Sunday, March 26, 2017

Piute Log...Hanging Valley Revisit 1994

24 Jun (Fri)     OFF. …. Left Wheeler at 3 o’clock. Destination: Burt Canyon trailhead. I intentionally got a very late start to climb Walker Mountain and hoped to get back to the truck with just enough light to navigate by, all so’s I could enjoy the fine light cast on the delightful “hanging valley” just below the summit. Hadn’t been up there but once, nine years ago. ◦◦◦◦◦ Just as I pulled through the Wheeler gate and across the bridge, I was treated to the following little drama. ◦◦◦◦◦ It’s the big annual H.O.G. weekend [Harley Owners Group rally] in Bridgeport. Every year around solstice, hundreds of Harley Davidson motorcycles show up in town for a big jam-bo-ree. An impressive array of fancy bikes line Main Street and fill the center lane. It’s a big deal for the town, with lots of booths set up selling trinkets, leather goods, greasy snacks, fresh tattoos, you name it. ◦◦◦◦◦ Anyway, they’re pouring into town today and as I started up the last bit of our driveway, where it climbs up out of the creek, a half dozen Harleys pulled to the side of the road directly above me. One guy got off his rig and staggered purposefully down the steep embankment. He was obviously three, oh maybe three-and-a-half sheets to the wind. Dude was wasted. But he was able to neatly arrest himself the couple of times when he began to keel over. He was being followed by a likewise beer-bellied fella who (I assumed) was going to try to coax him off his bike—they were having a heated argument and all the other riders’ eyes and mine were on them. (I made visual contact through my windshield with a couple of the onlookers, who flashed me sheepish, apologetic grins.) As I pressed on, a van pulled over as well with a flatbed trailer carrying a couple of spare Harleys. Road crew to the rescue! Drunk guy was just starting to unbuckle his belt to relieve himself of a load o’ processed beer while all the traffic streamed by in full view, the other man gesticulating. ◦◦◦◦◦ Headed for the Little Walker and, basically, followed the route I took way back in ‘85, which led a couple miles up Burt Canyon and up a ridge to the top. Below it is a true hanging valley (this little vale right on top of the ridge being an unglaciated relic surface of an ancient upland). ◦◦◦◦◦ Got to the summit (11563’) right at six after a tedious trudge up loose-rock slopes to the summit, which was nothing more than a vaguely highest point on the big ol’ hump of a ridgeline. Spectacular views, nonetheless, of all the local peaks plus the bonus of a sliver of Mono Lake. The forboding cliff of Flatiron Butte just across the way. There was a new register, placed only a month after my previous visit, but the rumpled slip of paper with my name on it was still in the can. Neat to see: “26 June 1985—Tim Forsell—USFS Ranger on the prowl.” And there was ol’ Rod Davis, the goat man, signed in from 1991. (Not a lot of climbers bother with this obscure heap of a peak.) ◦◦◦◦◦ The register had been placed by Ned Boyles and party. I remember him well. He was 71 when he put that canister on top. We’d met later that same summer  and then again the following year. Both times, he was camped during deer season at the head of Piute Canyon, just below the pass. (Only a few miles from this summit, actually.) The times I met Ned he was up here hunting with sons and their friends, men several decades his junior. They invited me, both years, to their “formal dinner.” These guys actually packed up formal evening wear, black suits and ties; what they had for supper I don’t know but without