Apparently there’s recently been some prick roving about the hills in and around Mt. Tamalpais posing as a ranger, and generally acting like an asshole, particularly to people with dogs. I’m sure they’ll catch him soon; but in the meantime, if you frequent this area as a hiker, keep an eye out for this bastard; and don’t buy into his bullshit.
Yesterday morning around 11 o’clock, racked with guilt, I left Peanut in the air-conditioned apartment and tried to get out of the Ashland area before the day reached its predicted peak of 107 degrees. As I sped northward out of Medford amid the rapidly skyrocketing temperatures of the Bear Valley, I might as well have been running for my life to escape a rapidly-expanding wild-fire that was nearly outpacing me with its tirelessly vigorous spread, and which would surely have overtaken me had I so much as tripped or stumbled (or eased up on the gas), you know- the way they always do in movie scenarios of life-or-death pursuit. In the bucket seat of my truck, I felt like I was sitting in a warm vile soup, though it was just my profuse sweating. I barely made it up and out of the Greater Medford area, and into the far-more-scenic and less roasting environs of the Rogue River, before burning up.
I was headed off to find some fun in the Rogue River National Forest (at only 96 degrees, a slightly cooler area on this particular day) . My actual end-game was to get to Crater Lake National Park (where dogs are basically just a burden, since you pretty much can’t do anything with them in the National Parks of this country, except tool around on paved paths and in campgrounds, all of this under the full lock-and-key of leash); but I was taking my time. There’s a lot of sunlight this time of year, and spread over many hours.
I visited the Avenue of the Giant Boulders, a rocky waterfall play-land in a canyon of the Rogue, and took myself an exceedingly pleasurable swim. Not so much a swim, actually, as a sit-in-the-river-and-let-it-race-all-around-me type of thing. It was glorious; and the water was nowhere near as cold as the water I’ve grown accustomed to in the Sierra Nevada back in California, whence the rivers are sourced from melting glaciers high up on rocky peaks several miles above sea level. Here in the Rogue River, the waters originate in the 7,000-8,000-foot level, a considerable savings in frostiness.
After checking out the looming overlooks of the two nearly 200-foot waterfalls which plunge into the Rogue in this area, Mill Creek Falls and Barr Creek Falls, I jumped into the truck and drove onward towards my volcanic destination.
Some miles later I stopped to take a look at the narrow rushing Rogue River Gorge, a thinly-cut chasm 25-feet deep, 500 feet long, and at points no more than 10 feet wide. Into it rushes the contents of the Upper Rogue- still here a substantial flow of water, such that navigation through the tight canyon would be absolutely inadvisable (at least by aught but expert river-runners).
After zoning on the crashing waters for a little while, I got a move on towards the park. I had a lot planned for my day; and I felt bad enough having left the Pean at home that I felt obliged to make the most of the day regardless.
Suddenly a startling sight stopped me dead in my tracks. I stood stone still for an indecisive moment, unsure how to best proceed, before collecting myself and forcing myself to think clearly and rationally. Then, narrowing my eyes and squinting in the hot summer sun, I looked again. Up ahead and several hundred yards out, I espied a strange, large creature moving in my direction. Though well-camouflaged, I could plainly see that the beast walked erect on two legs. Through the dry grasses and torched earth it made its way toward me, seeming to almost skip as it went. As the creature closed in, I braced myself for confrontation.
The dude stood before me, naked as the day he was born (except for the Tevas on his feet), smiling widely, and radiating sweat the way a high-explosive shell propels shrapnel through the air. I could almost see the multi-colored rainbow of the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrumrefracting through the enormous beads of sweat pulsating on his brow. As lidless as a common muppet, his eyes were popping out of his head to the point where it worried me slightly for his physical well-being. In his hand he held a wooden acoustic guitar (not in a case). Though I doubt highly that the dude had deliberately choreographed his movements to this end, his instrument (the guitar) mercifully hung in such a way so as to spare me the sight of his shriveled, sun-burnt junk.
“Man you’re just going for it!”, I offered at our meeting, as a kind of ice-breaker of sorts.
