High Sierras — down Paiute Canyon to the San Joaquin River
Today I fell in. Crossing a creek I lost my footing and tipped over,
soaking my boots and pants. I hope my socks & boots dry out before
tomorrow, or it’ll be a squishy (and probably blistery) walk.
And I worry… will I get blisters, will my shoelace break, will I hurt
my knee? It’s hard to have fun when you’re always thinking about what could
go wrong. Will I have enough food?
But after a while, the rugged beauty wins me over. Like a visit to a
foreign country, at first all I notice are the differences, and
everything seems a little strange. Then I start to notice
similarities, and it feels more familiar. And finally, well, finally
I stop comparing it to anywhere else, and like it on its own terms.
So I like the Sierras – I do – it’s hard not to, with its towering
granite, its crystalline waters, and plants and animals in every
crevice that will hold them. But for some reason I also think, “It’s
I’m not sure why – maybe because it’s connected to my old life in San
Diego, or maybe it’s too many years spent in the flatlands since then – the mud,
mosquitoes and broad leaves of home. Maybe it’s too harsh, too close to the
rocks of the last ice age, life concentrated in the crevices, the deep valleys.
I like a buffer of soft loam on top of my bedrock, life a little more spread
out, a little more relaxed.
In camp, after an icy plunge into Paiute Creek to wash off the
dust of the trail…
Yellow bird, red cap, black & white wings – a western tanager – flies up over
the creek, hovers a second, then swoops down toward the water and
lands on a nearby branch before beginning again, working his way
Later, the evening blush fades from the granite across the river. One
tree stands sentinel on the edge of the ridge, sillhouetted against
the western sky.
A bat comes out under a waxing moon.