doubt there was French champagne or the equivalent, probably served in delicate glassware. I had to decline both times on account of being far from the trailhead and unsuitably attired. What a cool, crazy tradition! Ned was a silver-haired, vital, and genteel man…a retired Air Force Captain who’d flown fighter planes in WWII, taking off from aircraft carriers during major historical offensives in the Pacific. Ned told me he’d escaped that war unscathed and again during the Korean affair—had, in fact, never been seriously injured in his entire life (wish I could say the same…) until, years after retirement, when he was out golfing. It was a fine day until someone yelled “FORE!!”and he looked up just in time for an errant golf ball to take out all his front teeth. His smile was radiant, in spite of (or maybe because of?) the dentures. I guess things always catch up to you, some way or another. ◦◦◦◦◦ I wrote a little blurb about Ned in the register, recounting what I wrote here but in fewer words. He’d be 80 now, bless him, and I hope he’s still golfing. Definitely one of those people who remain active into their 90s. ◦◦◦◦◦ Dropped down off the shattered ridge and meandered around the marvelous hanging valley in delicious evening light—a meadow in the sky with surreal hoodoo-type outcrops of white granite popping out around its margins. Residual snowfields feeding a tiny grassy-banked brook that flows through the frost-heaved, hummocky meadow with buttercups and shooting stars providing color. The tiny creek dives off a cliff and flows down another hidden valley lined by aspen thickets. All in all, a special place with a feel that’s difficult to describe. Hardly ever visited and that, of course, lends such places some of their magical ambiance. On my first visit I recall that the only human sign I found was a real old-style Seven-Up can well-perforated by bullet holes. This day I found another one, also shot full of holes, undoubtedly left by the same hunting party. ◦◦◦◦◦ Time to start down so I climbed up to another point and followed the crest of Hanging Valley Ridge northwards, dropping down finally onto the morainal benches rimming Burt Canyon. Wonderful gardens in the brush—all colors of the rainbow. Especially noteworthy were dry, open breaks in the sagebrush/bitterbrush/mahogany thickets that were carpeted with the lavender onion Allium campanulatum and purple Phacelia humilis with some paintbrush thrown in—a brilliant and pleasing combination of gay party colors. Cruised down the steep side of the moraine with a fist-ful of flowers, a bouquet just for me. ◦◦◦◦◦ It was after sunset by the time I hit the trail and a fittingly garish sunset was in full progress—wind-driven lenticular clouds turning just the colors of the party-hued gardens, casting a pink glow on the mountainsides. I felt very pleased in a general sense. ◦◦◦◦◦ Just before I got to the truck, walking down the road (it was properly dark except for lingering color in the west) I turned one last time to look back at where I’d been. And just as I looked at Walker Mountain a shooting star blazed right over that giant whale-back ridge—an exceedingly improbable occurrence and lovely omen. What do these chance happenings mean? Harbingers of what? Why me? I dunno…all I can say is “Thanks kindly for the gifts!” I’m blessed by shooting stars of two varieties and encounters with myriads of gaily colored flowers that sprout from dry, stoney soils. And not to mention the airy views. Must say, I paid my dues this long afternoon and eve—cranked hard and sweated loads to get where I was going and back home safe again.

