popcorn. As always, it took a long, hot drive to get there. But it was well worth it.

Mosquito Flats has always been my favorite trail in Mammoth Lakes. ItÕs as if nature compressed all of the most picturesque elements of the Sierra Nevada mountains into a single hiking trail. In addition to being the most beautiful hike in Mammoth Lakes, however, it is also the most difficult. I and my brother had made it a thing of pride to hike just a little farther up the trail every time we came, in order to best our past achievements. Unlike previous years, we knew that this year was special because it was our last chance for the whole family to hike the trail together. This year, we were determined to make it to the highest point on the trail, Chickenfoot Lake. Even though it was early June, the high altitude kept much of the snow frozen. Several of the higher lakes were still afloat with enormous, fractured glacial formations. It almost looked as though great clusters of rock salt were slowly flowing from one lake to the next through the ice-topped rivers that wove through each of the stepped valleys. When we finally reached the top, it felt like the dˇnouement of a decades-long adventure that I didnÕt really want to end. I lived in Monterey for about twenty years before we all ended up moving to different places. But when I get homesick, IÕm almost always thinking of our adventures at Mammoth Lakes in the Sierra Nevada.

Copyright © 2011 Hilary Van Hoose