y o se m i t e, pt 3

we set out from Sunrise HSC after breakfast, slathered w/ bug cream and sunblock. We went back across Long Meadow for 9/10’s of a mile to where the trail split. We followed the sign to Merced Lake and began to ascend. The rise was steady but not too tortuous. Our shoulders and backs were aching and sore from the previous day and I cursed my over-packing. Necessity versus weight. I had a copy of Dog Years by Mark Doty w/ me which I’d thrown in as an afterthought, something to read perhaps at night – but now, as we hiked, it felt superfluous. Extra ounces to tote.

We crested over some granite hills and stopped to identify some flowers. [Another thing I brought was a guide to yosemite wildflowers and wildlife. I understand that this makes me sound 83 but there it is]. We moved onward, descending now, the landscape changing with the altitude. We could hear the Merced River to our left, far far below.

After awhile the sun came out and it got hot. There was some cloud cover to neutralize but it was there and it made the hike harder. We crossed a meadow and then an extended area of dead charred trees, remnants of a lighting fire a couple years previous. We descended further and crossed a footbridge that spanned the Merced River. Here the trail got dusty. We’d been at it for several hours and our energy was starting to ebb. We continued to descend, finally stopping at another footbridge for lunch. We took our shoes and socks off and soaked our feet in the water. Freezing naturally but refreshing and welcome.

Afterward we headed onward. We had no pedometer or gauge to determine how far we went or had to go but we felt it couldn’t be too much further. We finally came to a sign saying that we had 2.9 miles left, just as the path appeared to go straight down. You would presume going down is easier than up but it’s just as challenging, particularly for anyone w/ knee issues. MM’s knee chose today to get wonky on her so she was popping advils like candy to help w/ the pain. Still, we were glad to be going down and not up, as it was a steep and serpentine staircase.

At long last the staircase ended and the ground leveled. We knew we had to be very close but a sign revealed we’d only gone 8/10’s of a mile. We couldn’t believe it. Our bodies felt spent, exhausted. Our water supply was down to a few drips. But we had no choice but to keep going.

After about 45 minutes or so we stopped. I ate an apple. We were both red and sweaty and tired. We were going alongside the Merced River now, on our right hand side. We were walking like zombies sort of, no thought but getting there and flopping down, our feet moving by computer chip.

At long last we saw Merced Lake and I thought I could see the white canvas of the tents. I realized a few minutes later that I had only seen the water reflected and that I was hallucinating mildly. We kept walking. Heavy clouds rolled in and it looked like it was about to rain. The lake was large and we were on a path that skirted the thing. Could it be possible that we’d have to go all the way around? We put that thought out of our head and kept walking, one heavy foot in front of the other. MM thought she saw a camp structure up ahead through the trees but it turned out to be nothing but an optical illusion. We kept walking, one heavy foot in front of the other. We were in a sort of a fog of exhaustion, unable to really think, cogitate or process but finally, at long last, we saw the Merced Lake camp up ahead.

We headed to the lodge and checked in…


y o s e m i t e, pt 2

we set our packs down outside and went into the lodge, mosquitoes still buzzing and dive-bombing us. the lodge manager sat behind a small counter next to a small stash of supplies. the camp had literally just opened (the staff arrived 3 days before us and furiously got the whole camp set up) so the supply stash was lacking. everything is packed in by mule-train you see. cruel point being: normally they would be able to sell us the mosquito netting we saw on another hiking couple, but not today.

we had a few hours to ourselves before dinner. went to our tent-cabin, happy to learn that it was made for just 2 people. 2 nights in a row of not having to share a tent. we knew our good luck probably wouldn’t last so we enjoyed it while we had it. we made our way to the facilities – compost toilets and ice cold showers – and then back to the cabin for a doze.

At 6 the bugle sounded for hot drinks. They set a table up outside the lodge w/ hot water and tea and coffee. It’s meant, I presume, to foster interaction and ice-breaking but the mosquitoes were swarming so furiously that people were literally running back to their cabins, hot tea in hand, to avoid being bitten. Ate dinner at 6:30. About 30 or so other campers around 8 tables. The meal was fresh and freaking delicious. Soup and salad and grilled vegetables and mushroom ravioli. Afterward the cook and all the staff came out and introduced themselves and their connection to yosemite and the HSCs, a ritual at each camp after each dinner.