     ©2017 by Tim Forsell                            8  Mar 2017

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Piute Log...Grab-Bag of Characters 1995

2 Sep (Sat)     Back to Piute. Packed all my stuff and headed to Cranney’s. To my utter chagrin I found that my horses were not there! Another classic—and entirely avoidable—miscommunication! Lisa S. had come to the cabin (while I was gone) with Red, Val and Pokey. Surprised that Greta had told her to use my stock (Red & Val are used only by me except when there’s a major dog’n’pony show). Hadn’t even thought about it beforehand but this meant she could’ve left my two at the pack station when she came out, saving us both time and trouble. But she took ‘em back to town with her! Arggh! Of course, I ranted a bit but soon realized it was my own gol-durned fault (again…) and also that when I come out next Thursday someone else would have to come haul them so it was actually best (if inconvenient) that I do it myself. But it was a sore disappointment to have to turn around and drive back to town, get the stock truck, transfer my load, pick up the ponies…. I’d hoped to get an early start to greet the hordes on this Labor Day weekend but lost two hours. Plus, it was looking like certain rain since sunup. Oh, well! ◦◦◦◦◦ Got on the trail at my usual-ish 1:30. Met lots of “the fans” and had several pleasant encounters. One log-worthy meeting with the sole non-permit-carrying backpacker I met. ◦◦◦◦◦ At the Hidden Lake junction I rode down to the campsite by the crossing and found one young man set up for the night. His tent was pitched right in an aspen thicket ten feet or less from the river—lots of plants trampled around his tent. On a log there was a large pistol with bullet-laden belt and, beside it, a giant Bowie knife affair with brass knuckles built into the handle, daggered into the soft wood. A lethal-looking weapon. The kid seemed harmless; a skinny, shirtless, long-haired, heavy-metal type with necklaces who had no clue. Didn’t know he needed a permit…never been up here…his uncle had been here and told him he didn’t need a permit, blah bla blah. He was having a great time. I gave him the sermon in full. “You know there’s no using that gun back here for target practice…only for emergencies” and “Please don’t build a fire here—you’re too close to the river." (Explained “the rules” and their reasons.) He asked if he could bury his trash, “Like, if I dig a three-foot hole?” and looked taken aback when I started laughing. “You’re really gonna dig a ‘three foot hole’? With what, that, uh, knife-thingey? No! Pack it out, man. You brought it in here—take it home with you!” He looked disappointed but said, “I can do that.” So I let him off with a warning. Amazing, the diversity of human “types” you meet back here on holiday weekends. ◦◦◦◦◦ In stark contrast, less than a mile from the cabin, I ran up on a woman (her mate was coming up behind her) who was leaning against a tree smiling, watching my approach with obvious pleasure. They’d read my sign and she asked if I was the guy who wanted free fish. I instinctively recognized her as a real mountain-person by dint of an obvious comfort and familiarity with her surroundings. The woman told me they’d just left the cabin and she’d napped at the edge of the meadow with my cat sleeping on her chest. She asked his name and laughed when I told her, “Velcro,” instantly grokking why. I checked her proffered permit: Eve Laeger. The name stirred some dim recognition. Turning to her husband, I asked, “Is your name ‘Herb’?” Surprised, he admitted it was. These two are hardcore climbers and first-ascentionists, mostly of rock climbs in the southern Sierra. I’ve thumbed through the guidebook to that region and noted the prevalence of first-ascents done by this husband and wife team. We had a nice talk. Always nice to meet kindred spirits (and cat-lovers) back here. ◦◦◦◦◦ Cabin at six. Windy all day and it did rain a bit. Atypically, it started coming down within five minutes of my starting to ride, hard enough for me to don my slicker for the first time this season. (Usually it starts to rain just when you begin packing, with your stuff all strewn about.) Brewed up a cauldron of chili with a happy, pitiful, clinging, claw-wielding kitty following me around.

