Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Mountain Not Climbed

sheesh, gotta let the pet human have the blog today.

The Mountain Not Climbed


Two or three years ago I packed my expedition backpack with supplies for a weeklong trip to the Sierras. I needed some solitude, and I needed to feel the joy and breathtaking inspiration that I find in the backcountry. I took off from Kennedy Meadows, or perhaps it was Horseshoe Meadows. No, maybe it was Lee Vining. I can’t quite recall now. Anyway, I parked the car and paid the fee. Then I broke a cardinal rule. I chose not to register with the Ranger’s office and to file a trail plan with an estimated date of return. Come to think of it, perhaps it was at least ten years ago. I wouldn’t take that kind of risk anymore.

Anyway I started hiking, and as always, I kept a fairly brisk pace. I had no predetermined plans, so I turned at trail heads that looked interesting. Soon I was just east of Sequoia Park, or perhaps it was north of Tuolumne, or maybe west of Mt. Langley, yet I had reached an area of the Sierras that I had never seen. Although it was August, the temperature was very cool, 40 to 45 degrees, and fog layered the moss covered embankments surrounding me. Moss not only covered the floor, but it also hung down from the trees, and dew dripped from the ends. Repeatedly I crossed rushing creeks of icy water. I could not see the melting snow above because of the dank fog. Surely by August all the snow would have melted. I wondered if I had wandered too far north. Perhaps I had gone too far. Perhaps I was in Washington.

Anyway, I wasn’t tired so I continued to hike through the nights. Although the days were foggy, the nights were completely clear and the full moon lit the way each night. Finally on the fifth day I stopped around noon for a sip of water. I looked west and saw a switchback as steep as I have ever encountered. It led to a saddle between two peaks, although I could not see the peaks themselves. Just beyond the other side of the saddle, sunlight broke through the clouds.

I headed across the narrow valley and started up the switchback. Soon night fell, but again I wasn’t tired so I continued on in the moonlight. Morning came, then lunchtime. I had hiked up the switchback a full 24 hours before reaching the saddle.

At the top I saw the most glorious vista imaginable. I saw vivid hues of greens below and blues above, with solid granite canyons slicing through the mountain range. A single peak rose at least 22 to 23 thousand feet directly in front of me, and I could see the easy trail going up a gently sloping ridge to the top. The peak was stunningly beautiful, not craggy or ill shaped as so many peaks are in the Sierras. Although the mountain was granite, it seemed to be a perfectly shaped volcano, symmetrical with a rounded top. The gradations of colors led from deep chocolate browns and cadmium greens to azurite blues and perfect whites.

That mountain had me hooked. I had to bag this peak and see the 360 degree view from the top. I pulled out my maps and tried to find it, but the mountain was not on any of them. Apparently I was the first to discover it! I had discovered the highest mountain on the North American Continent. I would be the first to climb it, and it appeared to be an easy climb! Well, the first to climb it since the Indians, because the trail up to the peak was obviously an ancient Indian trail. Of course I would name it after myself!

I sat down to eat some lunch, and as I did a voice in the wind said to me, “it’s an ass kicker.” I looked across the valley at the peak, and for the first time in my life I heeded the voice in the wind.

“Yes,” I said to myself, “it has to be an ass kicker.” It’s a pretty package, but this mountain could hurt me.

I enjoyed the view while I ate, then I packed up and headed out. By nightfall I was back at my car. I stopped at my mom’s house on the drive home and had dinner with her. She set a beautiful table as usual, with her wonderfully extensive collection of unique dishes.

“How a dinner is presented is just the same as how a gift is wrapped,” she said.

I had heard this before. Usually her obsession with appearances annoyed me. This time I asked her a question.

“But what if the dinner is tainted with e-coli and it could kill you, what does it matter how it is presented?”

“Oh, who cares? What does it matter if it looks this exquisite on the plate? Who cares what’s inside a present if the wrapping is beautiful?” she exclaimed.

I chose not to continue with that conversation, and I changed the subject to something more congenial.

As I headed home I considered her comment. Perhaps some packages aren’t meant to be unwrapped, just as some mountains are not to be climbed.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Mountain Not Climbed

sheesh, gotta let the pet human have the blog today.

