While we enjoyed our visit to Death Valley, going up to the Sierra Nevada was a welcome relief from the valley’s triple digit heat. For our first Fall color hike, we selected a loop around Chocolate Peak southwest of South Lake in the John Muir Wilderness. We added a short side trip to the Marie Louise Lakes simply because that’s where I’d had my very first backpacking experience (and several other outdoor firsts as well). I just wanted The LovedOne to see where my obsession with the outdoors and love of the Sierra Nevada got their starts. So Fall color enlivened with a little nostalgia… Continue reading “Marie Louise Lakes (John Muir Wilderness) 28-Sep-2018”→
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…” ~ Dickens
Do these oft-quoted lines apply to 2018? Probably. But they most certainly apply to 1968 – one of the most tumultuous single years in history, marked by events, both amazing and awful, that were intensely dramatic and lastingly consequential.
The Vietnam War dominated the news all year. In April, Martin was assassinated and, in June, Bobby. In June, the Six-Day War broke out. In August, the Soviet Union crushed Czechoslovakia’s Prague Spring. In October, hundreds of protestors were killed and injured in Mexico City’s Tlatelolco Square. In November, Richard Nixon was elected president.
While all this (and more) was going on, my dad had been dead from cancer for 4 years, mom was pressing forward as a single mom running her own business, and my days in high school were a less cheerful version of the Lord of the Flies. I was about to auger in. As a last resort, mom reached out to the Big Brothers organization and, after a couple of false starts, I got matched-up with Jerry: a scientist (geology), backpacker, hiker, desert rockhound; a wonderful person with a great sense of humor and the patience of a saint. Doing outdoor stuff was second nature to him and I was welcome to come along.
So, regardless of whatever else was going on in 1968, I will always cherish it as my year of outdoor firsts – first dayhike, first backpack (Marie Louise Lakes in the Sierra Nevada), first fish, first night sleeping out, first time at altitude, and (to be honest) first time really cold and miserable and bug-bitten – all things I’d spend the next 50 years doing as often and as much as possible.
Jerry and I were only together for about three years before I went off to university and he took a job in another city, got married, and started his own family. But he – and the outdoors – were there when I needed them the most. Since then, going outside has been the gift that’s been both an inspiration and a refuge. So, looking back across these 50 years, it’s obvious that one good person, stepping-up in the right place and at the right time, can make a difference.
Earlier this year, my brother-in-law (Russ), nephew (Bart), and myself planned a multi-day backpack through California’s John Muir Wilderness and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. I jumped through the permitting hoops for this and we all wrangled with what constituted a bear cannister acceptable to both the Forest Service and the National Park Service. Sadly, neither bureaucracy has officially recognized the UrSack (my preferred food storage container), so we were stuck with those unwieldy and hard-to-pack plastic barrels. But there are good reasons for the permits and the cannisters, so we worked through it all and were ready to go by late July. I spent the night before their arrival (they were flying out from the East Coast) in Bridgeport, California and, early the next morning, drove down to the Virginia Lakes trailhead – one of the gateways to the Hoover Wilderness (details) – to get in a short warmup hike before going on to meet them in Bishop.