February 26, 2010

a softer landscape

Even as once I might have dreamed of trips out into the great granite peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains, now I dream of gentle hills rolling away into a dew washed distance. I miss the softer outlines of my southeastern home, and I should very much like to wonder through their gentler outlines again.

February 23, 2010

Allen, blisters, and rainy trail days

While Allen was out with his buddies at a conference in Atlanta I went on my first backpacking trip with a friend from church. We went out to Pt. Reyes and set up our tent at Glen Camp before hiking out to Alamere Falls. It's a lovely little fall that comes out right on the beach. Beautiful! Unfortunately we underestimated the mileage and ended up hiking back in the dark on lots of steep inclines. Not fun. Fortunately we had tortellini and a platy of wine waiting for us back at our tent. Don't know that the wine did my sore muscles any good, but it sure helped my way past the end of my endurance outlook on life. Well, the pesto helped a lot there too. We had talked about making a longer, ten mile loop, out of the park in the morning, but our sixteen mile day up and down hills had us pretty whacked. So we ended up packing up our gear in a very light misty rain and hiking out through the drizzle. I'd found two large blisters on my fourth toes that morning that even moleskin couldn't help very much. By the time we got back to the car I was wet, footsore, but still oddly glad to be out hiking through the woods. The rain actually made our typically dry California scenery look very lush and mysterious seen through the drifting bands of fog that shrouded coastlines and hills. Over all I had a very good trip. This whole weekend since Allen left has gone much better than I expected. Once again I've discovered that I'm a stronger person that I think I am, and that's very encouraging. Now Allen is back home (hurrah! hurray!), and everything is very good. I even found a Granite Gear pack I can take on my next backpacking trip. Usually I'd never even think about buying one of them because they're some of the most expensive packs out there, but good old REI was selling them for $150 off through their deal of the day program. If it works I'll have found more pack than I could ever dream of getting at a price I thought couldn't be done with a satisfaction guarantee that's the best in the business. That is a good week!

February 14, 2010

This barren earth

Question: What do you do when you do believe that people (ideally Christians) do have the God-given right to have large bountiful families and simultaneously you hold that no holds barred environmental rape is a Bad Thing?

Short Answer: I think that means you're invisible. The enviro-wackos think you're a huge crock of whatsit, and the Far Right (or the religious right) will look at you in disbelief when you try to start a thoughtful conversation about mining on federally protected lands.

Seriously, I've been lurking on this backpacking thread talking about how humans as a species already take up too much space and that going around breeding like we owned the place is a threat to the very values that "we" (outdoor aficionados) hold dear. They're serious. They want to see women educated to a point where they no longer want to have large families, free contraceptives and sterilization, tax laws that punish large families, etc. All this in the name of mother earth and sharing with other species. And it's not like they think each family should get a resource budget that they can use for one kid or for ten. They think you just shouldn't be having that many kids -that even if you raise your six kids to bike commute, compost, and never use plastic bags you're still hurting then environment because you're having way more kids than you "need." It actually makes for some kind of scary reading. Misguided too. Face it, the birthers are always going to win because they're the one's having the kids that are going to outvote, outfight, and plain outnumber the kids you aren't having. These people talk about technology like it's bad because it enables the earth to support an artificially inflated number of people. "Who gave them the right to breed like this and clog the earth with our species?" Uhhh, God? Oh right. You don't believe in God. The point is that they want people to be barren so that the earth will be fruitful. But that doesn't seem to be the way God set things up. If you look at Scripture God is all about fruitfulness. Children are fruit. The works of righteousness are fruit. Fruit on a fig tree is fruit. The children of fruitfulness cultivate the garden so that it will bear even more fruit. In God's economy more seems to equal more. The more we need grace the more it abounds. The more we forgive the more we experience forgiveness. God wants and calls us to cultivate abundance. How exactly this works on environmental issues I don't quite know, but I do know that Christians are called to populate the earth and that as a reflection of God's glory we should strive to use this earth in the most beautiful and fruitful possible. Fertility should call forth fertility and abundance reap as it has sown. The arguments posed by people wishing to limit population size are in some ways compelling if you accept that people can (and do) use the earth in less appropriate ways. However, their arguments lack wisdom because they rebel against God's revelation. I've stayed quiet on this particular issue (on the forum I read) because I doubt I can contribute anything useful to the discussion. Like I said, people like me seem to be largely invisible to the wider culture. We aren't busy creating Christian versions of the latest earth fad, and we aren't on the street corners chanting "Drill! Drill!" We're those quiet people who reject most of the environmentalist's premises and yet think that Christians can and should have thoughtful discussions on cultivating this earth in a distinctly Christian fashion. And I think that discussion needs to begin and end with an attempt to understand what God views as fruitfulness.

