I Live Here.

Posted in Random Thoughts on February 9, 2015 by moosetracksca

It is only 3:30 in the afternoon, but the clouds have pushed east from the Crest, and it has begun to drizzle in the muffled light. It’s cooler now, down from the high of 65 degrees, and the rain is welcome on too many different levels. I’ve been inside this weekend, distracted by the storm system and the havoc it raised just north of town. I refocused my usual energy to cooking, forwarding messages and links about the fire storm and how to help.

You see, when I first moved here to Bishop in 2007, I was almost completely out of my element. A city and suburb gal, starting over in a tiny town at the foot of the grand escarpment. No more malls, no more fancy restaurants, less opportunities for entertainment on the “culture” side of things. I thought I would miss the Symphony, the shows, the bustle and buzz.

I had been working hard inside my new apartment to unload my boxes, turn the shell into a home, when a knock on my door surprised me. My neighbor, Phil, stood outside, and, with a warm smile, said: “I’ve been watching you work so hard the past few days. I just finished some chicken in my slow cooker: would you like some?”

I hardly had known my neighbors in LA, or made regular eye contact, much less conversed with them.

That isn’t to say I hadn’t known kindness, especially from my friends, but this seemed, well, different.

Disasters hit everywhere, no one is immune. We try to help where we can. But this weekend hit someplace close: where I know people who live there, patients with whom I’ve worked, friends. The fire storm that erupted on Friday and was carried upslope by the dry fuel and devil winds took a tremendous toll. Luckily, no one lost their lives, including the firefighters.

But, as a neighbor, I knew that there was more I could do. So, instead of heading out this weekend, I stayed in, made shopping lists, and got to work.

In the end: I cleaned out my closets and sent three bags of clothes, along with 5 blankets to the Red Cross Site at the Fairgrounds; I cooked up two slow cookers full of chicken chili and brought those, along with 5 loaves of sourdough, to the Red Cross Emergency shelter in Crowley Lake (Community Center); I donated what I could afford to the Bishop Chamber of Commerce GoFundMe account (see link below).

This isn’t a humble-brag: this is just, I hope, giving ideas to people on how they can help.

This is my home. Living here means more than just being closer to the trailheads. I am so proud to see this community, so often torn apart by politics or land-use or whatever drama-of-the-moment, pull together to help as much as they can. I am proud that I could do at least a little bit to help.

And, in the meantime, thank goodness it’s raining outside.

Be kind to each other, send love into the universe. It WILL come back.


A look back, a look ahead.

Posted in Random Thoughts on December 31, 2014 by moosetracksca

In September, I stood along the snowy banks of Summit Lake, the fishing rod cold in my hands, the water black and broken as silent flakes fell. Fog descended, and I casted into the grey wall, awaited the quiet “ploonk” of the lure. I slowly reeled in, pulled up the line, cast again. The fog breathed in and out, and the fish weren’t interested, but the moment opened my eyes once again to the power of being present and absorbing as much of every experience as possible.

Another cycle around the sun; another series of chapters, stories, and photographs have been shared. I really pinch myself whenever I get a chance to review the pictures I’ve taken, and remember the adventures of the past year. I’ve travelled solo and with good friends; shared many quiet moments watching waterfalls or sunsets; howled with laughter under a number of super moons. My trusted Truck of Fun and I journeyed far from home. I wrestled with my nephews. Saw my first moose lunching in an alpine lake. Cheered as I cut ski turns in Sierra powder (yes, there was PLENTY of snow on which to play). I even reached the summit of Mt. Whitney for the 15th time.

A solo ski tour from June Lake to Tuolumne; gentle stepping across the ridge of Bloody Mountain; the Eureka Dunes in full bloom; almost stepping on a tiny nest of eggs burrowed into the tundra of Humphreys Basin; making Pop an amazing brunch spread for Father’s Day; watching an incredible sunset on my birthday at Lake Italy; anxiously listening to the surf creep towards my tent on the Olympic Peninsula; the clouds parting across the Cascades, and the smell of Christmas dripping from the pines; the majesty of Glacier National Park, which can only be described by moments and experiences instead of a few choice words; coming home to my Sierra and finding hearts and endless vistas; a gorgeous dragonfly landing on my chair and posing for its close-up; rainbows above a hidden bench of orange aspen; helping out mom after her back surgery; the first snow of fall tickling my face and coating the brim of my hat as I wrestle to set up my tent; inch-long frost coating strands of grass in a marsh near 10,000ft; skating the high lakes as clouds streamed overhead.

