Friday, October 5, 2012

Carpe diem

Good news - was not hantavirus. Tempting fate, it's back to Yosemite! To the backcountry above the valley. Winter is on the way and life is short.

Dinner last night was quinoa and beef chili, cole slaw, corn muffins, and hot chocolate. Fuel is essential to hiking and the little backpacking stove does more than stump coffee...

The sign at the trailhead says 8.6 miles to El Capitan. The top of El Cap is only about 1000 feet higher than the trailhead. It could be a flat hike.

Or not. Our goal is to walk all day and discover things. We'll get as far as we get.

The first few miles of "trail" is actually pavement of varying condition, covered with pine needles. Later we'll figure out it's Old Big Oak Flat road, the old road leading into the valley. Everywhere there are signs of a recent major burn. An hour spent on an abandoned road scarred by recent fire. Thinking about how things change, then change again.

Charred dead trees side by side with healthy living trees - how can that happen?

Leaving the road, we hoist ourselves ~2000 feet back up to the granite batholith. Up there, life is exposed to the elements and left to progress, undisturbed.

The soil is a bare minimum, mostly crushed granite covered in needles and seed cones. There are short, new trees, bright green needles, springing up from the forest floor. Strong full trees with dark bark, lighter branches, dark green needles.

Older trees starting to lose lower branches, arranged below them on the ground. Spare grey skeletons with many grey branches in shards around the trunk. Newly fallen trees, adorned with lime green lichen. Fallen trees that have been lying so long, you have to look twice for their outline. Their bodies are merging into the soil.

It's things becoming other things.

Meanwhile animals are doing their best to resist that process. Many seed cones have been stripped by some creature, eating for winter. This is the season of panic for them, triggered by shorter days and cold nights.
Cone buffet
Rodent hole, reused by a funnel-web spider
After 4 hours with no visual hint, when we get close to El Cap it is somehow unmistakeable. It draws you in... 
Trees on the verge
Why do we make a pilgrimage to these rocks? Maybe it's that they're recognizeable and to us they seem unchanging. Time seems to stand still for them. Fire has no effect. Our footprints are invisible. We can't actually see them becoming the soil.

The granite plates slope down, urging you to take a closer look and...

No railing!
Yep, I feel alive.


  1. Glad to hear it wasn't hantavirus and that you're feeling better. :)

    1. Thanks for reading, Rachel! I hate being sick.

      Meant to say congrats on doing the Marin Century - a hot year! Any recent adventures?

    2. Let's see - after six weeks of training I managed to sprain my ankle two weeks before the Double Bay Double. Instead of signing up to ride, I was a roadie in one of the SAG vehicles. It was absolutely fantastic and made me want to do support again.

      I'm planning on going up Mt Hamilton on Thanksgiving weekend, now that I'm mobile again. Thinking about rides for next year, too. :) I may try for the Mt Tam route on Marin next time, but I don't know if that's way too ambitious.