The Mountain Not Climbed


Two or three years ago I packed my expedition backpack with supplies for a weeklong trip to the Sierras. I needed some solitude, and I needed to feel the joy and breathtaking inspiration that I find in the backcountry. I took off from Kennedy Meadows, or perhaps it was Horseshoe Meadows. No, maybe it was Lee Vining. I can’t quite recall now. Anyway, I parked the car and paid the fee. Then I broke a cardinal rule. I chose not to register with the Ranger’s office and to file a trail plan with an estimated date of return. Come to think of it, perhaps it was at least ten years ago. I wouldn’t take that kind of risk anymore.

Anyway I started hiking, and as always, I kept a fairly brisk pace. I had no predetermined plans, so I turned at trail heads that looked interesting. Soon I was just east of Sequoia Park, or perhaps it was north of Tuolumne, or maybe west of Mt. Langley, yet I had reached an area of the Sierras that I had never seen. Although it was August, the temperature was very cool, 40 to 45 degrees, and fog layered the moss covered embankments surrounding me. Moss not only covered the floor, but it also hung down from the trees, and dew dripped from the ends. Repeatedly I crossed rushing creeks of icy water. I could not see the melting snow above because of the dank fog. Surely by August all the snow would have melted. I wondered if I had wandered too far north. Perhaps I had gone too far. Perhaps I was in Washington.

Anyway, I wasn’t tired so I continued to hike through the nights. Although the days were foggy, the nights were completely clear and the full moon lit the way each night. Finally on the fifth day I stopped around noon for a sip of water. I looked west and saw a switchback as steep as I have ever encountered. It led to a saddle between two peaks, although I could not see the peaks themselves. Just beyond the other side of the saddle, sunlight broke through the clouds.

I headed across the narrow valley and started up the switchback. Soon night fell, but again I wasn’t tired so I continued on in the moonlight. Morning came, then lunchtime. I had hiked up the switchback a full 24 hours before reaching the saddle.

At the top I saw the most glorious vista imaginable. I saw vivid hues of greens below and blues above, with solid granite canyons slicing through the mountain range. A single peak rose at least 22 to 23 thousand feet directly in front of me, and I could see the easy trail going up a gently sloping ridge to the top. The peak was stunningly beautiful, not craggy or ill shaped as so many peaks are in the Sierras. Although the mountain was granite, it seemed to be a perfectly shaped volcano, symmetrical with a rounded top. The gradations of colors led from deep chocolate browns and cadmium greens to azurite blues and perfect whites.

That mountain had me hooked. I had to bag this peak and see the 360 degree view from the top. I pulled out my maps and tried to find it, but the mountain was not on any of them. Apparently I was the first to discover it! I had discovered the highest mountain on the North American Continent. I would be the first to climb it, and it appeared to be an easy climb! Well, the first to climb it since the Indians, because the trail up to the peak was obviously an ancient Indian trail. Of course I would name it after myself!

I sat down to eat some lunch, and as I did a voice in the wind said to me, “it’s an ass kicker.” I looked across the valley at the peak, and for the first time in my life I heeded the voice in the wind.

“Yes,” I said to myself, “it has to be an ass kicker.” It’s a pretty package, but this mountain could hurt me.

I enjoyed the view while I ate, then I packed up and headed out. By nightfall I was back at my car. I stopped at my mom’s house on the drive home and had dinner with her. She set a beautiful table as usual, with her wonderfully extensive collection of unique dishes.

“How a dinner is presented is just the same as how a gift is wrapped,” she said.

I had heard this before. Usually her obsession with appearances annoyed me. This time I asked her a question.

“But what if the dinner is tainted with e-coli and it could kill you, what does it matter how it is presented?”

“Oh, who cares? What does it matter if it looks this exquisite on the plate? Who cares what’s inside a present if the wrapping is beautiful?” she exclaimed.

I chose not to continue with that conversation, and I changed the subject to something more congenial.

As I headed home I considered her comment. Perhaps some packages aren’t meant to be unwrapped, just as some mountains are not to be climbed.

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