The Ridges of Mendocino County, Part 3: Race Under Pressure

Riding into town tonight by the light of the moo-oo-hooon. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Riding into town tonight by the light of the moo-oo-hooon.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

(continued from Part 2: Yolla Bolly Wilderness, Ides Cove Area )

…But All I Get is Static

As soon as I drove away from the trailhead, one of those unaccountably weird and stupid coincidences occurred.  I flipped on the radio (which I almost never even bother doing nowadays), but I heard nothing but static. After a few seconds though, I could start to hear faint traces of music rising and falling amid the sea of white noise. As I rounded one bend in the road after another, this ghost music went in and out, trying to fight its way through the cacophony to my ears- like that kid from Poltergeist, flying by the TV screen then fading, as that insidious, phantasmagoric current carried her around and around that nasty little spirit world vortex she got herself mixed up in.  Man…kids. I’ll tell you what- they can find trouble anywhere.

So you can get orientimitated, if you wish. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
So you can get orientimitated, if you wish.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

It’s All About the Journey

I rounded a bend and the music suddenly came to the fore, emerging from the ether, static-free and clear as day.  It was “Wheel in the Sky” by Journey.  Even though I’ve heard the song six fazillion times, it still took me a second to positively identify it, since it busted in in the middle of the guitar solo. During the moment when my mind was trying to place the song, my primary thought was “Is that that song I can’t fucking stand?”; but then it clicked into place and I corrected myself: “Oh no, the one I can’t stand is ‘Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’.  I like this song.”  So I left it on until the end of the song, at which point the airwaves plunged directly back into undecipherable static again.  I hit “scan” to search for another station.

It's not sincere blue hair- it's a comment on blue hair. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
It’s not sincere blue hair- it’s a comment on blue hair.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The radio looped the dial five or six times before landing on a station with a clear signal.  I caught the last few words of the deejay, as he went ludicrously far over-the-top, as deejays always seem to do, in an attempt stir up excitement in his listeners over the rodeo in Redding that was coming up in a week and a half. Then he stopped talking; and what happened next?

The intro bass and drums of Journey’s “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’.”

Now seriously- how the fuck can that ever even happen?  It wasn’t like it was three-fer Thursday or anything like that; and anyway this was a completely different, random radio station than the one that had played “Wheel in the Sky” a couple minutes earlier.  I remained dumbfounded for a few moments, then dug the iPod out of the center console.  Time to take care of this music situation in a more active, hands-on manner.

Mile 0: Most annoying 35-mile, 5-hour drive ever. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Most annoying 35-mile, five-hour drive ever:
Mile 0
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The Long and Rutted Road

In an earlier post from this trip report, I described a series of insanely-frustrating, pervasive runoff channels with which I’d had to contend on my drive in to the trailhead two days earlier. Cutting diagonally across the road at obscenely short intervals, and several inches deep with raised edges of dried, rocky dirt, these ruts had chopped my driving speed down from 30 mph to 5-10 mph, and persisted for a good 8-10 miles.

Now my plan was to, rather than drive back over that 8-10 stupid miles of bumpy ruts on my way back out to the Sacramento Valley, instead cross the national forest from east to west, which would require more than 100 miles of off-road driving.

When I turned onto the road (M2) that would take me across the wilderness, I was instantly met by the same exact kind of cross-cutting ruts as those described above.  “Fuck“, quoth I to self, “I don’t know how many miles of this shit I can tolerate- but whatever, the ruts will probably only last a few miles, right?”  I proceeded onward.

Drive like the wind Straining the limits of machine and man Laughing out loud with fear and hope I've got a desperate plan (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Drive like the wind
Straining the limits of machine and man
Laughing out loud with fear and hope
I’ve got a desperate plan
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

I Scaled the Frozen Mountaintops of Western Lands Unknown…

Thank god for 110-song Rush shuffles, because as it turned out, these nasty ruts persisted for the next 35 miles.  After awhile I decided to measure the interval between them:  60 yards.  A rut every 60 yards for 35 miles.  I’ll do the math for you: That’s over 1,000 of these goddamned things that I had to drive over, each one requiring an almost dead stop to get over without banging up the undercarriage of my Rav4.

I thought of that scene in “Meet the Parents” when Deniro and Ben Stiller are racing each other back to the house, and every time a traffic light turns green, they each gun their cars up to full speed and start flying down the road at 70 miles an hour, neck and neck, only to have to then almost immediately jam on their brakes 100-yards later as the next light turns red, sending the passengers in both vehicles lurching violently forward, to hilarious effect.

