Saturday, June 20, 2015

Rejoice in what you love

Today I got out of the office early and got to the trailhead by two thirty. Oh what joy! A night in the mountains! The weather in California's Sierra Nevada in the summer is absolutely stunning. The temperature drops three degrees for every thousand feet of elevation gain. Ninety three degrees at the office, seventy two degrees on Signal Peak. 
My heart is filled with the joyful exuberance of a soul set free. Living in a tent without the constraints of civilization. I walk where I want and I walk at the speed I want. There is a lightness in my step. A free and easy pace through the trees and up, up, up. I climb the peak without a trail. I follow a waterfall that is mostly dry, but not completely. The forest is alive and buzzing. Summer zephyrs whisper through the trees. They say, "enjoy it while you can, it's not always like this!" 

On the peak there is a structure built of concrete and rock. The view extends from Donner Summit in the east down to Nyack in the west. Not sure exactly what the structure was used for, although watching and perhaps signaling seem to be the most obvious choices. A little ways across the ridge is the communications facility with a couple of technicians that I chat with briefly. They are leaving the mountains tonight. I will be staying. I pass over the summit and head down the other side. The sun seems transfixed high in the western sky. It's almost the longest day of the year. Seemingly unending daylight as I stop to pull out my map and compass and traverse through the trees following a bearing that will bring me to Fordyce Lake.

Halfway through my traverse I stumble upon some old diggings. For what? I am not sure. A mine, tailings trailing off in different directions. Piles of rocks. An old foundation, weather beaten old scraps of lumber. A hole, quite large. Water fills most of it, water seeps and drips down the side. There once were people here. Filled with hopes and dreams. Riches from the earth. All you have to do is dig them out. Dig they did. And now they are gone. The place is forgotten. Trees have grown through the old foundation. Scars and scrapes are all that remain. Silent and forgotten. 
Off road enthusiasts travel down the dirt road. Still technically on a road, but road is a generous term for this track. They motor by oblivious to my presence. I stand motionless as they pass. They are staring at the road, the next chuckhole the rock jutting out. They pass, jeeps, quads, motorcycles, more four wheel drive vehicles. Then they putter around the corner and it's quiet again. A cloud of dust lingers over the road. A silent witness of their passing. I step into the cloud and pick up their trail, at a much slower pace. Slower than them but faster than my previous cross-country self. It's much easier to follow the road than trying to make a route through and around boulders and downed trees. I catch them at the lake. A busted rear-end converts one of the former quads into a couple hundred pounds off useless junk. They are attempting to convert it into a caboose for the other quad. It's a long walk back if they can't get their train built. I pass them and head down to the lake.

Dinner on the shore. The sun slowly moves behind the ridge. Shadows lengthen. The long day slowly descends into dusk. No animals, no birds. It's eerily empty and quiet on the shore. I cook dinner. Split pea soup with sausage and rice. Trail brownies for desert. The riders parade past on the road above unaware of my foray into camp cuisine. 

A few more miles after dinner bring me to the dam. A structure that converts the valley into a reservoir. A continuous stream gushes for a pipe at the bottom . Moving water. White noise. The sound of a good night's sleep. It accompanied my evening preparations. A quick sponge bath by the lake. The water, warmer than I expected, is clear and comfortable. If it wasn't so late I might have jumped in. My teeth brushed, bowels evacuated, and water replenished, all while being harassed by whiny little suckers that create itchy bumps on my arms and head. Dusk turns to night, a sliver of a moon in the west giving notice of a dark night. I enclose myself in my tent, keeping most of the bugs on the outside, killing the ones who insisted on joining me. Peace, tranquility, cool breezes caress my tent as I drift slowly out of consciousness.