We made our way back to the cabin and waited for nightfall. The mosquitoes are quiet then.

A deer, not used to the camp being occupied, darted through, either brave or oblivious.

When it was dark we walked out to a rock outcrop that overlooked the meadow under the camp. It looked like the below picture except that those people weren’t with us and the sky was dark.

We laid down and looked at the stars feeling fortunate to gaze upon them from such a place. Later we went back to the cabin and played scrabble by candle-light.

At breakfast the next morning we talked w/ a group who had come the previous day from the Merced Lake camp, our destination that day. They said it wouldn’t be a problem for us b/c it was nearly all downhill. This sounded great to us since it would also be our longest day of hiking mileage-wise. Many hours later – feet burning, backs aching, energy tapped - we realized how wrong we were…


y o s e m i t e - pt 1

2 weeks ago we were in yosemite, sleeping on mountain tops, hiking through meadows, up and down granite staircases, through woods and trees felled by fire, along alpine lakes and streams. Today finds us back in the grip of the inane, meaningless day job paperwork, endless ways to bore oneself online etc. It’s tragic to have those two realities juxtaposed so seamlessly but what can you do? Try to surround yourself with more of the former and less of the latter I guess.

Normally I’d have done some type of little movie-version of our trip – various clips from along the journey - but I lost the camera. It vanished somewhere between Maxwell, CA and San Mateo, CA. In one sense, losing the camera was a good thing, ripping me from the teat of the habitual. And besides, no better place than to let artifice and manufactured bits fall away than Yosemite. Point being: all of these pix are not mine. I found them on the internet and am co-opting them for the purpose of visual aid. thanks and apologies to those involved.


We drove into Yosemite from San Mateo on Mon 7/7. Turned on Tioga Road and headed toward the other end toward Tuolumne Meadows. We hadn’t been back in, say, five years. Driving in to and through the park, particularly the high country, always has a sedative effect on me. My breath slows. My shoulders loosen. The smell of the trees. The sky that blue.

We found our way to the Tuolumne Lodge. It’s part of the High Sierra Camps Loop technically but it really represents a sort of base camp, a final place to get supplies and electricity and the ny times before heading to the other camps. However it’s a good spot to get acclimated to the altitude at 8600 ft. We checked in and found our way to our tent cabin, #11, which looked exactly like the below pic. Although there were 4 beds we had the place to ourselves. We walked to the facilities, took hot showers, and then locked up our toiletries and food in the bear-boxes.

After a brief rest we went to the lodge for dinner. They serve family-style which means you sit with strangers. We met a couple from St. Louis on their honeymoon and a group of four women in their late 60’s who come annually to Yosemite. A couple years prior they’d hiked Half-Dome.

After dinner we sat outside at the camp bonfire. Discussions happened around us about completed hikes, upcoming hikes. Marshmallows circled. When it got dark we went to our cabin and played gin rummy by candle-light. Had a fire in the stove. We stepped outside briefly to look at the stars, pulsing brightly around the silhouette of Cathedral Peak in the distance.

The next morning we had breakfast. We picked up our pre-ordered sack lunches. We packed our packs. We drove up the road to the information center and parked our car. We put our supplies in the bear-boxes. Some trusting soul left a full bottle of scotch in one of the bear-boxes. We walked to the nearest shuttle stop and waited. About 15 minutes later the shuttle picked us up. Our destination that day was the Sunrise High Sierra Camp (HSC) but we had two options: take the Sunrise trail past sunrise lakes or take the John Muir trail past Cathedral Lakes. The latter was longer but reportedly more stunning. MM argued for the latter. I argued for the former. She won. The shuttle dropped us at the Cathedral Lakes trailhead.

We didn’t have hiking poles or any of the fancy accoutrements so we grabbed sticks off the ground to help us hike. It was straight up for awhile but then leveled out, curving around Cathedral Peak. A few hours later we’d gone around 3.5 miles. We stopped for lunch at Upper Cathedral Lake.

