Sunday, August 26, 2012

I'll meet you at the lake.... A vacation memoir, with photos

Into town we rode, the four of us. "Town" = Mammoth Lakes, CA, 8000 or so feet above the sea-level climes we are used to, and a fine place to get ready for some mountain hiking. "Rode" = flew from Philly to Vegas to Reno, even, for a brief period of time, until an out-of-town event got in the way, planning to have lunch with a famous Reno paleo dude -- next time, my friend, next time. "Rode" further meant driving a rented Dodge Grand Caravan minivan from Reno to Mammoth. Don't buy that vehicle. It is unimpressive in every way, except, in interior roominess, which, I suppose is why we got it, so I should shut up with the complaints.... "We" = me (50 y.o.), my son Kevin (21 y.o.), my son Sean (18 y.o.) and our buddy Will (62 y.o.). I give you the ages so you can properly place the context of all that follows.

The point of all this, generally, was a lot of hiking. More specifically, it was to hike Mount Whitney, which I have told you about in great detail already.

So what's the point of all *this*?

Really, I have no idea. There'll be some pics, a few tales, and, yeah, that's about it.

Vacation wrap-up, greatest-hits-style. Let's go....

--Paleo/primal was mostly adhered to. Yeah, there was a little whisky, after day five, once we were acclimatized to the altitude. There was also a little Ben & Jerry's from the actual B&J store in town, because that meant ready accessibility to the otherwise dead (but magnificent) flavor entitled CoffeeCoffeeBuzzBuzzBuzz. But, every day we cooked (generally, Kevin on breakfast, me on dinner) paleo-friendly meals that looked like this:

That's a frittata, filled with sausage and vegetables, topped with avocado, and sitting next to bacon and fruit. We win.

For the next pic, there is no explanation needed. We win again:

-- Base Camp Cafe. We ate two breakfasts out in two weeks. Both of them were there. We were hungry from all the energy expended doing big hikes, and so we blew the minds of the wait staff by ordering a lot of food. This two-plate extravaganza, already half-eaten by pic time, for instance, is representative of what Sean, Kevin and I each ate the second time there, although I think it is specifically Kevin's meal:

--The only other place we ever ate out during the whole two weeks in Mammoth was the Whoa Nellie Deli, located inside a Mobil station at the junction of U.S. 395 and CA 120 in Lee Vining, CA. It is both perfectly situated for post-Yosemite-hiking chow *and* the most amazing little gas-station restaurant you have ever seen. They ain't peddling microwave burritos. We ate stuff like this all four times:

-- "Manuel, do you know what a coward is? A coward is a man who calls the police when there is trouble instead of solving the problem himself. America is overrun with cowards, Manuel." This, and other profundities from the Ted Nugent School of Etiquette and American History, were accidentally bestowed upon us by our downstairs neighbor in Mammoth, who got drunk one night and loudly "taught" his Mexican friend about America. Oh boy. Good thing it was cool at night and we were gonna close the screen door anyway. No pic for you on this one. Sorry.

Oh, all right.... Ted, not the neighbor:

--"More coffee, buddy?" Also...."What?!"
Our buddy Will is a little deaf. But he makes great coffee and is a hell of a great hiking partner. Every day, he would make pots of java for us. He would also ask us to repeat almost everything we said. We love Will. Despite his facial expression in this pic, Kevin does too. No, I am not entirely clear what was going on here. I just take the pics. I don't ask questions.

--That road to Black Point, Mono Lake. Six miles, over half of it one lane, rutted. Yes, cars came from the other direction. It was, er, tight.

-- My portion of the biggest hikes (Whitney, Kearsarge Pass, North Dome) should have been sponsored by Gu energy gel. It's magic, I tell ya....

-- Oh, and peanut butter.... Not a lot of almond butter in the Mammoth grocery store. Not paleo. But very effective for hiking.

-- And electrolyte powder. Also not paleo. Also very effective for long hikes.

-- Arches are cool. Always. Indian Rock in Yosemite NP, about a third of the way on the trail to North Dome:

--Idiot hikers -- fortunately, a small subset of "hikers" -- say things like this: "Wow. Look at those rocks. I should have been a geologist." Yes, a dude we met from San Diego said exactly that.

This caused us to say, quite a few times later, "Look at _____. I should have been a ____." For example, "Look at that car accident. I should have been a surgeon." "Look at that restaurant. I should have been a cook." My god, we're funny....

-- Kearsarge Pass is effing beautiful. My favorite ten-mile day hike ever? Could be. Could be....

-- The Onion Valley Road (partially pictured here -- yeah, that serpentine way below in this pic, the one that looks like an amusement-park ride -- is nuts. 13 miles of mostly hairpin turns to get to/from the trailhead to Kearsarge Pass.

--and here is another pic from the Kearsarge Pass trail, just for good measure. A mountain lake (above the trees) draining into a mountain lake via a waterfall, under cloud-enveloped peaks. That will do, pig. That will do.

