Tag Archives: Sierra Nevada

Back home in the same direction.

DAY 6: Even though this is our departure day, and I have much to do — or maybe because of that — I linger in bed this morning and savor this cozy little part of my cabin experience. I wonder where that mouse ran to… don’t suppose a mouse would start making a nest in my suitcase overnight… hope not. My lips are really chapped, from the dry air. I haven’t looked at the weather station much but I did notice humidity of 25% yesterday.

We are all up and packing, cleaning, eating breakfast at the same time. The children eat leftover pancakes heated on a stovetop toaster. I have jerky and leftover cold green beans with pesto. No microwave here, so even my tea gets cold and I wouldn’t want to dirty another pan to reheat it.

Everyone ponders when they might next be up here. The Professor is hoping their family might come back every other year; Scout was lobbying for twice a month! But snow prevents us from using it more than three or four months of the year. I might return as soon as next week, but I might not. I may be all tripped-out and too weary from this year’s bounteousness of traveling.

I am cleaning my windshield — amazed that I remembered to do this — when four-year-old Ivy comes up and says, “Can I help you with that, Grandma? I can do your side windows; you can do the high parts and I’ll do this part down here.”

“Well, okay, thank you, Sweetie, that will be nice  to have those clean, too.” I hand her a paper towel with Windex on it and she starts wiping. “Dad told me and Scout to help you and Mom as much as we could.” 🙂

My dear family drives off, after Pippin has accomplished 90% of the cleanup. A few last details… I’m almost out the front door when a chipmunk runs past me into the cabin. Oh, dear! I try to get on the other side of him to herd him back to the open door, but he runs into the back bedroom and disappears. My brother is due to arrive sometime this day — will I have to wait for him to help me?  Mice are always with us, but I can’t lock up with a chipmunk in here.

While I muse over this and check my phone one last time before leaving the wi-fi, the little guy scampers down the hall and out the door. Whew.

I drive away from the lake and down the mountain, enjoying the quietness for one more hour at least — I won’t turn on my audiobook until I get out of the forest — and the smell of the trees. Today it’s the usual piney flavor that they exude especially on warm days, but when I arrived last week in the thunderstorm, oh what a mix of earth and plant smells the rain brought out; just breathing it put the essence of Nature Girl right into me.

That afternoon upon first entering the forest at about 5,000 feet elevation, I’d been puzzled about the smell, which was unfamiliar. It didn’t have any of that piney edge to it, and it was sweet and toasty. I wondered if the thousands of dead trees were changing the chemistry of the aromatics. But after a half hour, the distinctive incense cedar scent came in the window, and I recognized it as having been one element of the strange smell. I suppose that with all the different trees, shrubs and flowers that are blooming and fading, each day’s bouquet in each microclimate is bound to be at least a little bit different.

I stop to take pictures of granite expanses, with giant trees sprouting out of crevices… get back in the car, turn the key, the engine hums, and Bam! the Kinks are blasting, “All day, and all of the night!” What on earth? Why did my stereo suddenly come on, and what station could possibly transmit here? I gather my wits from where they’ve been bounced all around my skull, turn down the volume, the song changes…. I realize it is iTunes playing, through my new stereo’s Bluetooth function. “My” iTunes is 90% my late husband’s collection, which I haven’t spent any time adapting to my own kind of music; I never even listen to iTunes.

shrub I see on the way down

 

I begin to wonder if an angel turned it on, because for the next hour as I listen to the shuffle, it’s a sweet reverie I float in, reminded of times when he would play certain ones saying, “This is for you, Gretchen.” R&B love songs like “Always and Forever” by Heatwave: “I’ll always love you forever.” Atlantic Star’s “Always”  includes a line about making a family who “will bring us joy for always,” something I have just been experiencing these last few days; I think over all the joy Mr. Glad and I shared over our children.

Sierra Vinegarweed

Now that I am thinking about him, I remember the time my husband and I stopped along this very road just to cut some manzanita branches to take home for Mrs. C. What a job that was! We staggered far up the bank through loose sandy soil so as not to uglify the least bit the view from the road, and all the bushes were surrounded by a stickery plant that impeded us greatly. But we accomplished our errand.