“I guess I am!”, replied the beast with a good-vibes smile, a swat at the aggressive insects swarming his sweat-soaked body, and a shit-eating grin to end all shit-eating grins defining his sparkling countenance. “There’s something going on up here today, man- can you feel it?” A pair of googly pupils, absurdly enlarged, bobbled around directionlessly amid the whites of his eyes, like those air-buffered floating numbered balls that blow around haphazardly in those old-school lottery machines.
“Yes there’s definitely something going on”, spake I.
“It’s permeating the whole atmosphere and everything, man. It’s like it’s the only thing you can concentrate on!””, overjoyed at the realization.
“That’s the same thing I was thinking”, I volleyed back without irony.
“I’m kind of on mushrooms“, he added, wiping his sweat-soaked brow with the back of his forearm, making it considerably more filthy in the process.
I noticed the sun reflected off the kid’s forehead. “Well, you’ve got the whole place to yourself today!”, I pointed out with exaggerated enthusiasm; though I was genuinely happy for the guy, in a measured way, that he was having a great day, which he quite clearly was. “Except us, I mean.”
“Nah, you guys are good people”, he said, presumably of me and the Peanut. “Anyway, peace, brother!”
“Enjoy your trip, man”, I said to close out the conversation.
He ambled away, swinging his guitar through the tall grass, and occasionally appearing to bring it up to proper playing position to strum a few fleeting out-of-tune chords. As the profoundly torched dude receded through the equally burnt forest, I watched in a kind of curious amazement. Amazement at his commitment to his adventure. I really didn’t want to get in the way of a guy tripping on mushrooms anyway. I know what that’s like; and it’s usually better to steer clear of people who aren’t on the same page when in that state. It is also advisable to avoid supermarkets, corner stores, and office buildings at such times.
Away from me danced the tall, shining creature- its dreaded blond hair fixed in a long ponytail, a large day-pack (presumably containing clothing– one hoped anyway) hanging from its shoulders, and a bare ass connected to legs which led down to a pair of dusty sandals completing the ensemble. He didn’t need my help- that much was for certain.
For the rest of the hike, we walked in total silence. There was nothing more to say.
Earlier this afternoon I’m out with the Peanut taking a stroll around the loop trail at Grizzly Peak, one of the loftier mountains that loom over the small city of Ashland on its northeastern side. After hiking for awhile through a lush green forest interspersed with vivid meadows aburst with chlorophyll, we emerged out onto a steeply-sloping section of burned-out mountainside, which had been incinerated in a 2002 wildfire. Here, though the trees are all still little more than fire-blackened matchsticks, the wildflowers have already begun to stage an inspiring comeback. The bees, ticks, and bush crickets were all out in full force, doing what they do.
As we traversed the slanted meadow beneath the pitiless scorch of a 95-degree sun, the sweeping views of Ashland and the Rogue River Valley opened up more and more, until at last we stood on a high rocky outcropping.
As I stood there gazing down at the valley below, lost in thought with my mind a million miles away, I was completely oblivious to its approach- this wild and unpredictable creature, this rare specimen of wildlife which closed in on me, drawing nearer with each passing moment…
We’ll I’m back from the High Sierra (write-up and photos to follow soon), but only home long enough to do laundry and split again. Summer is like that for me these days.
So today begins a 30-day run throughout the upper continental west with Katherine and Peanut, my go-to crew. First stop is California’s awesome Marble Mountains, a remote and scarcely-known range of rock-and-glacier-formed peaks, typically capped with snow until late in the year (though I don’t know about this year). The Marbles are bound on three sides by the mighty meandering Klamath River, one of the state’s precious few remaining stretches of major waterway still unsullied by any damn or other man-made hydro-electric blah-blah (nothing against electricity, though- just sayin’). Along the Klamath River it’s just hot sun, floating rafts, Native American villages, and circling carrion birds. Oh, and Bigfoot-least that’s what the locals say up that-a-way.
After Bigfoot Land it’s three weeks in southern Oregon, followed by a mini road trip across the Great Basin Desert to Wyoming, where we’ll set up shop in the Wind River Range for some days before popping up to Yellowstone National Park to visit with some good folks we don’t see nearly enough of.
From there we jet over to Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains for a few days, then back home to our cats in San Francisco.