-- There are comedians everywhere. Although this is real. From U.S. 395, just north of Independence, CA, through a bug-encrusted windshield (sorry):

--We hate Vegas:

-- Previously-revealed secret: the most beautiful place on the Mount Whitney Trail is not the summit. It's Trail Crest. . Trail Fucking Crest. So great that it warrants three pics:

-- The summit is nice too, though. Sean thinks so:

-- Not a meteor was seen by me while night-hiking with a headlamp.... Except for the single just-beginning streak visible in the upper right of this pic, taken at first light on the Mount Whitney Trail from just below Trail Camp. Who knew? Not me when I took the pic.

-- Black Velvet Coffee in Mammoth Lakes is amazing. Their "cold brew" is the best coffee I have ever tasted. Really. The place is all modern/stark, etc. I dig it:

-- Rock formations, in the woods, on the trail to North Dome in Yosemite, particularly ones that look a lot like a big gorilla with a baby gorilla perched on top, are awesome. We stumbled across this. Never saw a mention of it anywhere in a guidebook:

--Half Dome looks amazing from North Dome (Yosemite N.P.):

-- Hiking back-of-the-van chaos rules:

-- Lakes, part one (hint: the good part). We did a great job of timing our hikes. We would alternate asskickers with lake hikes. You know.... Do a tough Big Hike one day, a lake hike the next. The lake hikes usually involved a bit of vertical to get there -- these are mountain lakes after all -- but nothing like the Big Hikes. Lake-hike days are restorative, peaceful and amazing. And, if you know me in real life at all, the mere fact that I have reached a point where I can appreciate the simple Zen joy of a lake hike -- juxtaposed against a Big Hike, mind you, but still.... -- is a proof that change is possible. Heh.

Some great lakes....

Mono Lake, from Black Point:

Gardisky Lake, from partway up Tioga Peak (more on that soon):

Elizabeth Lake, Yosemite N.P., with drummer in repose:

Middle Gaylor Lake, Yosemite N.P.:

And one more of Middle Gaylor Lake, because it is maybe the most beautiful of the lot:

--Lakes, part two, a.k.a. "I'll meet you at the lake."

So there's this trail. It goes whammo straight uphill, at about 900 feet per mile, to Gardisky Lake. When you get there, you have the option of going up this...Tioga Peak:

It is no steeper than a lot of summit trails. The difference is there's no "trail." The mountain is just a giant pile of scree -- loose rocks between the size of a softball and a basketball. You find your own path, up and down. It is annoying to go up, but really doublefuckingannoying to go down. You slip and stumble and fall.

Kevin, Will and I did this hike. Sean had opted for a lazy day back at the condo.

But, as would be expected, once we got to the lake, Kevin got ahead of me, and I got ahead of Will. As we all parted, Will said the words that would haunt him for the rest of the trip: "I'll meet you at the lake."

Well, not so much....

The weather got really ominous-looking. Kevin was just yards from the summit when I called up to him from a ways below: "Look above you at that storm. I am headed down."

Lightning shows up in fast and furious ways in the high peaks. I headed down. Kevin hit the summit and then headed down too. I was stupid slow about it, stumbling and cursing and crabwalking at one point with my poles looped through my pack, and somehow I lost a pole. This did not improve my mood. Eventually, Kevin and I made it to the lake.

Will was not there.

As a matter of demonstration....Happy people at a(n admittedly-different) lake, sans Will:

"Excuse me, sonny. Have you seen the lake?"

Or, the alternative possibility -- since no one knows what really happened -- "Heh. I *like* lakes."

Or, the third possibility -- which, a review of the facts seems to determine is what, indeed, occurred: "Nomnomnomnomnom. I will stop here and eat lunch. How can I miss them?"

He missed us.

It seems that SeƱor Willie stopped on his way down the scree pile to eat lunch. It also seems that we took an entirely different way down said scree pile and beat him to the lake. We waited. We yelled his name.

He is pretty deaf. We love him, but he is pretty deaf.

We started "figurin'." This is a bad idea.

We "figured" he must've beaten us down to the lake, because we were way higher up on the mountain when we turned around.

So we went downhill to the car.

He was not at the car.

We waited about 30 minutes. OK, 45 minutes.

We made cannibalism and rabid-bear jokes with the fisherman dudes in the car next door.

Kevin went back up to find Will. I took a nap.

Kevin found Will. At the lake. He has, and I quote, "no idea how I missed you guys."

He missed us guys.

For the rest of the trip, whenever we split up *anywhere* -- on a trail, at the supermarket, at the post office -- someone (often, to his self-deprecating credit, Will) said, "I'll meet you at the lake."

It was a raging mofo of a vacation. We had a blast.

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

1 comment:

  1. Sounds awesome!!! I've never over nighted it on a hike or done anything major. Kinda jealous of those awesome pictures!