We saw a couple men fishing. We saw a deer across the lake. And the mosquitoes began. They were swarming as we ate our sandwiches. We patted and slapped at each other’s heads and shoulders. We ate quickly as a result and high-tailed it back to the path but the mosquitoes stayed with us. The steady, insistent buzzing. It continued for several hours, through and over the tree line, over the ridge and down into Long Meadow. In fact it seemed to get worse the closer we got to camp. We saw a couple ahead of us wearing mosquito netting over their heads and we made mental notes to get the same.

We arrived tired and bite-riddled at Sunrise HSC and checked in.


the wknd in reflection

went to JAW at pcs this wknd to check out (for free) some play bits in progress. only got to see 3 out of the five (1 on sat, 2 on sun) but left feeling satisfied – if by satisfied one means ‘not needing to see any theatre for awhile’. now granted they were in progress, ie you expect some rough patches, some inconsistency. what i didn’t expect was the gut-punch insufferableness of one of the pieces (the 1 on Saturday), which had me groaning by minute five and begging for holy mercy at minute seventy-five. In current incarnation it is an abomination I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. some lobby murmurs afterward confirmed I was not alone.

Sunday saw the storm large musical-in-progress and found it oddly compelling. I could give eff-all about her but the piece manages to kind of showcase her talents. it’s a straightforward narrative, easy to follow, plus the songs are pretty memorable. the piece suffers perhaps from cohering too stridently to biography but whatever. they have some time to work it out apparently….also Sunday afternoon saw “pony” by sally oswald which I completely dug despite not being certain I fully grasped it or not. I understand the spirit of it and that’s good enough for me. Heard people afterward grumbling about a vague ending but I thought the ending was awesome. strong acting too.

Elsewhere, Saturday night we went w/ B & C to Reed for the last night of the annual tin house conference. a celebrated writer was coaxed out of hiding to give the closing reading so it was supposed to be a big deal. Now maybe we were spoiled by last yr when TC Boyle read (he being seemingly engineered to speak hilariously in front of adoring audiences) but said celebrated writer was awkward, un-entertaining, and most depressing of all, read a piece that he announced as a trifle. In short, it was an epic flop. I can only imagine, had I flown across the country and paid $ to attend the wk-long conference like most attendees, that I’d still taste the disappointment.


farewell maxwell


we haven't had a proper vacation in well over a year (2 wknd trips to ocean haven notwithstanding). Further, we haven't been to yosemite in about 5 yrs (when we celebrated our 2nd anniversary w/ dinner at the awahnee and a hike to cloud's rest, where the above pic of half-dome is shot from). so, we're heading out tomorrow on a journey w/ several legs. ashland, bay area, yosemite, bay area, arcata. still debating on whether or not to bring max's ashes w/ us. we're leaning towards yes.


maxwell sends word...

we picked up maxwell’s ashes on Saturday. the place was bright-lit and respectful. They put a tin, covered w/ a flower-pattern, into our hands and we stepped outside, into the hot sunlight.

Leaving the parking lot, swells of emotion found me. How could an entire life – 9.5 yrs worth of trips and hikes and balls and moves and treats and walks – be reduced to a small square of ashes? But there he was, in my hands, reduced.

It was clear out. we found our way to the waterfront and rode the tram up to ohsu, taking in the vista - the snow-capped mountains, the boats on the river – maxwell’s ashes at our feet.

we stepped into OHSU, walking through a hallway that had been remodeled since our last visit - there were no patients, no rooms, no nurses station - only bright paintings and drywall. It was the very floor where I stayed after my first brain surgery.

- - -

riding bikes home from work yesterday we stopped at dots for a drink and dinner. sitting outside, a golden named Charlie came by. 10 months old and full of love.

after dots we rode up Clinton, only to come across, some 10 blocks later, a small golden retriever pup named Serafina. She looked exactly like Max did as a pup. we leapt off our bikes to greet her.

then, later, many blocks later, almost home, a third golden walked by w/ his owners. he looked old, but hale and well-loved.

We couldn’t believe it. What could it all mean? 3 goldens in all stages of life in one hour, on one bike route?

We came home and brought the tally to 4, greeting Max in his tin on the mantle.