At the one-lane bridge I leave the Peanut stranded at the riverside (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
At the one-lane bridge
I leave the Peanut stranded at the riverside
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

…Dog and Man Alone…

This was not the least bit hilarious, though- not to me, anyway.

So in this manner I lurched my way over that miserable 35 miles of profoundly lonely, entirely uninhabited, and rarely-traveled 4WD mountain road, wrestling these diagonal ruts in the road for control, edging along the brinks of sheer cliffs, swerving around boulders, downed trees, and other random road debris, and splashing across one rough-and-tumble creek crossing after another. The drive was aesthetically gorgeous, but it still fuckin’ sucked beyond belief. There are plenty of equally scenic roads around this state that aren’t infected with interruptive runoff channels like these every handful of yards; so it was hard to find and appreciate any kind of silver lining about this- it was just a trial of my sanity, and little else. And due to my impatient nature, I couldn’t bring myself to just drive slowly in between each rut, lest I spend the next day and a half on this road.  So it was unmellow as hell, just like that scene from the movie- but as I mentioned above, entirely without any mitigating comic value.

That said, it wasn’t all bad- I did get to hear three different versions of Xanadu as I made my way across that shitty-ass road.

Across the River Styx, out of the sunlight. Two travelers ford the river, and westward journey on. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Two travelers ford the river, and westward journey on.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

…Searching For the Lost Can of Booze

But then again, I could have listened to three versions of Xanadu anyway, wherever I was; so fuck it.

I needed a shot of whiskey; but I knew the bottle was buried deep in the bottom of my backpack; and I really didn’t feel like tearing the car apart to unpack it at the moment.

I lose.

 

Next chapter: (Part 4: Attack of the Gozer Dogs)

 

Addicted to Steel – A Walk on the Bay Bridge Trail

Looking back towards Oakland from the western end of the Bay Bridge Trail, the ever-diminishing structure of the old bridge still dominates the view. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Looking back towards Oakland from the western end of the Bay Bridge Trail, the ever-diminishing structure of the old bridge still dominates the view.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Spent a recent Sunday afternoon hiking the newly-constructed Bay Bridge Trail, a 4.3-mile one-way out-and-back route which stretches from Emeryville almost all the way to Yerba Buena Island, by way of a multi-use (both pedestrians and bicyclists) paved, surface trail .  The trail opened to the public on September 3, 2013, the same day the new span opened to vehicular traffic.

In the days immediately after the September 3, 2013 opening of the new eastern span, an observer positioned on the east end of Yerba Buena Island's summit would have this view, with the busy new span channeling traffic as the just-closed old span sits in darkness, awaiting the imminent commencement of its dismantling, which would commence in the following months. (image property of en.wikipedia.org)
In the days immediately after the September 3, 2013 opening of the new eastern span, an observer positioned on the east end of Yerba Buena Island’s summit would have had this view, with the busy new span channeling heavy traffic as the just-closed old span sits in darkness, awaiting its dismantling, which would commence in the following months.
(image property of en.wikipedia.org)

From Emeryville, the Bay Bridge Trail runs along the approach freeway to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, and then alongside the eastbound lanes of bridge traffic, on a steel-girdered suspended walk/bikeway which, at present, dead-ends about a third of a mile east of Yerba Buena Island, though an extension all the way to the island is in the pipeline, awaiting the completion of some deconstruction work on the old eastern span which is currently blocking the path’s right-of-way.

The now-defunct old eastern span of the Bay Bridge still dominates the southern view from the new Bay Bridge Trail. In center frame, the western span can be seen touching down in downtown San Francisco. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The now-defunct old eastern span of the Bay Bridge still dominates the southern view from the new Bay Bridge Trail. In center frame, the western span can be seen in the distance, linking Yerba Buena Island to downtown San Francisco.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The trail begins along Shellmound Street in Emeryville, just outside the IKEA parking lot and garage (parking at IKEA is technically not allowed; but ain’t nobody messed with my car, which I parked in the garage, before flagrantly crossing the lot and meeting the trail, without so much as a gesture, step, or even head-fake to suggest that I was going to shop or browse inside the store).

