Last week my musical/photofriend Lynne dropped in after an overnight with her hiking pals in Pt. Reyes.
She described an upcoming desert trip–probably her hundredth –to the arid untrammeled terrain she has always returned to: the Inyo Mountain range, all the way across California.
“I never get to go on these trips.”
Selling Charlie on the idea of six Jacquie-less days was not hard.
Neither of us partake in the annual summer stampede out of Marin County. I like the feeling of paradise vacated.
But…I was itching to get out of town and I knew CC would love to have some space. Did I ever tell you I don’t put shit away? Or close drawers, turn off water taps, or even (gasp) shut the fridge? It’s not exactly what you’d call high-maintenance, well, maybe it is…
I mean, maybe I am. OK so my caseworker needed a break. Let’s just say that we each got a vacation.
Threw way too much food into a basket, and stuffed a sleeping bag into a ludicrously ill-fitting backpack, dug out my heirloom folding cutlery, and showed up a little late to Lynne’s place two days before the weekend. She drove straight all day, a regular sweetheart (of the road-eo). In Yosemite, we sang along with the yodellers and the white gospel singers playing on the (excellent) music system. Then as dusk fell, she expertly steered her Toyota up the six miles of twisting rock-walled canyon on a dirt road to a flat spot.
Cerro Gordo Mine, long unworked, boasts a little guest house or two but we slept under the triple density stars.
Early the next morning we aimed for the Saline Valley Salt Tram. We’d need a couple of days to do what some Sierra Club desert marathon-types were to do (and Lynne had thought of attempting) in a single day: reach New York Butte and bag the 10,000 ft peak.
For me, walking with sixty pounds means shuttlng sacks of cement from car to driveway one at a time. Ten sacks take about fifteen minutes to schlepp, and I never think twice that it’s ‘work’.
After that first mile, I decided it was a good idea that this trip would be mostly on roads. I’m impressively clumsy on two feet and I caught a thought lurking in the back of my head: “this would be so much easier with a bike”. By day’s end, after seven hours just counting the walking, I realized that a mile an hour was going to be my ‘rate’.
I think I’m a minimalist. I had only the clothes I wore, plus a rain jacket and wind pants. But I couldn’t survive four days without tea. Really hot tea. So there, lodged against my left ribs, lay a thermos bottle–the good kind, with a delicate glass liner. Next to it nestled the elegant stove & fuel bottle that boils water in about 3 minutes.
Oh, …I had to have the hundred year old hand carved folding knife/fork/spoon Charlie found and gave me back in the days when he traveled. Then the food. Chocolate. Home made energy bars. Tuna. Cans and cans of tasty heavy food.
I felt like a pregnant walrus shuffling along, and doubly so when I tried to bend over to take a picture of a rare phlox winking up at me.
The summit road beckoned. The Pipeline trail was a little more off-putting (being scree at angle-of-repose an’all). Loose rock tinkled like broken plates. Flat black leaves of rock resembling burned pages of books told me stories of violent uplift and wicked wind erosion. Flowers I’d heard of but never seen were blooming here and there.
There was at least one lion in this vast, little known wilderness, I saw its scat.
Best of all was getting to know my friend who plays a mean (literally) fiddle and takes exquisite photographs. We’ve known one another ten years, but never done this expedition thing together. I’d heard of umpteen group trips she’s been on, and tucked away all those delicious details in my brain, like an adventure-starved kangaroo rat.
Now we were out on the actual land. On our left, the multicolored bed of the Owens Lake sucked dry by Los Angeles. On the right, the Saline Valley. And this chain of rugged sage-brush and bristlecone pine desert, a huge linear wrinkle that parallels the much more famous but no more beautiful Sierra Nevada.
I discovered that I have a determined uphill lope quite a bit speedier than Lynne’s But she can keep it up all day, ten hours if neccessary. THEN set up the whole dinner shebang, as I lie around whimpering about my ‘puffy’ shoulders.
I begged for clues on making it a successful trip.
“Well, I forgot to tell you that we stay in voice range” she replied primly.
Considering that we’re damn near deaf, that meant ten feet at most.
“But” she continued, “if you wanna go fast, you can take one or two of my water bottles”.
I KNOW you don’t want to waste more time reading words, so I’ll fling up some Flickr shots….and hope you will follow my next adventure, Crossing Of The Untied States By Borrowed Bicycle.