3 Sep (Sun)     Warm and windy all night. The cloud cover kept things warm and it only got down to 54°. Got an early start this time to hit all the lakes; headed downcanyon to visit Fremont first. Ran up on Herb & Eve and we talked and exchanged addresses. New friends. These two are amazing—Herb is 50 and looks 40, Eve is 44. He’s a retired laser physicist who saved up and invested his money, retiring at 44, and now they run a small mail-order business out of their home in Bodfish (down near Lake Isabella). Get this: they make and sell “decorative flags for mailboxes.” This allows these two young-at-hearts to cruise around in the mountains just about as much as they please. We share common climbing-ethics, all of us dislike guidebooks (and, by extension, guidebook authors) and just want to have fun in the hills and on the crags without waiting in line to do a climb. Well met! ◦◦◦◦◦ Starting up the Fremont trail I ran into three people: a couple and a guy they were chatting with as I rode up. The couple were very nice and normal; the guy was way out there. He was all mellow and slow-talkin’ in neo-hippie fashion and after about a minute I began to be certain he was on LSD or something like. Skinny enough already, he apparently had no food, was on his way out to “get his hamburger” (as if that’s just what one does when a backpack is over). Said he’d been eating “the herbs” during his walk. “Lotsa rosemary back here!” Told him, “Uh, no, I don’t think there’s any rosemary.” Right then he got it and said, “Oh, you’re Ranger Tim!” He’d met me. “Umm…no, I don’t think so.” And, by way of explanation he said, “I read your letter.” [a posted greeting-letter from the ranger, signed simply “Tim”] “Oh, I see.” And he sort of rambled on while the couple stood there looking like they wanted to escape but were morbidly fascinated. I finally disengaged and, when he was out of earshot—all three of us watching him go—I turned to the couple and said, “That guy is really out there.” They agreed with my diagnosis that he was trippin’ on LSD or mushrooms. A strange case. ◦◦◦◦◦ To Fremont and on to Chain o’Lakes, Long Lakes, and Cinko (first time this season, gasp!). Along the West Fork, ran into “Jack-the-wagon-man,” who was up with the Dick Davis party two years ago. This guy’s specialty is old wagons—knows all the types, dates used, how they were constructed and with what tools, how the horses/mules/oxen were “attached.” He came along with Dick that trip because he’s one of that gang (Oregon-California Historic Trails Association, I believe they’re called) plus Jack can identify all the rusty chunks of iron they find with metal detectors and then tell what part of wagon or ox cart they belonged to. At present he’s building an authentic stagecoach—in his garage, I suppose. Hey, whatever floats yer boat! Some guys build airplanes at home, after all. ◦◦◦◦◦ Jack fed me some new history: told me, just ahead, I should follow his and his lady friend’s tracks off the trail. They’d just ridden a section of the actual emigrant trail, which crossed the West Fork at a distinctive polished granite slab (all underwater) and followed the river for a quarter mile before gaining the east bank. This was a new one on me but I dutifully watched for two sets of tracks leaving the main trail, saw them, crossed on the slab going real slow and…found myself on an old trail that was like a road in places! The whole West Fork is in a shallow gorge through there—lined with slabs and bluffs, thick timber and pinched places. I’ve long marveled at the thought of wagons passing through there in 1853—“How could they have done it?”—but this one section is flat and fairly wide, bordered by rock walls, an easy stretch though no doubt they had to chop out some trees. And Jack said he could see where they’d moved boulders out of the way but I didn’t notice these. I was amazed and did a little time travel back to when Americans were a stronger and more resourceful people. A brief but fascinating journey, riding through history and seeing the struggles of these deluded travelers who used what is considered “the worst emigrant trail crossing the high Sierra,” in use for only two years before being abandoned to trappers, sheepherders and cowboys. ◦◦◦◦◦  On to Cinko Lake. Sad to report that this was my first visit but this has been a strange season. The mosquitoes were very bad. Chatted at length with two parties there, one a couple from the city (packed in by Bart). The man was a highway patrolman from Napa County and his wife was worried about bears. They were genuinely surprised to hear I didn’t carry a gun but perhaps more so to hear me say I had no need for one and had never felt any need for a gun, simply because there was nothing in these old hills to cause me any fear. How about bears? The lady visibly stiffened when I told them they were all over the place and I paused long enough to watch her squirm before continuing “…but they never bother backpackers hereabouts. You have more to worry about from rodents—by far.” They were both relieved to hear this news.

4 Sep (Mon)     Woke up tired and unmotivated. I’d planned another early start, race down and chase down the fleeing tourists on their way to the nearest McDonalds…. Stop. Stop right there, Tim. What a cynical thing to say. Actually, I bailed on this plan because it would only leave me more tired tomorrow and I have lots of work to do yet this tour. ◦◦◦◦◦ So I took the morning at a slow pace, did paperwork and studied plant books and then walked up the Kirkwood trail with shovel and to get an idea of the “tree situation” [downed trees needing to be removed]. I passed about a dozen in the first two miles, several big jobs. Groan! Cleaned waterbreaks and rocked the rock-filled trail. ◦◦◦◦◦  On the way back, cut up onto the hillside and contoured down. Found myself on an old morainal bench hidden in the thick timber but it passed through several pocket meadow and I found some “new” old sheepherder carvings, familiar names on the trees but in new spots. They really used these hidden hillside meadows in the old days. ◦◦◦◦◦ Oh, on the way up: heard a strange sound that I took for an owl cry and went in that direction, all ears and eyes. Finally spotted a blue grouse twelve feet up a lodgepole, staring at me and making jungle sounds. I stood there for minutes watching it bob head up & down and make nervous comments in grouse-tongue. Amazing variety of weird sounds. You never hear this speech out in the woods—it’s reserved for up close chit-chats with fellow grouse and the soft sounds don’t carry far. Nice to share the time of day with this plump forest bird, “up close and personal.” Thanks! ◦◦◦◦◦  Back home, worked on this log up in the hammock. Velcro came up behind for the third time and curled at my feet while I wrote, purring and kneading. (He’s a “kneady” cat, nyuk nyuk…) A real joy to be up in the tree with a breeze and the big view and a kitty who came up of his own free will to be with me. One of those scenes where I wisht someone was around to witness it—they’d be blown away. Not too many cats will climb 40, 45 feet up a pine tree just to hang out in a hammock with their crunchy-provider….