The Bay Bridge Trail starts in Emeryville, underneath the complex web of concrete flyover ramps that comprise the I-80/I-580/-I-880 Bay Bridge freeway interchange. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The Bay Bridge Trail starts in Emeryville, underneath the complex web of concrete flyover ramps that comprise the I-80/I-580/-I-880 Bay Bridge freeway interchange.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The first part of the trail passes beneath the complex web of concrete flyover ramps that is the I-80/580/880 Bay Bridge freeway interchange, and then runs for a couple of mostly-unremarkable miles alongside the eastbound lanes of I-80, as they touch down into Oakland from the Bay Bridge.

Before beginning its long, slow rise over the waters of San Francisco Bay, the Bay Bridge Trail closely parallels the eastbound lanes of I-80, as it deposits eastbound drivers  into Oakland. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Before beginning its long, slow rise over the waters of San Francisco Bay, the Bay Bridge Trail closely parallels the eastbound lanes of I-80, as it deposits eastbound drivers into Oakland.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Right where the roadway and the Bay Bridge Trail pass out over the choppy blue-green waters of San Francisco Bay, the old and new bridges diverge, the old eastern span cutting off to the left a bit, the new span barreling straight on ahead.

The only notable obstacle to hiking or biking the Bay Bridge Trail is this here bridge troll, whose lidless eye ever keeps watch, seeing all. The trick?  Slim Jims (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The only notable obstacle to hiking or biking the Bay Bridge Trail is this here bridge troll, whose lidless eye keeps a ceaseless watch upon the crossing, seeing all, but excepting none. The fee? Slim Jims
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

For almost two miles, the view from the Bay Bridge Trail is dominated by the old eastern bridge span, which towers high above the path, just yards from the new span.  The old bridge is actually quite a fascinating structure to see up close.  Eventually you get to a point where immediately south of you is a huge void of open air and water- where sections of the old span have already been removed, allowing sweeping long-range views of the bay, the peninsula, and behind it the Santa Cruz Mountains.  Here the old roadway ends abruptly at a sheer cliff of steel and concrete, hundreds of feet above the restless waters of the bay. Teetering at the brink of this drop-off sits a gigantic yellow piece of construction equipment, just daring the bridge to give out beneath.  But it doesn’t.

Pshaw- anybody can look good in this light. (photo by some random dude)
Pshaw- anybody can look good in this light.
(photo by some random dude)

Soon, sometime in the next year or two, the Bay Bridge Trail will be extended the final 1/3 of a mile to connect with Treasure Island, and at some point in the more distant future, all the way to San Francisco, completing a trans-bay crossing that has long been in the minds of countless Bay Area bicyclists and pedestrians.

IMG_6071
This dude set up shop in the steel undercarriage of the old bridge span.
He has no idea what’s coming.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Until then, we have what exists of the Bay Bridge Trail; and that’s still pretty cool.

 

 

 

My Dog is Not in Anybody’s Way

Cut the shit.

I’m tired of people just rounding all dogs down to “public nuisance”, as if it’s somehow reasonable and equitable to paint them all with the same brush.

There's enough beach to go around.  Let the dogs run wild. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Back off, establishment. You’re out of your element.
There’s plenty of beach to go around; so let the dogs run wild.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

As it is, our hounds are for all intents and purposes banned from National Parks across the board (only allowed on paved trails, or tied up in campgrounds- woo-hoo!!).  So can’t we just throw them this bone?

Who will give good sport to these seabirds? (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Who will give good sport to these restless seabirds?
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The battle rages on. See here for the latest on the dogs vs assholes battle for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Look- there’s a lot of land out there (even here in San Francisco); so let them run wild. We’ll pick up the dog shit.

Whatever, dude.  Chill out. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Yeah, so?
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

San Gabriel Wilderness, Angeles National Forest

It was between the brothers, Kay.  I had nothing to do with it. (photo by K. Riley)
It was between the brothers, Kay- I had nothing to do with it.
(photo by K. Riley)
This is Bear Creek; but I can't think of any good double-entendres at the moment. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
This is Bear Creek; but I can’t think of any good double-entendres at the moment.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi) 
Once upon a time, back-country adventurers were literally baked in these kilns.  But sometimes they saved their weed for when they reached camp. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
There was a time when it was a semi-regular occurrence for hapless back-country adventurers to find themselves being literally baked in these kilns.  But then winter would come and they’d smoke their weed at home for a few months.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)
IMG_5093
Go ahead, Sped- just try to get anywhere near this tent.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Thank GOD we live in this time... (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Thank GOD we live in this time…
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

 

 

The Sausalito Shuffle

Took a lovely walk with the Peanut the other day, from Sausalito, up into the Marin Headlands, across the Golden Gate Bridge, and across the northern part of San Francisco back to my home.