Even Kate Wolf’s “Across the Great Divide,” though it is melancholy indeed, evokes for me truths and realities of loss and change, and more importantly, of hope:

Where the years went I can’t say
I just turned around and they’ve gone away

The finest hour that I have seen
Is the one that comes between
The edge of night and the break of day
It’s when the darkness rolls away

And it’s gone away in yesterday
Now I find myself on the mountainside
Where the rivers change direction
Across the Great Divide

Here I am driving on a mountainside myself, thinking on things that have in one sense “gone away” with the years. But Love remains. Though my life has changed drastically in the last three years, its direction has continued steady, thanks to Christ, “the true Light that enlightens every man,” Who will finally roll away all the darkness. I think about this quote, too:

What shall pass from history into eternity? The human person with all its relations, such as friendship and love.
-Father Georges Florovsky

Various things happen to slow my descent, like being stopped while a tall dead pine is felled and crashes in the forest right across my line of vision. Slow logging trucks, road work, my own stopping to snap pictures… I see lots of Sierra Vinegarweed and spend ten minutes watching bees and butterflies drink at the flowers.

Also, I’m very relaxed and wanting to put off as long as possible the moment when I leave the last tree behind me and find myself in the baking and bare foothills. That’s when I will switch to my audiobook, leave my happy meditation, and count my Mountain Diary as concluded.

(I returned home just last night.)

If you missed previous posts in this series, you can go back and start HERE.

Lake, stream, and mice.

DAY 5: This will be our last full day at the lake. Mark and Jennie have already left their nearby camp, which leaves the six of us to plan for. I take a long walk in the morning and meet Tom, a man who spends the whole summer up here. “Mine is the black cabin,” he says. He is in his mid-80’s, and knew my father. He takes his canoe out every morning, all by himself, because his wife died only a few months ago. I think when I come next summer I’ll go look for him at his black cabin with a picture of quail on the sign.

I also check out the little library in a cabinet, but don’t find anything up my alley. Certainly I don’t need more books up here anyway – I’ve made small progress in the ones I brought.

wild gooseberry

I admire buttercups, and eat a couple of gooseberries as I head down to look at the lake, then hike steeply about 200 yards back to our cabin. There is time to read from The Complete Brambly Hedge to the children before lunch, one of the dozen books I brought from my shelves to share with them. We are already familiar with Jill Barklem’s charming stories and the detailed drawings which we study carefully to extract more knowledge about the families of darling anthropomorphized mice.

Then we all head to the lake, even Jamie. His father keeps him lakeside while Pippin, Scout, Ivy and I head out in the canoe for the special spot they found yesterday, an inlet on the other side of the lake where the water cascades over slabs and boulders and sand of granite in a myriad of gorgeous colors. We all enjoy walking up big rock steps through the stream, or along the same slopes that Scout gleefully slides down on his bottom into little pools, where the water is surprisingly temperate.

Me with Scout and Ivy

On return, the Pippin clan all five go in the canoe for a brief outing, while I try out the kayak for my first time. It’s quite fun!

My first voyage

Scout tries paddling the canoe with his mother – then we stow all the paddles and life preservers and kayak seat into the van and return to the cabin so that Scout and his parents can fit in one more Sierra Nevada experience: climbing a dome, just the “little” one behind the cabin. I stay with the younger children and trim green beans from my garden to steam for dinner.

Just before I climb into bed, a mouse runs through my bedroom!

lupine seed pods

 

The next day’s entry is HERE.

My view is deep.

pearly everlasting

 

DAY 4: I set out walking alone before breakfast, for back therapy. Yarrow and pearly everlasting flowers line the road, which has recently been resurfaced in places with granite gravel in 2-4 inch chunks. Yesterday when Scout and Ivy walked back from the lake they stopped their father every few feet to exclaim about a new piece that they had picked up, with unique sparkles or shape.

On return, I fry a pound of bacon, because you always have to do that in the mountains when you’re in a cabin where the bears can’t get at you. Scout and Ivy grab a crispy slice in one hand and a pile of blueberries in the other, and go out on the deck to play, waiting interminably it seems for the adults to do something besides talk – like take them out in the boats.

