It all started with me wanting to pull my weight, literally, with a new group of backpacking friends. Invited to a challenging 7 day, 75 mile, 18000′ elevation gain trip that traverses the Sierra Nevada in its highest widest part, I trained hard spring and summer. Two of the ladies on the hike were having birthdays, and while I normally don’t pack in anything extra, I agreed with others to bring in some surprise beer for them to celebrate.? I love how the story unfolded, so this is a special blog excerpt about that part of my High Sierra Summer 2013 trip.

It all started at the local Whole Foods.? I’d dated a beer officionado for a few short weeks this summer and one of the things I learned was that the beer selection at Whole Paycheck rocked.? I walked in and asked the gent stocking the cooler for his favorite IPA in a can.? He turned, walked past me without hesitating and palmed a pretty rusty orange colored box.? “This is my favorite IPA in OR out of a can” he said, handing it to me with a flourish and smile.? I grinned back, “no way!”: the logo is a backpacking tent, and the beer is called Wyld (by Uinta Brewing Co out of Salt Lake City).? It could NOT be more perfect for my backpack birthday mission and I told him so.

It looked good in my bike basket all the way home. I tucked two cans in amidst my water filter, dehydrated food and sleeping gear and I managed to keep it hidden most of the trip. I tried not to think about it as we sweated our asses off climbing up to Precipice Lake, our most stunning campsite of the trip at 10,400 feet.

We chilled the beer in the lake while we ate dinner.? At sunset we popped the tops to enjoy them while we waited for the Perseid meteor shower show to begin. Sarah and Paige were stoked and touched that we carried the extra weight that even they – major beer fans themselves – had decided not to pack in.

Up in the backcountry its the simple things, and even to me who’d choose whiskey-over-beer any day, that cold Wyld IPA tasted fantastic. Thank goodness the birthday girls were good sharers!

(Afterword:? With some other backpacking friends Paige attended CanFest in Reno in the weeks following our trip and was able to tell this story in person directly to the folks at the Uinta booth. Fun!)


luffing like a sail

at land’s edge

I had two love affairs last summer that were out of this world. Captured my heart like I’d never known. Got down deep under my skin.? Stayed there.? Broke me open and change me good.? The one I got to keep involved a piece of granite 400 miles long, 70 miles across and more than a few miles deep.? That one is luscious with only 6 feet of topsoil supporting life on it.? That one I got to revel in again this weekend.

What moved me most was the mind-stopping vast stillness of clouds parked at sunset over Potter Peak reflected in the Lyell Fork of the Tuolomne. Everything in my peripheral vision hummingly quietly alive.? So deeply still you can’t help but settle into your seat on the broad meadowed bank until you are just bones and breath.

Startled by an ear-flap-splash you spy an oh-so-new fawn swimming circles around mama as they make their way across the current to browse the sweet willows on the far bank. Pulls you back out of yourself and into the sky, growing dusk and sunset, bringing in the cool evening that pulls you back to camp, and the campfire, and the warmth for you there in the flames and the whiskey and the faces.

Up not-so-early for a stroll up the canyon and a 2,000 foot pull up toward Donahue Pass.? Hang a right turn off the JMT and slab and talus hop your way up to the unnamed lake the Lyell Peak baggers base camp at before tackling the mountain. The sky is collecting itself so you set up camp, but warm enough for a naked jump into what looks like a sky of a lake at 11,200 feet and coming up with a shout that echos off the basin walls.

Like clockwork at 3 PM the gods start their bowling match around the basin.? After an hour or so the Big Guy finally shows up and shit gets serious. The sky opens up and its all dump and instantaneous lighting/thunder right overhead.? The sound blossoms around, circling the rim of the canyon and out over the valley in broad sideways lightning arcs.? Hard rain turns to harder hail, over an inch of it coming down as we humble under the thin nylon shells of our tents.? Those without company wish we had some to share the excitement.? We poke our heads out as it quiets a few hours later and you asked Fred if he wants to borrow your pen.? When he looks perplexed, you say, “to cross that one off your bucket list” as he grins back.

Under the clearing evening skies you clamber over the shoulder to peer down into the McClure lakes basin and watch the last of the light dance through the valley, up along Kuna Crest, and lay itself all over Donahue. The moonlit cloudscape guides you back to sweet camp conversation and stars. Sleep comes easy lullabyed by waterfall in the bright basin.? Morning arrives all full of clean light and sees you all the way out, river swim snack breaks along the way.? You head downhill to home to watch the sun set at sea level, remembering watching it rise at heavenly heights just that morning, in this season of summer, with more Sierra love affair ahead.

Happy me (thanks Michael for the portraits).? Full set of pics here.

? ?The mountains provide a new solitude”, he wrote ” ? It wasn?t solitude for its own sake or in fearful withdrawal; it was solitude for the sake of more acutely perceiving ?the Real Thing” and to be real alongside it.”

– from Hammarskjold – A Life by Roger Lipsey, c. 2013

The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,

is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can?t breathe.