“What lies ahead? I wonder to the emptiness. / That grand question which may only be answered / By venturing forth, unafraid. ” – The Green Dot Tour, LEM

I’m not sure what lies ahead, but that’s part of the fun. It’s like casting into the cloud.

May the coming year, and many more, bring you happiness, laughter, and the excitement of venturing out into the unknown.

Whhhheeezzzhhhhh… Ploonk.

A year in review slide show:

Thanks to all for coming along on the ride!

From the luckiest girl in the world:
Climb Hard. Be Safe.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,400 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Fat Girls Climb, Too: Mt. Whitney MR-MT Loop, 15 Oct 2014

Posted in Day Hiking on November 8, 2014 by moosetracksca

The blood moon crept west above Thor Peak as I turned the first corner of the main trail above the Portal. The edge glowed white as it emerged from the shadow, bathing the trail in a wan light at first. All was quiet, save for the trickle of water in Carillon Creek; the seeps maintained their frocks of greenery despite the draught. I knew better than to look at my watch, buried under a few light layers and gloves. The reminders rang out: slow and steady; slow and steady.

All the footsteps and holds in the north fork remained the same since my last journey eighteen months before. The easy scramble between the boulders; the open-sesame tree lying prostrate from the windstorm of three years ago; the washout on the far side of the creek; the endless short and steep switchers climbing the south wall of the canyon. I had never seen the waterfall below the ledges so dry: a mere drip against the rock, the logs dry and smooth instead of greasy-slick. From the first ledge, a glow in the crease at the top of the canyon stopped me. The moon, hidden from sight, had placed a beacon at the outlet.

Something about the stretch between the ledges and Lower Boy Scout Lake always turned my stomach, and that morning was no exception. By now the crest of the Inyos warmed, grey broadened to rose. The smell of the water and plants was acrid. Sweat dripped from my hat. But I didn’t stop much. It felt so familiar and friendly to walk up the dirt; to reach the flats around the meadow, which housed a shrinking puddle of algae-rich water. No one was camped in the trees, and I marched on.

The headwall. I can’t really pass by there now without seeing Len falling. Even though he’s fine, it all turned out OK, I performed well and did right by him and my partners that day: I can see the snow and ice, watch him grab for his pack and tumble. I watched now as a party of four picked their way across the top to the big boulders at the corner. There were smiles all around. “Where did you go?” “How was the chute?” “You came up the ledges in the dark?” “How far are you going?” “As far as I can or want to.”

The slabs were afire in the sunrise, reflected the glow in the thin sheen of water trailing across the rock, falling to the Valley. I stepped into the sun just below the break rock by the creek, water-diamonds danced and sparkled as they chased each other. I pulled deeply on my water bottle, coughed when the cold hit my throat. The willows warmed, deep red and gold, and the falls from Thor Lake crackled and shook a few shards of the night’s frost to the meadows. A breeze tickled the sweat on the back of my neck, sent shivers through me as a reminder to not linger long.

I drifted back to my first ascent of this drainage: spring; sloppy snow; how every rise looked so tall and long; how I fought upward, desperately tried to keep up, terrified of being left behind. Now, my footsteps were sure in the sand, the views familiar. I knew precisely when to lift my head to view the sweeping face of Whitney and the Needles; when to aim high on the traverse to scramble up near the waterfall; when to watch for ice just under the sand and scree; when to brush the ledge of loose rock so my foot would stick after mantling. All the while, the Mountains watched.

Lunch rock at Iceberg Lake. I finally succumbed to a glance at my watch, and somehow I knew I was right on time. The flat surface was plenty large to lay out wet shirt and shell, puff my pack under my head, and lie back, wrapped in my warm hat, down puffy, and gloves. I had a project to complete here, and now, well above 12,000ft, I was forced to finally confront my deepest shame.

I had to get in the lake. I had to be in what amounted to a two-piece suit. I had to be on camera; had to convince others to love their bodies and perform breast checks; had to try and help friends raise money for a cause.

There was just one problem: in no way did I believe I could do it.

I don’t love my body that much.

In fact, I hate it most of the time.

I am stuck in an eternal loop of memory from 2010, when I was in the shape of my life; when I looked in the mirror with pride at what I had done for myself.

And how I let it all go.

Now, there is no looking the mirror, god forbid when I’m naked or out of the shower.

But the conflict raged on inside me: Look where you are, Laura! Your body brought you here! It didn’t complain!

The Mountains stared down at me in silence as the battle forged on.