Quotes written inside the cover of this volume of The Piute Log:

“Patience is the most difficult thing of all and the only thing that is worth learning. All nature, all growth, all peace, everything that flowers and is beautiful in the world depends on patience, requires time, silence, trust, and faith in long-term processes which far exceed any single lifetime, which are accessible to the insight of no one person, and which in their totality can be experienced only by peoples and epochs, not by individuals.”
                                                                                                            —Hermann Hesse

“Our inclinations always have an astounding knack of masquerading as philosophies of life.”

                                                                                                —Hesse again

   ©2017 by Tim Forsell         18 Mar 2017

Piute Log...Catch and Release 1996

16 Jul (Tue)    Long patrol afoot today: walked over the hill through Ranger’s Notch (third time this year so far!) and down to Harriet Lake. Visited all camps—only one, unoccupied, and I left those folks a “ranger note” about leaving trash in their firepit. Saw no humans today. Continued to Helen and walked ¾ of the shore. Took out a couple firepits and some trash. ◦◦◦◦◦ In a small inlet there: while stepping across it I saw fish thrash and hide under its overhanging banks. I was reminded of a friend who told of catching trout by hand, feeling under the overhangs. I’d been skeptical at the time. So I tried it here and by golly, it works! I felt under there and made contact with a little one that dashed off in a cloud of detritus. Felt some more and got my hand all the way around an 8” rainbow. For some reason, when you make contact, they go docile. (I believe my friend said they were sleeping.) I slowly herded this trout out into open water with my hand lightly cupped around it and the thing dog-paddled, letting me turn it on its side before finally thrashing away. Pretty thrilling to handle a live fish—something new and grand every livin’ day! And, I do believe I could catch my supper this way if the need was there….

©2017 by Tim Forsell         9 Jan 2017

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Piute Log...Leap of Faith 1991