No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.

?Margaret Atwood (from Morning in the Burned House)

Thanks, as ever, to Luke Storms

(Photo: National Geographic pic of the famous Yosemite Firefall, 1958, off Glacier Point)

Yesterday was summer-hot here and the beaches were packed, so I waited until night when I could visit by myself, and went down to the water. It was no-moon dark. It was vast no-horizon. It was a little mist and a lot of stars. Just me and all that space. I walked and then sat by the water in only a long sleeve top, curling my arms around my legs and settled into the comfort that is all that dark and the susurrus of the surf. Satisfied in the quiet. It confirmed that my happys back. Been at my side pretty regular for a few weeks now, so I’m feelin’ I can count on it. So grateful! The ladies in the photos below are to be thanked immensely.

We ladies in fact had a wonderful time together last weekend at the Patty Griffin concert.? Of course her bus would be gorgeous. I tried to honor the occasion in a lovely dress and laughed to find that it matched the wallpaper at the historic Coconut Grove.? The super Strawberry Moon rose above the water out the windows of the place. What could be better? Oh, Patty at Fall Strawberry this year!? I can’t wait. And tonight’s cowboy country eve with Janell and Chad dinnering at the 19th Hole and then trolling the San Benito County Rodeo shouldn’t be too bad either. I’ve got my short shorts and my tall boots packed and ready to go.

…then everything gets done.

Today I processed and froze a half flat of strawberries and a bunch of bananas for smoothies. Harvested, washed and stored snap peas, what appears to be the last of the main batch of strawberries, beets, lettuce, italian arugula and fava beans.? I tidied the potted plants and flower beds, wrangling the spearmint back, and then made a mint simple syrup. Got a dozen new flowering plants in the ground for a super late summer show.? Now, the afternoon breeze sings deep in my windchimes. And still it is light. I look for a summer poem to include here, but its hiding in the dense shadow of the nectarine tree.

(Yes that beet is the size of my head!)

…and dusk on the water.

The San Lorenzo between solstice and night.

Night In Day

The night never wants to end, to give itself over

to light. So it traps itself in things: obsidian, crows.

Even on summer solstice, the day of light’s great

triumph, where fields of sunflowers guzzle in the sun –

we break open the watermelon and spit out

black seeds, bits of night glistening on the grass.

– Joseph Stroud

Big grins for Amee Chapman, as ever, for getting me out late on a school night. Its my birthday week, so why not got big? She and her boys sounded great. Lucky Tubb showed up with his Troubadors from Texas offering an authentic country sound to our sea shanty town, and some serious bass fiddle slappin’ rythyms to boot.

When I bought my place, I felt I’d married the town in a way. Said “YES you have been good to me and I can see that continuing”. Saying “I DO want to be part of this place and always have a place to come back to”. There have been a few days I felt let down, when I doubted this commitment, but they have been few amidst so many deeply satisfying ones living here on the Central Coast with so many of my lovely tribe.

Headed after work today up the coast not far from this town I love with a good bottle of red and a Picnic Basket dinner in the back. We watched as the fog rolled in toward us and then motored on through it for awhile looking for sun that never reappeared.? Disappointment turned into a joyful discovery of something new in my old backyard I had not known before; a steep pull up a bumpy country road led us to? a picnic in the sun overlooking golden fields quiet except for birdsong and a deep spring reservoir reflecting rock walls as if in a mountain canyon.

It reminded me how much I don’t know, how I should always approach those we think we know with a fresh view, when a long time love surprises as my hometown did tonight.

This last weekend I so enjoyed our little hometown Redwood Mountain Faire. Two small stages with nice acts, quality crafts, friendly food vendors with great eats and local wine and beer all staged in a sunny redwood surrounded meadow with trains rolling through and benefiting local nonprofits to boot.? Great to lounge around listening and visiting with friends who were unable to make it to Strawberry.? And, at this point, the Bean is a total pro at this stuff.

And the whole thing reminded me of a little Strawberry which I had just enjoyed (mostly) the week before. This year was interesting:

– The logo was a snow globe but it actually was sunny, dry and fairly warm the whole time.

– Great line up of bands, and being kid-free we got to hang out in front row chairs for the likes of Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands.? We really enjoyed the return of Birds of Chicago who upgraded to a mainstage evening act this year (and followed that a week later at our Redwood Fair!), and a new to us group the Black Lilies.

– I got a wicked cold and was tucked away in my van for most of the first three days, in bed by 8 PM most nights. No fun.

– Our camp was small, but mighty, as many have fled the cold weather for Fall. Still, we had quality pickers and enjoyed some sweet camp jams and wandering to other camps to meet new folks too.

– Amee brought her stove oven and we made delish blueberry scones for breaky.

– Heather brought Sydney for his first camp trip and a first Strawb for both of them – a great success!

Festival gates open in another 84 days for Fall and Patty Griffin will be there – so I will too! See you there on the flip side of summer.

Full pics here, and a few below.

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