Here in Sausalito-by-the-Bay, nobody realizes it's Christmas. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Here in Sausalito-by-the-Bay, nobody realizes it’s Christmas.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

After poking around some of the very steep stairways connecting the terraced streets of Sausalito, we found a trail that I had not been aware of (this is noteworthy, anywhere within 50 miles of San Francisco).    Beginning at the junction of Edwards Ave and Marion Ave, on the southern edge of town, an un-named trail departs steeply upward into the Marin Headlands, which loom immediately to the west in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

In Bizzaro Sausalito, the driveways are on the roofs of the houses, Peanut is inside out, and I am a lefty.  Curiously, this does not make my penmanship any worse. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
In Bizzaro Sausalito, the driveways are on the roofs of the houses, Peanut is inside out, and I am a lefty. Curiously, this does not make my penmanship any worse.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The town of Sausalito takes its name from the Spanish word sauzalito, which means “small willow grove”.  So it seemed fitting enough when we found ourselves climbing fairly steeply for about a half a mile through thick groves of willows and eucalyptus, eventually topping out at a ridge overlooking San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.

The rolling green hills of the Marin Headlands make the Golden Gate Bridge look like that much more of a bad-ass.  You, however, are a pussy. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The rolling green hills of the Marin Headlands make the Golden Gate Bridge look like that much more of a bad-ass. You, however, are a pussy.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

We dropped down out of the Marin Headlands into Fort Baker, a decomissioned coastal defense station which sits at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, on the Marin County side of the famed strait.

The Golden Gate Bridge, seen here from Fort Baker, a mid-1800s military installation erected to defend San Francisco against a hostile advance by Sigmund the Sea Monster (who, it turned out, just wanted to be friends). (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The Golden Gate Bridge, seen here from Fort Baker, a mid-1800s military installation erected to defend San Francisco against a hostile advance by Sigmund the Sea Monster (who, it turned out, just wanted to be friends).
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Then we made our way up to the pedestrian walkway of the bridge, which, as it happens, doesn’t allow dogs.  Lucky for me, though, I don’t give a shit about arbitrary rules; and so proceeded Peanut and me onto the walkway.  As usual, every 50 yards or so I was stopped by tourists who couldn’t seem to stop raving about how handsome he is.  Nothing new about that.

The lidless, all-seeing-eye of Big Brother tirelessly scans the Golden Gate Bridge for any sign of non-acquiescence to the status quo.  Servants of the military-industrial policing establishment are ceaselessly standing by, ready to quell any and all harmless human intercourse. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The lidless, all-seeing-eye of Big Brother tirelessly scans the Golden Gate Bridge for any sign of non-acquiescence to the status quo. Servants of the military-industrial policing establishment are ceaselessly standing by, ready to quell any and all harmless human intercourse.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

On the bridge we met some guy named Nick, who was scoping out the city for a possible (and likely) immigration.  He was traveling with his brother and another friend.  We spent 15 or 20 minutes plying each other with questions and information, talking about the weather (in an interesting and productive way), and laughing at how ridiculous conservatives are.  Then we went our separate ways.

The completion of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1938 shortened the commute from San Francisco to Sausalito from 229 miles to 9 miles.   (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The completion of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1938 shortened the commute from San Francisco to Sausalito from 229 miles to 9 miles.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Touching back onto terra firma on the San Francisco side of the bridge, me and the Pean made for the Presidio, cutting irreverently through its cemetary en route back to our house.

I see dead people. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
I see dead people.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Don’t worry- I didn’t let him piss on anybody’s grave.  He would have, though, had I not stopped him.  Last year, when we visited Hendrix’s grave outside of Seattle last year, he totally lifted his leg to douse Jimi’s crypt.  But I do not brook urinations on guitar gods; so Peanut’s designs came quickly to naught.

Look at him, acting  as if he wasn't just a few seconds ago trying to piss all over Jimi's remains.  Today's youth has no respect. (photo by K. Riley)
Look at him, acting as if he wasn’t just a few seconds ago trying to piss all over Jimi’s remains. Today’s youth has no respect.
(photo by K. Riley)

After almost five hours and 13 miles of walking without any annoyances whatsoever, I got my head shit on by a bird as I was walking up to my front door.

Ho Ho Ho.

 

 

Dude, Check Out This Sideways Waterfall

The water is flowing once again up in Marin County; and not just “flowing” flowing- but flowing flowing.  It’s going shit-house.

