I apologize for the bad iPhone pics, new camera is almost here. – CUL
A head cold and sleepless nights began to take a toll Saturday night. After a few libations at John and Whit’s and discussions about Joel Salatin and Steven Rinella I really started to notice that I was getting extra loopy. Several days and nights of burning the candle at both ends were starting to come to a head and the gentle crash into a 12+ hour hibernation caught me watching Louis at 1AM on the couch. I was planning on going out for some turkeys that morning around 5. They were about a quarter mile away from the house and I found good sign after hearing them gobble the morning away on Saturday morning. I hit the alarm and kept sleeping. I really didn’t get moving till 1pm. And that always makes me feel like shit even if I needed the rest. I tend to binge on staying up way too late and getting up early when I’m working on a project, but that always has a price after about a 5 day stretch. Gotta get the juices out somehow, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
So while in my “you’re wasting a day, jerk” stupor I got up and decided to hike to a high country lake, whose access was questionable even in the drought conditions reaping the dust from the land. I packed the dogs and started the short drive to the crest of the Sierras. The road I had doubts about driving down only had three drifts in as many miles. It should be 10-20 feet deep all the way up this time of year so I did the squiggly lip smile/cringe while gunning the trusty Toyota through their hearts. I got to the “trailhead” which is an arbitrary dying tree in a dying forest and got moving. The sun wouldn’t set until after 7 so I figured if I hustled I could be back at the truck just after dark, leaving time to fish the hell out of the lake while also taking into account the extra travel required navigating in the spring snow. The last section to get to the lake is a sketchy boulder field to cross in summer, let alone when it’s covered over in melting snow and false bridges. I definitely didn’t want to have one of those 127 hours situations if I crossed the wrong patch of deeply drifted snow. I guess I’m getting older because I consider those things now, and I tend to move a little slower when I’m alone in the wilderness. Age and experience will do that to a man, but I’m just an overgrown dipshit.
Having the first set of discernable tracks to a relatively unknown and out of the way spot makes it all the more special. I kept this in mind as I felt my heart rate explode and my breath labored. This head cold was kicking the shit out of me, almost to the point of passing out, but I couldn’t let it win. I stopped and cracked a beer and traded glances with an old raven. “What a dumb son of a bitch..” he thought.
The dogs and I crossed the ridge over the giant and blanketed boulder field with little incident. I slipped down to my chest in one hole, while the dogs seemed to run roughshod and weightless over the unstable expanse. They even took a trip to the lake to get a drink before returning to my snail crawl over this Temple of Doom snow field to see what the hell was taking so long.
I was ready to pass out when I finally glimpsed the lake. It was worth it.
Solitude after a long
winter extended fall stuck in the lowlands is akin to taking a long hot shower after being at a multiday music festival. I normally wouldn’t call this lake backcountry, but considering the conditions and season along with the only sign of human presence in this area being mine it sure felt like I was out there. Some people get excited for front row parking, good tables at restaurants or treating themselves to a shopping spree. I get excited when the closest thing that can use a phone is far enough away we’d never hear one anothers gunshots.
Damn, it sure felt good to be alone, and I don’t count the loyal dogs, the curious jays, the pikas and squirrels out building larders, the cutthroats cruising, the millions of midges swarming the air, the hungry bear tracks across the ridgetop, and the creatures who escaped my view.
This was the best water I’ve had in months.
Call me selfish, but I think I’d very well die if I didn’t have places like this to call my own. Even if other people know it’s there, having it to yourself for a few hours makes the world feel like a bigger place than it really is. And isn’t that refreshing in our modern era? I hope you have places like this one, I really do. It’s good for the soul to know you’re a small and insignificant piece to this grand puzzle.
SIDEBAR OF IMPORTANCE!
If you haven’t already, please join Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. It’s the bees knees. If you love solitude and wild places as much as I do, do yourself, your friends, your kids, and your own Crazy Uncle a favor and join up. You get some cool stickers as well. Thanks for letting me be a shill, but it’s worth it for these guys and gals, stewards of radness.