The place where I lived for sixteen summers (1988–2003) was a choice part of an utterly spectacular landscape of National Park caliber. In fact, Yosemite Park lay on the far side of the several craggy peaks visible from the cabin, only a few miles distant. These peaks—Tower, Ehrnbeck, and Hawksbeak—are situated on a section of the Sierra crest that takes an anomalous west-to-east jog in the otherwise northwest-to-southeast trending range. This meant that the peaks along this stretch had directly north-facing walls. Winter storms from the Pacific drop large quantities of snow when they slam into the crest and it piles up on the lee side. In addition, the north sides of the precipitous granite peaks are deeply shaded and hold snow significantly longer. The net effect is that, through the millennia, accumulating snow formed glaciers that were both deeper and flowed farther than others east of the Sierra crest. The country between Bridgeport and Sonora Pass, in particular, boasted some of the deepest and longest of these valleys. ◦◦◦◦ My summer residence was located at the lower end of mile-long Upper Piute Meadows, which fills the bottom of this deeply cut glacial valley like an emerald-green lake in early summer, slopes on either side rising in excess of 2000 feet high. These slopes are themselves the flanks of towering ridgelines rimming other glacially-hewn valleys. Mostly smooth-sided, dotted with rocky outcrops, the ridges are topped with several jagged-edged peaklets that, during the last ice-age, were the only points protruding from a virtual ice-cap that almost buried the entire region. ◦◦◦◦The cabin is located on a small rise above the meadow’s outlet, where the meandering West Walker River cuts through solid bedrock before plunging down a rocky gorge. From my porch, looking up at the mountain peaks, the slope on the left (and on the river’s far side) was granitic. The right-hand side, rising directly behind the cabin, was of a slatey, metamorphic rock. Both slopes were heavily timbered but with different kinds of trees and the terrain was different based on its substrate. ◦◦◦◦ The slope behind the cabin was over a mile and a half broad, meeting the head of Tower Creek to the south. It was a wilderness within the Wilderness—a place where virtually no one ever ventured. (Aside from me and a few friends.) I called it “Piute Wilderness”. Because of the nature of the slatey rock, which was carved by glaciers along natural fracture planes, it tended to form flat benches—a joy to stumble upon unexpectedly, providing stretches of gentle strolling on the otherwise steep and rugged mountainside. These sporadic benches harbored several secret ponds and small lakelets—heavenly spots. I dearly loved exploring the nooks and crannies. ◦◦◦◦ After leaving the cabin and scrambling up several hundred vertical feet, there was a tiny valley with a lovely snowmelt-fed brook flowing down it, fed all summer by permanent snowfields higher on the mountain. It flowed through this charming little secret valley, parallel to the slope, through shaded forests of red fir, mountain hemlock, and lodgepole pine. The tumbling brook was lined with flower gardens in places, carved rock slabs in others  and it was surely one of my favorite haunts of all. It had a feeling of utter solitude and an untrammeled, primal quality that I cherished…food for my soul. ◦◦◦◦ This first entry is from an early exploration; the second tells of starting (for the first time) from where the little creek flowed into the West Walker a half-mile downriver from the cabin. It was this particular jaunt that led me to name it “Dinky Creek,” having realized that I’d be spending more time exploring this gem and wanting to make it my own. ◦◦◦◦ The Sierra Nevada has hundreds of such pockets of untouched wildlands.

7 Aug (Wed)     …needed to walk so in the afternoon I headed down the gorge, then cut up toward the snowmelt-fed brook that spills into Cranney’s meadow. ◦◦◦◦◦  Hit the little creek lower down than I have before. (Usually climb straight up from the cabin and run into it much higher.) Passed through a painfully beautiful scene: a large dike of layered, exfoliating volcanic rock runs down the mountainside through there. The creek cuts a gap through it, forming a narrow, twisting defile about 30 yards long, its entrance flanked on either side by a veritable grove of monkshood (rare around these parts) in full bloom. The  mini-gorge’s vertical walls crusted with moss and ferns, and the creek hurries through on a naked slab of tan-colored andesite. Sometimes when I catch a glimpse of genuine natural perfection in a place such as this I feel the urge to sit down and stay awhile (like…for a few days). It somehow feels wrong to just walk on by. ◦◦◦◦◦ But so much more to see so I wandered on upstream where the creek alternately disappears into the mountain and reappears when it flowed over solid rock hidden under the rubble. The display of flowers was one of the finest I’ve seen this year as I knew it would be. Corn lily and columbine being attacked by aphids. Followed it to the mouth of the tiny cirque where this creek originates and found a fine viewpoint on a rock with Piute Meadows and all down-canyon laid out. Contoured across the slope onto benches and found four beautiful tarns. Followed their drainage down steeply and hit the trail past the head of Piute Meadow. An inspiring jaunt into pure wilderness, to places where no one ever goes.