February 2, 2010

Snowshoe therapy

Seems like my posting has become more sporadic of late. I went through a depressed spell for a while where I was struggling to get things done. Fortunately life seems to be on an upswing for the moment. Getting out into the woods really helped. This past weekend Allen and I went back up to Yosemite for some snowshoeing. Neither one of us had ever been on snowshoes before, and we ended up having a lot of fun. We got to the campground around 10:30, but setting up took a little longer than we expected. For one thing there was about 6 inches of snow on the ground. Hmmmm. Out came the snowshoes, and we got our first taste of snowshoeing tramping down a smooth place to set up the tent. Second hmmmm. There was still too much snow for the tent stakes to grab well. Since I didn't have any sort of snow anchor I ended up improvising with a pair of stakes. I pounded on in as usual and hooked a second stake to it that would lay horizontally, packed snow all around the stakes, and horizontal surface area was enough to the corners to hold. I admit I have a blast with this sort of mildly creative problem solving while out camping. Later, in our sleeping bags, Allen remarked that it's a lot of fun watching me come alive when we start setting up camp. It's true. All those times I'd tell Allen to fire up the stove while I set up the tent. He'd heat up supper while I was happily (baring the truly unrepentant rock) pounding in tent stakes.

The next morning we woke up, fixed lunch, outfitted our day packs, and headed up for Badger Pass. It had rained that night in the valley, and all the way up we saw great clumps of fresh snow ornamenting the pine trees. Once at the trail head we grabbed our snowshoes and headed out to Dewey Point -seven miles round trip. Looking at pictures of winter trails I used to wonder why no one ever went tramping off trail through all that lovely snow. Now, I know. Unless there's a healthy crust on the stuff, snowshoes or no, you'll still sink in to mid-calf, and breaking trail is hard work. The other thing I didn't realize was just how warm you can get snowshoeing. With memories of playing in the snow at Wolf Pass with my family filling the back of my mind I donned two base layers, a fleece pullover, rain/wind jacket, hat, and gloves. Within minutes I had skinned out of my jacket, and by the time we reached the Dewey Pt trail proper I was down to my base layer top and had stashed my hat and gloves in my pack. I ended up losing my hat somewhere on the trail :( It was new too. Hopefully someone will turn it in. Anyway, even having stashed most of my layers I still got warm whenever we had a pull uphill. As for pants, Allen had found some cheap rain pants that ended up working like a dream for keeping wind and wet snow from getting us cold.

We ate our midday snack in a pretty meadow maybe a third of the way in on the Dewey Point trail before pressing on towards the point. Seeing everyone coming back towards up from the point we wondered if we were just a little bit crazy going on as we were, but when we got to the point....You come out on top of the south rim of Yosemite Valley just opposite El Capitan with a perfect view of Half Dome partially shrouded with feathery clouds that gravely danced in and out of the valley. Looking west you could see the outlines of tents perched on the shoulder on a hill with what must have been unbelievable views of the sunset reflected of Half Dome and the following moonrise over the cliffs. We sat on our blue foam pads contemplating the view and eating our sandwiches. I saw someone appear on the edge of the hill as if having emerged from one of the tents. Maybe next year I could think of a trip like that. For now I had to be content with watching the sky changing colors above the fringe of evergreens that grew up along the meadows we passed through on our way back down the trail. We hit the main trail back down the mountain just before sunset and spent a few minutes appreciating the modern convenience located close to the trail head. Getting back on the trail we realized just how close we'd come to hiking the last half mile in ever deepening twilight. Here on the main trail, which was really a summer roadbed groomed for skiing we'd have no difficulty navigating downhill to the car. Out in the woods we'd have been following tracks back, and that's never my favorite way to travel a new trail at night. We got back to the car an hour after sunset with only a little aid from Allen's new headlamp. Overall a very successful trip.

The next day we drove around the valley, walked the short trail to Yosemite Falls for a third time (saw deer tracks), wrote postcards, and took lots of pictures. Then we broke camp, showered at Curry, and headed back towards home after taking a short detour to the swinging bridge in Wawona. That's where my knee started acting up. I think I must have turned my foot wrong or something when went off trail. Somehow I strained the side of my knee. At least I was persuaded we should head home instead of hiking more. Including a stop for bbq we got home around 10pm, so we really didn't need to linger any longer however much the glow of lowering sun on snow tempted me.

I can't wait to go back there again. I'm hoping to get in another couple of trips before the snow melts. Then one more trip in the spring, and afterward I'll probably be turning my attention to less popular parks until fall arrives. There are so many lovely places to go, and I'm blessed to live this close to so many of them.