Saturday, September 22, 2012

River of mercy

The Merced River

First thing this morning I tucked a stove and fuel canister into a bag and headed out to find a spot to make (illegal) coffee. In Curry Village there is No Cooking Allowed. So I'm strolling under the morning light on the granite domes of Yosemite Valley, trying to hide in plain sight. Trying to look cool. Skulking!

This is how far I've fallen, people.

It's not like there's zero risk, either. Official personnel abound...

I found the spot, a flat stump across the street. While the water boils I look down and see 2 burn marks. Must be the Cooking Stump! An campground vehicle passes and I slump down, trying to hide the stove with my leg.

Thank goodness the stove has a heat exchanger and is REALLY fast at boiling water. 

Despite plenty of excellent, illegal coffee, my photos of today's hike look like every other tourist's photo of Yosemite. The camera is not really a suitable instrument for this place.

What is a suitable instrument, you ask? 

On foot it's possible to really slow down, notice the barks of different trees, the path of water across the trail (when it rains or the snow melts). 

Think about where that other fork in the trail goes (Mt. Whitney). Watch a hawk far above ride a thermal up the glacier-scoured rock face. Look at the sky.

Today what I noticed on foot was the many species of trees living here. Lodgepole pines, firs with scaly bark as tough as armor. California bay, with its fragrant oval leaves. Scrub oak, making out a life in pulverized granite dust.

The river makes all this possible but it's not always easy or straightforward, surviving in this environment. Tree roots go whatever direction they need to in order to find water. Horizontal, or through the seams in the rock.

I could relate to that. 

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