25 Aug (Sun)     OFF. ◦◦◦◦◦ …in the afternoon I took a walk. Headed across the river and down the gorge to where it bends north again near Bart’s old basecamp. I followed what I’m now calling “Dinky Creek” from where it dumps into the West Walker to its very source. (Went as far as the mouth of a little cirque a couple of weeks ago.) I’ve never done the bottom section before…usually hit it higher when hiking straight up behind the cabin. The lower part is quite steep and in a series of steps…lovely meadows almost finished blooming. Got to where I’d intersected the creek on my last hike. Then through that marvelous mini-gorge between its rock walls. Barely a trickle over the slabs now. Climbed up to the top this time to look down into it. I was standing on a tiny ledge when I decided to head back home instead of do the whole hike. But was on the wrong side of the creek—I’d have to traverse and clamber down into and back out of the thing. Then I noticed a small ledge on the other side and a bit lower than me. Hey! I could jump that! It was only about ten feet across but a sheer 25 foot drop to the slabs. Inched down to a really good take-off point and sampled the jump in my mind just to get the adrenaline going. Then I got the wild hair and my brain said, Just do it! Just because you can! And I allowed myself to be tricked (again) and leapt. It was one of those deals where you feel complete certainty but know that you can’t stop and think it over—immediate action is required. ◦◦◦◦◦  The ledge was small with a thin plate of rock on it that looked like it might possibly skate so I landed with one foot on the slate-y piece and the other on soil right on the rim. It was a good, solid leap; unfortunately, my right shin came into contact with the edge of a sharp flake above my landing pad. I came to a stop, then started to sway backwards. Was mostly conscious of a brand new pain in my leg but then noticed I was slowly starting to sway backwards. The body was in balance though so I just swung back over my feet again. Good thing. But I’d de-barked my shin pretty good and the blood ran down my leg, soaking my sock dramatically. “Only a flesh wound!” [Monty Python reference…to be read with mock-British accent.] Headed home and walked it off. [Somewhat later, added this note to the side of the page: “Days later, noticed a small piece of cartilage or bone sticking out of the scab. The thick scab didn’t fall off for a solid month.”]  

As a sort of postscript: this mildly curious incident—a sort of follow-up to my wild leap. (Which, I should explain, was not an isolated event; as a climber, I’d many times been in situations where a big jump was either necessary or preferable to a long detour. “Calculated jumps” are one of a mountaineer’s many skills, and something I happened to be good at.) This happened five years later, 1996. At the time I was in a committed relationship with a woman. She had two children and they’d all come visit. They were staying at the cabin at this time and, after lunch one day, we all walked up the mountainside directly behind the cabin to a remnant snow patch for some “glissading.” (Skiing with just your boots on; it can actually be great fun when the snow is right.) I’d been to this spot some says before and knew the kids would enjoy it. Johanna was ten; Sage, fifteen, was already a gonzo skier and went on to be something of a star, featured in many films doing truly crazy stunts on skis.

8 Jul (Mon)     ….  After lunch we tromped out to the outhouse and on up the hill toward Ranger Notch to go glissading. The place I’d been to a week ago was not as good this time (snow surface rougher plus rocks and willows now poking up in the runout zone). We had many fine runs, though. Sage going nuts of course; he and I shooting down the steepest pitches while Katie and Johanna took lesser slides. But we got them both on some steeper bits—the snow was better there—and I thoroughly enjoyed having Jo slide down into my arms, catching and whirling her around. Sage was doing airborne 360° jumps off the lip and then him and I took turns standing like a statue while the other shot past as close as possible going probably 20 miles per. Had a great time! This is something I’d never do alone…one of those things that’s better when you can share it. ◦◦◦◦◦ Jo was pooped. All of us were. We marched back down the hill. A curious incident: Got to Dinky Creek, intersecting it right at the little rock gorge in the andesite. We’d been there last year and I’d showed the kids the place where I jumped across the gorge on a complete whim, just because “I knew I could.” When I made the jump (which was downward and maybe a bit less than ten feet, onto a tiny ledge near the top of the cliff) it went as planned but my right shin met a sharp edge, which tore off a chunk of my leg, ouch. So…the “strange event” was that we crossed the creek just below this gap where I’d leapt and, doing a little hop-across from a rock in the water to the far side, I landed on a flat rock “platter” that flipped up unexpectedly and caught me on both shins. I bled very little but it hurt. It was a couple of minutes later when I realized that the very last time I’d barked my shins (which, I should note, are both covered with similar scars) was that time, probably five years ago, not fifty feet away.

     © 2017 by Tim Forsell                                                                                                                    12 Feb 2017