This weekend was a good one, full of well-documented adventure. Oh how I love to get out of this terrible, oppressive sprawl. It’s not so much the density of people, or even the urban-ness of an existence here. Honestly, it’s the air, stagnant and thick with hot exhaust and particulate. I’m certain that I’m shaving years off my life every time I take a deep breath of this city’s vapors.
We found ourselves packed like sardines into the black GTI. It’s elegant German engineering lost beneath the provisions and equipment for four of us to enjoy a weekend of camping. We sacrificed ergonomics and leg room (temporarily) for a taste of the natural world which exists somewhere outside this concrete labyrinth. Speeding North, the early morning pinks and reds slowly began to illuminate the sky. Every now and again I caught a glimpse of the PCT as it paralleled parts of our trek to the Southern Sierras.
Breakfast found us in an outdated beige and tan building serving Mexican inspired cuisine. Juevos rancheros filled my belly and would give me some discomfort later. Over cups of coffee my travel companions and I discussed the details of life. We also discussed whether or not the painting of the waterfalls on the wall behind us had the ability to turn on, projecting tranquility on the patrons of this affordable dining establishment. We never could find the switch.
After eating up miles of asphalt through the desert and hugging the corners of a winding canyon, the People’s Car zipped us through the isolated town of Kennedy Meadows. We blinked and it was gone, Tom’s disc gold course a blur on the side of the road. Jeremy recorded high-definition, time-compressed video while Andrew piloted the black rocket ship through the pines. Marcy and I grasped the ‘oh-shit’ handles and felt secure under the groceries and other assorted wares.
Choosing our campsite and erecting tents, we explored our new surroundings. A curious place, this forest. We found ourselves perched on the edge of a large meadow, three strands of barbed wire separating us from it’s golden openness. Trees rose up giving luscious shade, shelter from the alpine sun and it’s radioactive ways. We walked amongst these elements concluding that we were happy and eager to trek.
We began by eating, a great way to begin. Setting off on foot, our objective was clear – a rocky outcropping rising up from the far edge of the meadow. We chose it because it was a high point and we explorers are always drawn to these types of places. You know what I mean. A place high above everything that surrounds it. A place aching with the freedom of unbridled views and brisk winds. From this aerie perch we viewed the landscape as if it were a model, a perfectly represented miniature world stretching out below us and outward to the horizon. We ate more food. We scrambled across and gripped at the rock with our talons.
Upon returning to camp, we promptly assumed horizontal positions on the ground or in a hammock. The shadows lengthened, the sun turned more golden. The woods embraced our tired souls and comforted us with a quiet that only a living landscape can provide.
Waking abruptly, we got back into our transportation and drove on dirt roads, upwards to the Bald Mountain Fire Lookout. A brisk walk saw us to the base of a steel tower rising upwards into the afternoon sky. Our natural instinct as adventurers is to climb upwards, upwards, higher! And right there, at the top of this metal geometric fortress was a man. His duty: viewing this stunning landscape of granite. He watches the heavens, carefully identifying Vulcan’s electrical outbursts, plotting the locations where they smash into the earth. This wonderful BLM employee is named Tom.
A day fully enjoyed. We retreat to the comfort of our dirt patch to kindle a fire and fill our stomachs. All manner of fancy appetizers whet our pallets for some schlongs which Marcy tosses on the cast-iron grate above our flame. Wine is uncorked. Memories are shared. In this tradition of eating, drinking, and enjoying the company of others, great bonds are forged between friends. We take time to play with the camera at night, truly a fun group activity. Later, as the last one awake, I bask in the warm glow of the coals, red and orange, pulsing radiant heat.
Day two greets us travelers with cold morning air. Reluctantly our entourage breaks camp, eats cold yoghurt (Noosa, the best), and piles back into our vehicle. We’re rolling further West through the forest, over a mountain pass, and into the Kern River Canyon. The landscape is changing. Gone is the dry, thin air that once desiccated our lips and noses. Now, the shadow of large trees holds in the damp smell of the forest floor. Lime green moss clings to the red, deeply-furrowed bark of old giants as we turn at a sign labeled ‘Trail of 100 Giants’.
That sense of insignificance we all feel in the presence of great things is washing over me from high above. This colony of giants is both welcoming and unsettling. Are these trees happy or vengeful? Would they say to us, ‘thank you for preserving this grove’? Or maybe, ‘fuck you Henry Ford’. I’d like to think the former. I just hope they don’t drop an un-needed branch on my head in an attempt to settle the score.
Our troop frolics and meanders through the ancient sentinels, heads cocked at an awkward angle to glimpse the highest reaches of the canopy. Some of these trees are over two-hundred and seventy feet tall. Strolling right up to them like they are old friends, we run our hands over their spongy bark and duck under their exposed roots or into their burned out centers. This amusement park beats the hell out of anything made by the hands of men. Individual cells organized themselves over millennia into these magnificent organisms. How humans could commit such a crime as defiling this amazing planet that has nourished and provided for us is beyond my capacity of understanding.
The weekend is coming to an end and we must return to the coast. We would love to remain in this mystical place, among rocks, sticks, and soil. These places are not ours to keep. Embracing the impermanence of ourselves we can embrace the impermanence of the world, the dynamic and chaotic collection of matter that makes up our reality. Organizing and reorganizing, elements and thoughts blend together into a collective consciousness which vibrates and echoes out into the black void of the cosmos.