But who are we kidding?  You won’t go up there.

Whatever dude.

 

Is it all just smoke and mirrors?

California really is an amazing place.

 

IMG_4110
Go Sox!! (photo by S. Jernigan)

Addicted to Dogs

Who Let the Dogs Out?

I did, goddammit.  And I’d do it again.

P1060836
The Sphinx.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)
P1060890
But is she cold?
Oh no no no
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)
P1070091
The High Sierra Pean-Wolf (coat not included)
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)
P1060845c - Copy
I know there’s a message here; but I can’t quite tell what it is.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)
P1060941
Taming the Pean-Wolf.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

As you can see, I have nothing to “say” at the moment.

And that’s okay, I suppose.

Long Days in the Canockies – Part 2

P1020355
Gratuitous.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Lake Louise

5:15 PM

I stand outside the Rav 4, in the parking lot for Lake Louise and the Saddleback Trail- my trail to the summit of Fairview Mountain-, eating a hastily-assembled tuna-melt, and mixing up another bottle full of icy lemonade.  My wife tinkers with the bear spray canister, eager to confirm its functionality, and that I know how to use it.  I pick it up and investigate, peering intently into the barrel while being extremely careful not to unlock the trigger.  I think of the time ten years ago when, while fidgeting with an ex-girlfriend’s protective Mace spray, I inadvertently painted my face with red-hot-pepper-optical agony, for no good reason at all.  The orientation of the trigger mechanism appeared sort of backwards from what I would have expected; so I misjudged the device entirely and blasted my grill. I guess this is how idiots with real guns manage to take their own heads off while cleaning their weapons.  Anyway, I never made that mistake again with the Mace; and I wasn’t about to make it with bear spray either.

I demonstrate to my wife’s satisfaction that I know how to correctly aim and administer a cone of eyeball-busting hellfire, should the need arise; though I don’t actually pull the trigger- everything but.  It’s not really a very good idea to deploy a canister of bear-spray for any reason other than you are under real and present threat from an actual charging bear.

P1020235grizzly-bear-wallpaper-2
This here constitutes what we would call a do-spray situation.
(photo property of www.animalstown.com)

I take only essential gear: A Twix, a Snickers Bar, a bottle full of bone-chillingly cold lemonade, a camera (with extra battery), a weak-but-sufficient trail map, a fleece shirt, and a windbreaker.

Before I begin my ascent, I take a walk down to check out the lake with Katherine and Peanut.  A 90-second walk through a heavily wooded area ends with the shockingly-abrupt unveiling of a lakescape of the highest order.  Completely hidden from view when you’re in the parking lot, Lake Louise demands, captures, and holds your attention effortlessly once you’re standing by its shores.

Viewed from its northeastern end- the “developed” end-, Lake Louise appears as a bed of implausibly green glacial melt-water, framed gorgeously by the long, deep, and towering V-shaped canyon that abuts its southwestern end.  The lake’s emerald radiance (often referred to as “glacial milk”) is attributable to the abundant inflow of what is called “rock flour”- essentially just silt-sized particles of limestone that has been methodically ground down to a virtual powder by the mighty and ceaseless forces of erosion and bedrock grinding that are nature’s process way up here on the continental crest, where the great tectonic plates of the Pacific Ring of Fire ply their trade, wrestling with one another for dominance.  Particles of rock flour are typically so small that they don’t even get pulled downward by gravity to settle at the bottom of the lake, but are instead suspended in the water, clouding it up and infusing it with its famously green hue.

P1020044
Lake Louise, with the valley of the Victoria Glacier behind it. In the distance, behind the glacier, is Mount Victoria itself.
The Pean Bear is not impressed.
(photo by Some Dude From the Other Side of the World)

We gaze out at hundreds of red kayaks, which lay like slices of red bell pepper all across the glistening surface of the lake.  Hundreds of tourists crowd the scenic area at the end of the lake where we are standing.  In the less than five minutes that we’ve been standing here, I’ve heard at least five languages being spoken. A Swiss-looking couple wanders past, the woman quizzing the man in some eastern-European-sounding tongue.  A large extended family of Indian descent muscles in on our spot, seeking for an appropriately scenic backdrop for their imminent family picture.  I step aside accommodatingly, then offer to take the photo, so the patriarch/cheerleader of the family can be in it, too.  He’s happy to oblige, though somewhat overly-insistent on subjecting me to a tutorial on the proper procedure for using a basic point-and-shoot camera.  I tolerate his unnecessary tutelage, and take a photo that will doubtless find distribution and prominent placement for years to come on mantelpieces from here to Sri Lanka.

