Vacation Report Number 6, In Which I Come Face To Face With A Great Beast Of The Woods.

Day 1- Notes On The Central Valley.

There is a part of California most people don't mention when they talk about the splendor of the state, and some actively avoid altogether. If the Golden State is a microcosm of the country, then the green area you most likely see on a map running along its center like a spine is its mini flyover country. When I was a kid it was called the San Joaquin Valley, and its legacy was as home of the Oakies, the land of Merle Haggard and Buck Owens and millions of lessor known people of my parent's generation who came out west to make a living working on a farm after they lost the one they used to own. You can still see traces of the influence of Merle and Buck's people if you look closely enough, but mostly what you'll notice in The Central Valley, which is what it's called today, is the haze.

The haze surrounds the edges of The Central Valley like some sort of smog doughnut. It gives an eerie coating to your surroundings and makes the mountains jump out at you as you head east with the same suddenness dodgeballs used to have in gym class when I couldn't wear my glasses. It also makes Fresno the asthma capital of the word. A few, very few, people, the ones who owned the land, got rich farming in the Central Valley, but mostly it's a place of poverty. I wondered what happened to the descendants of Merle and Buck as I rose into the mountains, as Oakies have been replaced in our times with Oaxacans. My mind gradually drifted to other thoughts as I drove up into the canyon and felt the mountains wrap around me like a hug. I fell asleep in their embrace, surrounded by the serenading sound of a frog choir.

Day 2-

BEAR!!!! Eight miles into the day's hike I saw a real life muthafuckin wild bear!!! This was the first time I've ever encountered an animal with the power to tear off my head and shit down my neck without a cage or moat or something in between us. The bear got a look at me and took off running, obviously seeing my newly developed pectoral muscles and knowing what he would be up against. Bears are very wise animals. I would love at this point to show you a picture of the bear, but while I was totally on top of the need to have a fully charged camera battery before I left home, I was a little less diligent about actually making sure the battery made it into the camera. So instead of a picture of a bear, I'll share this picture of a camera battery, in the hopes that it will serve as a reminder to me always of the importance of taking care of details:

Fifteen minutes later I stopped on the trail for a break and heard a rustling further up the mountain. The rustling grew closer and was clearly from a direction not trail related. I started to fear maybe Mr. Bear was not as wise as I had first thought. As I saw a pair of eyes stare out at me from the bushes about 15 feet away, my thoughts were of you, and how sad it was that you would never again have the joy of reading one my Highlights From The Day's Pill Counting Action posts. You struck good fortune however, when the eyes turned out to belong to a doe, who was leading her two little fawns through the woods. They paraded past me and I then realized the best way to maximize one's encounters with wildlife is to have no way to record them. I wondered if maybe I shouldn't have let the bear maul me a little so I could prove I really saw him. I put in 18 miles of hiking and realized if you ever get lost in Sequoia National Park you can always orient yourself to the direction of the haze and know it pointed to Fresno. I saw a picture of what the view from the Sierras looked like at the turn of the 20th century, a clear shot literally from one side of California to the other, as you could make out the coastal ranges in the distance, and I developed a little extra hatred for all those who drive an SUV in order to haul around a bag of groceries and a soccer ball.

The hatred kept me warm as I dozed off that night in the chilly mountain air under the stars, which are, as of now, unaffected by the haze.

Day 3-

I didn't move a muscle. I walked from my cabin down to the river where there was a natural swimming hole in between a waterfall and a set of mini-rapids and sat there for hours. It was very beautiful. Maybe I'll draw a picture of it when I get time so I'll have something to remember it by. I sat by the river and read in The Atlantic about likely Israeli plans to bomb Iran and worked on revising my book. I gotta tell you, I think my book's gonna be kinda good. I hope for your sake someone decides to publish it, as otherwise the bear letting me live will have been in vain.

That night I found a Natalie Merchant CD in the cabin and knew it was a sign. I have long known that my retail pharmacy career will end one incredibly hectic day when I will look up and Natalie will be there. "It's time Drugmonkey" Natalie will say, and I will hop across the counter never to be seen again. Natalie was telling me not to be too angry at SUV driving assholes, as they are too dumb to know what they do, and too fat to ever come up here and see for themselves. Natalie sang me to sleep as I almost dozed off into the rough draft of my book. I felt either her kiss on my forehead to end the day or the metal of a three ring binder.

Day 4-

If any of you want to know where to see Sequoia groves in the National Park that bears their name without having to deal with all the fat diabetic types that crowd around the trees next to the highway, let me know. Just be in shape before you ask, because the ones I found are both relatively untouched and straight up the side of a goddamn mountain. Those two facts are not unrelated. Sequoias tend to grow in clusters, and every time I came upon a group while walking along the trail I would break into a little song I made up:

I love..... Sequoia trees....
I love......Sequoia trees....

They drink a lot of water....
But they never ever drown!!
They drink a lot of water....
And you can't burn them down!!

I..... love.....Sequoia trees.....

They're really really tall...
But they hardly ever fall...

And when they do it's the only way they ddddiiiiiiiieeeeee.......
If you cut one down you should be poked in the eeeeeyyyyyeeeeee....

' trees.....

Looking back I wonder if perhaps the decreased oxygen levels at this altitude might not have been having an effect on  brain function.  

I remembered how a friend once told me she hadn't been skiing in awhile and decided to finally hit the slopes. She was mortified to find out her skiwear was hopelessly out of fashion and immediately had.......had to I said.....purchase an entire new wardrobe in order to be seen outside her hotel room. The biggest faux pas one could ever commit on the ski slopes she told me, was to wear jeans. I thought of this because the area of the park where I found myself had once been slated to be developed into a multi-million dollar ski resort by The Walt Disney Corporation. Environmental groups had stood up to Mickey Mouse back in the 60's though, and stopped him in his tracks. It was a time when left wing groups weren't afraid to actually use power once they had won an election, which left me free to be walking around the area wearing a pair of ugly jeans and what I call my birth control hat.

It feels good to win one once in awhile. Because I love Sequoia trees.

The next day I drove back through the haze and found my camera battery right where I left it. And a hairball my cat Spooky had thrown up on the bathroom floor. Sunday it's back to the grind. I plan to ease the transition with the music of Buck and Natalie.
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Vacation Report Number 6, In Which I Come Face To Face With A Great Beast Of The Woods.
Vacation Report Number 6, In Which I Come Face To Face With A Great Beast Of The Woods.
Reviewed by malaria
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Rating : 4.5