While the other adults are still making plans I decide to walk again, and take Scout with me. We head down to the lake and on the way he schools me in conifers, showing me red firs and lodgepole pines (aka tamarack, his father tells me), the most numerous tree species in this area.

lodgepole pine with red fir behind

As we come up through the forest behind the cabin, I check on the puffball I saw last month — remember, it looked like this:

— and it has puffed itself and exploded into a pile of cocoa powder:

When the canoeing group finally embarks paddles in hand, two-year-old Jamie and I remain in the cabin. This is the first time I’ve ever taken care of him alone. We play with dominoes, and read Machines at Work a dozen times while eating nuts that he holds in little bowl on his lap.

Tonight Pippin, understanding how much star-gazing means to me, does most of the work to set up the chaise lounge on the deck. Mice have demolished the pad so she makes a sort of mattress with blankets and Thermarest pads. Soon all the lights in the cabin are extinguished, the family are in their beds, and I stretch out in the dark darkness, flat on my back staring up.

Black tops of the lodgepole pines ring the patch of sky like a wreath. My view of the heavens is not wide, but it is deep. The first thing that happens is that I feel the stars’ presence like angels hovering over me, and I almost begin to weep. I think about what my friend Art said, that the sky is not empty, but full of angels, and try to remember if that was a reason that C.S. Lewis wanted to call his trilogy not The Space Trilogy but Deep Heaven. Space sounds empty, but like all of Creation, it is filled with God’s presence.

The fullness is overwhelming, but soothing. Cool air blows on my face. I drink and am strengthened. After a long time I carry my sleeping bag into the cabin and soon am sailing into dreamland like Wynken, Blynken and Nod.

Next day’s entry is HERE.

On the lake and on the bed.

DAY 3: I wake in the wee hours on this day and can’t go back to sleep for several hours. Maybe my morning coffee was a little too strong?

After a while, I read on my Kindle Paperwhite, which has the kind of screen that is easy on the eyes and doesn’t stimulate the brain to stay awake. My Kindle book has most recently been The Haunted Bookshop, which Pippin and I discovered we’d both bought because it was 99 cents. It did not keep my interest so in these wee hours I decide to start The Romanovs by Virginia Cowles. Maybe I should have kept with the boring book, because reading about 17th century Russian rulers is gruesomely fascinating and not soothing.

Finally I do sleep a little, and wake up just a little later than the children. I abstain from coffee. The kids are scrambling all around the cabin and down to the lake in the morning, and in the afternoon Scout checks out the refrigerator and sees some lemons, decides to make lemonade. I find the ancient Joy of Cooking in the cupboard and show him how to multiply the lemonade recipe five times to make use of the amount of juice he has extracted. It makes a superb drink that we all share, even the men who are poring over maps planning their hike.

Scout in particular is impatient with the slow process of planning our activities for next couple of days, along with Mark and Jennie who are camping nearby and will be joining us. They have a truck, so our project of getting the boats down to the lake is made much easier. The kids help haul the canoe and kayak uphill from under the deck, and try them out while they wait still longer.

Finally they are ready to go, and to take “my” new kayak on its maiden voyage. I am so happy that so soon, someone else is interested in using it. I want it to belong to the cabin and the family, even though I bought it for times when I am at the lake by myself and can’t manage the large canoe.

But this time, because of my lack of sleep and my back pain, I stay in the cabin with other nappers and catch up on rest, and I hear the reports of the small expeditions when everyone returns and I have had a delicious sleep.

Our friends barbecue an ample steak for us tonight, and we keep talking and talking after dinner, much discussion about the history of water and dams and drought in the western U.S. I am inspired to download yet another book to my Kindle, Cadillac Desert by Mark Reisner. I started reading that with my husband when he was in chemo three years ago, but it got too depressing for that time of our life. Still, I think it would be good for every Californian to read, and I’m ready now to try again.

After everyone else has gone to bed, I remember to step out on the deck and watch the stars for a while. So cold, but alive and multitudinous, and comforting in their vastness. But I don’t have the right angle on them… I need a pad to lie on, or at least a chaise lounge, and maybe tomorrow I can remember my star friends earlier in the evening and make provision for an encounter.

Next day’s entry is HERE.