The mountains are calling…

The mountains are calling…

“The mountains are calling and I must go.” ~John Muir

For weeks before my recent birthday, I wandered around the house saying, “the big trees are calling to me,” without even remembering the above John Muir quote. It was there though, deep in the recesses of my brain. Imagine my surprise when I rediscovered the quote on a tee-shirt, which I bought, of course.

Unfortunately, before we left for the trip I suffered a significant recurrence of long-standing back problems. So severe, I could barely walk a block without hissing in pain. High doses of anti-inflammatory Aleve plus muscle relaxants provided minimal relief. Add to that the demand of my doctor that I discontinue all aspirin, Aleve, or other anti-inflammatory medicines two weeks prior to an upcoming major eye surgery! Blast! I was already pushing the window.

Still, my determination to get into the fresh, singing air of Sequoia National Park overruled more sensible reticence. And so, off we went to the big trees. We stayed at the Wuksachi Lodge at around 6,800 feet elevation. Wi-fi and phone service were non-existent to intermittent at brief intervals. Perfect! One should not stay connected to the internet while pursuing a wilderness escape.

Did I write? Yes, but not as much as I always think I will. One chapter in book three, My Colonial Highlander, and one decent poem which I’ll workshop with my critique group this week. You’ll find it on my poetry page of my website soon.

The calm air of early morning, when the sky is a deep shade of periwinkle and a spattering of morning dew dusted leaves, lured us outside. Always on the lookout for deer, bear, or mountain lions, and not wanting to see them anywhere too close, we ventured onto a few trails. But Strider was with me, harnessed and dragging me along, while Robert pushed from behind, and I managed to enjoy a few easy climbs. We didn’t encounter anything bigger than a voles, chipmunks, and squirrels (Strider’s biggest nemesis, and a challenge for him to stay in working-mode in their presence!) And we stayed on the lookout for the yellow-bellied marmot because they are known to chew through brake lines.

The Giant Sequoia trees rise into the heavens to breathtaking heights. The General Sherman is the largest living organism, by volume, on the planet, standing at 275 feet tall with a 102-foot circumference at the ground. It weighs around 2.7 million pounds. Some of the middle branches are close to 7 feet in diameter and are at least 50 to 100 feet above my head. The Giant Sequoia’s environment is very limited, to the upper ranges of between 5,000 and 7,000 feet, which makes me worry for its future in the face of rapid global changes.

Standing in the presence of one of nature’s greatest miracles, a living thing that’s been existence for 2,100 years, is a humbling experience and why I find  wilderness escapes a spiritual retreat.

These woods are rich with wildlife, but they are also absent many species that roamed here for hundreds, even thousands of years before our presence. I think about the grizzly bear which were once so prevalent in California that it remains the animal gracing our state flag. Naturalist George Ord formally classified the grizzly in 1815, calling it Ursus horribilis ‘terrifying bear.”

Now only black bear remain in California. But once, I spied a pair of grizzlies at the far end of a meadow in Yellowstone National Park. At first, I thought they were large boulders moved by long gone glaciers, but then the boulders stood up, and I was never so grateful that they were at the far end of a meadow about 75 yards away and we were traveling at a leisurely pace in our van. Still it’s sad to consider they were once so prevalent as to be named our state animal and now they found nowhere in the state. It is believed the last grizzly bear was shot in 1922 in Tulare County, not far from where we visited.

I also thought about the gray wolf, also extirpated from California in 1924. And although heated controversary continues about the re-introduction of wolves to their former natural habitats, one only needs to consider the amazing improvement of the environment when they were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park. Check this link for additional information.

There is debate going on now about the reintroduction of the gray wolves in the Sierra Nevada range, but there are no plans to do so now. However, scientists believe the gray wolf will naturally migrate there, if left alone to roam through their former ranges.

Why all this talk about animal species and finally, the gray wolf? Because I plan to write a segment about wolves in book three, My Colonial Highlander. But book three takes place in the East Coast and inland mountain ranges of 1707-08.

Happy ending to my opening, the big trees definitely helped improve the back issues. By the last two days, I no longer took any pain medicine and managed a 1.3 mile hike on a modestly steep switchback trail deep into the woods. We only encountered one other couple trekking out that morning and the wife kindly gave me her walking staff for the return hike as I had over anticipated my improvement. I’m convinced I need several months at higher elevations, with no housework, cooking, or other daily chores, and I’d be vastly improved. Hint, hint, to hubby.

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One Reply to “The mountains are calling…”

  1. So happy you got to celebrate your special birthday in nature’s beauty. One thing missing on this road trip…….Me! So sorry I had to bale on this one. On the Road Again??? next time!

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