P1020312
You can’t be Cirrious.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Looking southwest across the lake, I see, from the right, Mount St. Piran, Mount Niblock, and Mount Whyte, a trio of great peaks that are the first three in a great horseshoe of nine or so towering rock pigs that half-encircle the business end of Lake Louise.  Straight ahead and about four miles away looms Mount Victoria, at 11,365 feet the highest peak of those that look down upon the shimmering emerald waters of Lake Louise, a lake named for the fourth daughter of Britain’s beloved Queen Victoria, for whom Mount Victoria was named.  It’s a family affair, y’see. Hanging from the upper reaches of Mount Victoria is the Victoria Glacier, which breaks and crumbles its way down the Plain of Six Glaciers to eventually dump its ice and silt into Lake Louise, which sits at 5,740 feet above sea level.  To the left of Mount Victoria stands Mount Lefroy; and in front of it hangs the Lefroy Glacier, from which comes most of Lake Louise’s melt-water.  Set back in a deep recessed canyon, the Lefroy Glacier, as well as the three peaks of Mount Aberdeen, Haddo Peak, and Sheol Mountain, are all hidden from me by an intervening mass of shale and limestone lurching skyward from the lake’s southern shore.  This intervening mass is Fairview Mountain; and it is upon its uppermost pinnacle that I aim to stand, before the end of the day.

P1020162
Sheol Mountain, Haddo Peak, Mount Aberdeen, Mount Lefroy, and Mount Victoria (from left to right) sit atop the continental Divide above Lake Louise.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Better get movin’ then, being that it’s almost 5:30 PM now.  I establish an 8:30 PM pre-set turnaround time with my wife, which is always a good idea when starting a hike so late in the day- especially a grueling climb such as this one, and superespecially when an aggro grizzly is known to be active in the vicinity.

I kiss my wife; and tell her to expect me most likely before 8:30, though not to panic until I haven’t returned by 10 PM.  Even then, it’ll still be light out, we’re so goddamn far north; but it’d be nice to have time to find camping before the headlamps have to come out.  Like I said- it’s only a 7-mile roundtrip; and even with a 3,300-foot elevation gain, I trust my body and mind to carry me quickly up this trail, and without incident.

(to be continued)

 

Next Chapter (3)

Previous Chapter (1)

Afternoon On Grizzly Peak: Part 2 of 2

It was from around this bend in the torched mountainside that the beast made its initial approach, unheeded at first by even the ever-vigilant Pean-Bear. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
It was from around this bend in the torched mountainside that the beast made its initial approach, unheeded at first by even the ever-vigilant Pean-Bear.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

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.

Exceedingly reluctant to startle it and possibly provoke an aggressive encounter, I had to settle for this grainy footage of the strange creature. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Exceedingly reluctant to startle it and possibly provoke an aggressive encounter, I had to settle for this grainy footage of the strange creature.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

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 spectrum refracting 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.

The ever-lilting siren song of the highly-elusive Great Northwestern Tripping Pack-Rover seldom finds human ears; but when it does... it sounds not unlike Joni Mitchell. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The ever-lilting siren song of the highly-elusive Great Northwestern Tripping Pack-Rover seldom finds human ears; but when it does… it sounds not unlike Joni Mitchell.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

“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.

Part Sasquatch/part wandering minstrel, the Great Northwestern Tripping Pack-Rover wanders the grassy hillside, heedless of the 95-degree sun, bound neither by agenda nor fixed destination, and answerable to none but itself. On rare occasions, the Tripping Pack-Rover has been known to burst into song without warning- usually some vintage Marley or early 70s Dead. A simply fascinating creature. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Part Sasquatch/part wandering minstrel, the Great Northwestern Tripping Pack-Rover wanders the grassy hillside, heedless of the 95-degree sun, bound neither by agenda nor fixed destination, and answerable to none but itself. On rare occasions, the Tripping Pack-Rover has been known to burst into song without warning- usually some vintage Marley or early 70s Dead. A simply fascinating creature.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

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.

"Okay- what the fuck just happened here?" demands the Pean-Bear. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
“Okay- what the fuck just happened here?” demands the Pean-Bear.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

For the rest of the hike, we walked in total silence.  There was nothing more to say.