Sunday, September 19, 2021

Burned Out

 Waxing Gibbous Moon

Two days ago I learned that my camping reservations for this coming week at Lodgepole Campground in Sequoia National Park were cancelled due to a complex of lightning-caused fires moving into the area. They started as three hot spots and grew into one large unit. The park is closed and the surrounding region is either on fire or in the fire's path. The wonderful mountain community of Three Rivers is under an evacuation warning, but holding steady.

All I can say is thank goodness for the tireless firefighters and gutsy operators of modern technological machinery. Despite the spread of the fire in the past few days, fantastic progress has been made toward saving key landmarks and iconic groves of sequoias. The Giant Forest and the General Sherman Tree (at 52,508 cubic feet, it's the world's largest tree) appear to be okay, as are the Wuksachi Lodge and the Lodgepole Visitor Center. Today's summary of the team's progress can be viewed here.

It will be some time before the park is open again so I doubt that I will be able to do the series of hikes I had planned before the snow comes. But hey, as long as the trees and animals stay safe, that's okay. This is one of the holiest of all the holy places in California and Mr. Goldie, the marmot mayor of Lodgepole, must not be harmed.

Peace, Love, and Rain (without Lightning),

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Somersaults on Fremont Peak

 Waxing Gibbous Moon

Fremont Peak State Park is only 11 miles away from my camp, a slow drive up a narrow, twisting road through San Juan Canyon. I like to visit this park at least once every season to hike the trails and take in the long views of the local area. 

The peak itself is one of the easiest ones to summit in all of California, a 30 minute trail walk followed by 5 minutes of scrambling on steepish, but non-technical, dolomite/marble outcrops. I have been to the top a dozen times, although I seldom do it any more. It has become "old hat" to me and usually I just bypass the summit and loop around it to continue my hike.

Last Sunday was an exceptionally beautiful day on the mountain, so I decided to climb to the top and say a little prayer for rain. We have been lucky locally this summer with no nearby fires, but as everybody out West knows, we need rain very badly. 

After my mini-rain dance by the flagpole, I noticed a really nice outcrop on the steep rocky southern side of the peak which I had not inspected previously. Instead of descending the way I came, I started to clamber down to that spot. Crouching down, I kept one hand on a sharp handhold and the other halfway down a hiking pole to keep my balance. However - a potentially serious however -  I misjudged the length of my next downhill step. The result was sort of a slow lunge to try to place my boot in what looked to be a stable foothold. This slow forward lunge brought my head and shoulders down and changed my center of gravity enough to initiate a slow motion somersault down the slope. "Uh-oh," I thought.

This was not to be a single somersault, however. I begrudgingly gathered a little momentum and continued to roll into a second somersault which alarmingly threatened to pick up speed. "What would Bruce Lee do?" I wondered. That's when my amateur ninja tumbling mindfulness kicked into gear and I shouted out loud, "STOP!" My old but somewhat still responsive body obeyed the order. Coming out of somersault number two I managed to extend myself flat on the slope, essentially playing dead until I overcame the laws of physics and skidded to a stop on my back. "Oww," I said, plus some other words too blue to print.

This was a really weird experience, sports fans. It was not all that scary - more of an amateur Bruce Lee mountain tumble in slow mo. I suffered no real injuries, only some scrapes on my arms and legs. The ancient marble is very hard and grabby. Perhaps the mountain extracted a little skin sacrifice and bloodletting to make the rain dance more effective or dramatic? I gingerly picked myself up and slowly, carefully, I made my way back down to the trail.   

It is probably time for me to retire from geologizing solo on steep rocky slopes before curiosity unwittingly yields any more acceleration to gravity.

 Peace, Love, and Neosporin,