It’s been a fairly dry and warm winter thus far, here in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It’s practically ungodly. Yet a few days ago I rose early, and I actually felt a little cold, even seeing a frost covered soccer field.
It may not be looking a lot like Christmas, at least for me, someone from northern Midwest states, but I’ll take the nice hiking weather.
I’m back in California for the winter. I seem to have fallen into a fairly satisfying nomadic lifestyle of working the summers in Alaska and then spending the winters in California.
California is a good place to write in the winter, especially where I’m at, here in the Santa Cruz Mountains, only a half hour bus ride to the beach. Generally speaking, it’s not too hard to find places to chill in Cali, and since I live in the middle of a Redwood forest, I can walk daily among the wise, tall old trees. You would think that such walks would exponentially help one’s odds of increasing one’s chill factor, but the other day while I was on a hike, I was attacked by acorns.
The word “attack” is really no exaggeration. They were dropping all around me with such ferocity that I spent most of the hike with my hands over my head. The acorns hurdled down and pounded the ground with enough force to leave divots in the dirt.
Here’s a pic of “Big Ben,” a Redwood at about the middle point in my hike.
Fall colors were absolutely hyperactive in Donoho Basin, and I was similarly hyperactive with the picture-snapping. But truly, there are few places that get lit up in the fall like Donoho Basin, and so I returned with a smartphone packed with pics.
At a certain point, though, I have to just force myself to stop taking pictures, let go, put the camera in my pants pocket, and just enjoy.
After crossing the glacier, I emerge on the ridge line of Donoho Basin, and on the one side there’s the glacier that I just conquered, and on the other is a mess of bush and brush.
Last year I was the fearless leader and led our crew toward the general direction of the trail. Or so I thought. In reality we wound up bush-whacking it for like three hours to get to one of the lakes. Had we taken the trail, it would have been like a half hour’s hike.
Last year I hiked to Donoho with four friends: Anna, Alecia, and Irish Paul, a photographer who came to visit Alaska from Ireland. Paul came to McCarthy to visit for a few days with his friends, at the beginning of the summer as they road-tripped Alaska, but when it came time for them all to pull out of town, Paul decided he would stay on for the summer and camp down by the river in a cheap Costco tent. The tent washed out in a flood, but Paul proved more resilient, staying on until the end of the summer.
It always seems to me that it’s about a month, between the time when I start noticing that most of the leaves have started turning bright colors to the time when the trees start shedding their foliage. The leaves are starting to drop, now, and in a week or so I expect the trees to be bare.
Only a week back, I would walk right past this place, with no visibility of what was beyond the trees. Now the view is picturesque:
As far as I can tell, I’m not coming back up to Alaska next year. Of course, I said the same thing last fall. In any event, I thought I’d post a couple of landscape pics from the last few years, by way of more Alaska nostalgia, amidst the hustle and bustle of closing up the Lodge.
It’s gotta be all shut down and winterized in just about ten days, so it goes fast. You might find yourself peeing in the restroom and hear a knock on the door: “You almost done? We gotta shut it down!” Read more
Also on this weekend’s hike, as I stood at the top, socked in, surrounded by the white foggy clouds, visibility severely limited, I can’t help but notice that there’s also a different sort of quiet than I usually experience. Typically when I stand at the top of Bonanza or any other epic peak, there is a sort of silence of the vastness, and in the vastness, something that adds to the mountain top experience of standing in solitude above the world, somewhat god-like. There often isn’t much to hear, just maybe the wind brushing along rock, but it makes for an epic sort of hush.
On this foggy day, though, I can’t see the world below, there is no silence of vastness. It’s a silence of blankness. I’m surrounded by white, and it feels like a suspended moment from childhood, like a blanket fort, like I’m surrounded by white sheets, and it’s late, and everyone else is sleeping. It’s some sort of tantalizing no place, it’s a place to whisper secrets, perhaps secrets that we never knew existed, and perhaps these become humble epiphanies, but they remain secrets still, secrets that we are free to feel because it seems like they will forever remain within the empty blankness, held somehow, in the no place.
Interesting article written by a Christian whose encounter with Buddhism actually softened him to religion, leading him back to Christianity. That’s a similar story to my own.
Quote: “The notion of dominionism falsely teaches within some Christian circles that the planet is ours to use as we please. And some even go so far as to suggest that anything we can do to help hasten the end-times gets us that much closer to heralding God’s kingdom on earth.
Buddhism, however, teaches simplicity, humility and intentional care for all of creation. Practices of mindfulness and humility help us loosen our grasp on personal desire and avail ourselves to the excesses and insensitivity of our habits. When we regain a healthier sense of our own places within a much larger, very delicate ecosystem, we not only treat our surroundings with more care; we treat ourselves with greater care as well.”
Keep working for change, friends. People know that our country has a lot of problems and that the cliche political answers and typical quick fixes of the major parties haven’t worked.
In the 1880s and 1890s, a prairie wildfire swept through American politics. The generation of pioneers that had taken the risk to head out west and take advantage of Abe Lincoln’s Homestead Act, where our government literally gave away free land to any poor and working class people, had successfully battled terrible weather and intense loneliness. They had worked their butts off to become farmers and ranchers, and made a good life for themselves. But when railroad barons, Wall Street bankers, and oil monopolists began to squeeze them and make it tougher and tougher to make a living farming and ranching, they rose up and started organizing a populist movement that changed American politics and policies. States like the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma rebelled against pro-big business politicians, and much of what they demanded- breaking up the big corporate trusts, tougher financial regulations, easier credit, Social Security, a minimum wage, an 8 hour work day and no child labor, women’s suffrage, stronger labor unions- eventually became incorporated in the reforms of the Progressive era of the early 1900s and the New Deal of the 1930s.
I took this picture last night, camping in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, near to McCarthy where I am lingering after working the summer. No photoshoping or Instagramming. You don’t really see the sunsets, per se, when surrounded by mountains, but the setting sun can make the peaks glow like they’ve got a giant neon light bulb on the inside. When contrasted with the blue creek water and the trees lined on either side, it is a perfect ending to the day.