When Tony and Saya finally made their way above the lip, I knew it was time. And so I did what I always do: gathered my gear, took a deep breath, and strode to the lake. “This is not comfortable for me, at all,” I whispered to Saya, as I handed Tony the camera. “Don’t worry,” she whispered back. “You are among friends.”

I looked to them both, then to Whitney, the Needles, Muir, McAdie, Irvine, Lone Pine, Thor, Carillon, and Russell. The wind died, the water still; as if this grand cirque held its breath.

Tony started filming, and I took off my jacket.

The water gave me a boost of energy for the fun climb out of the lake basin. The chute’s middle section was as loose and steep as I remembered, but most of the bigger rocks held. I remembered the sequence to enter the Final 400 with ease, but Tony gave me a nice spot anyway when I asked. Having tried all variations, I went with a little of everything on the climb: left, center, and right to exit. The Hut was exactly where I left it. I made sure to get pictures of Saya, on her first ascent of the Mountaineer’s Route, as she topped out.

It felt so good to be home.

We didn’t linger long on the summit, as a grey wall was creeping around the Kaweahs, showering the Great Western Divide to the northwest. The sky dogs growled in the distance. The rumble rolled deep into the Kern Canyon, spilled up again onto the slabs through Crabtree and Guitar Lake. Flurries danced on the breeze and landed lightly on our eyelashes and noses. The climb back up to Trail Crest was as hard as I remembered. The switchers to Trail Camp were endless.

I led my friends to Consultation Lake, descended the slabs to Trailside Meadow. Even in the fading light of an October afternoon, each stride was clockwork, regular. When we hit the trail, my stride opened even further. There was a strength that I have felt often, as if my legs knew they were headed to the end of the day. I only finally clicked on my headlamp at Outpost Camp so I wouldn’t scare anyone.

In the soft duff below Lone Pine Lake, each step raised a small cloud. I paused only a moment at the North Fork turnoff, enough to acknowledge the closure of the day’s path.

In the moonlight, the Mountains glowed: tall, strong, proud.

When I looked up from the Valley that night, I made them, and myself, a promise.

I will try to see myself that way, too.


Why We Can’t Have Nice Tings.

Posted in Uncategorized on October 28, 2014 by moosetracksca

There has been a tremendous amount of buzz surrounding the recent case of the alleged National Park vandal, Casey Nocket, aka Creepytings. While most have vilified her actions, at least one outlet (cosmopolitan.com) has raised her up to hero status, stating “she’s inspiring a lot of girls to break some rules.” Comments both in support of her actions, and vehemently against, abound, with physical harm being mentioned and supported as part of the punishment following a full investigation.

Not that there seems to be much to investigate: she painted, she photographed, she posted, she preened in the adulation from fans. When asked about her medium of choice, she responded acrylic, was given the oh-so-meaningful frowny-face emoticon, and responded with “I know: I’m a horrible person.”

Nope: she’s just a criminal.

Now that it’s been a week since the story broke, and I’ve taken more than a few deep breaths, I felt better about writing down my own feelings on the matter. I placed emotion aside, realized that those who would probably read this already know just how passionate I am about these places. I didn’t feel the need to define my own devotion to the heights, my anger over what had happened.

With the air around me cleared, and while on a long drive to see a patient today, looking up at the mountains that I proudly call home, I realized that it all boils down to something extremely simple:

She broke the law.

The Wilderness Act of 1964 states: “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

A basic tenet of the Act reads that: “within wilderness areas, the Wilderness Act strives to restrain human influences so that ecosystems can change over time in their own way, free, as much as possible, from human manipulation.”

By painting and scribbling on the rocks, she remains.

Petroglyphs! Screams one. Pictographs! Screams another. Relevance in 300 years!


Under the established law, her actions were illegal. I’m glad to hear she’s “cooperating with authorities”, and I equally hope that she will be held accountable to the highest extent. Fines. Jail time. Restoration. Wag bag duty in the Mt. Whitney Zone.

Whatever it takes to drive home the message that this sort of behavior won’t be tolerated.

To me, what it boils down to is a matter of respect for others, a trait seemingly grossly absent in today’s culture.

We are all searching for ways to remain relevant in the eyes of our peers and society, so much so that stunts and pranks are more heavily rewarded and advertised (okay, VIRAL) than everyday acts of heroism or success. We are a GoPro, Red Bull, higher/faster/stronger, crazier group of people, praying that the internet gods will bless us with much more than our 15 minutes of fame.

I have no idea what motivated creepytings to perform her vandalism/art in those public places. But her responses on her Instagram would indicate to me, at least, that she bears no responsibility or understanding of what she’s done. Whether her work is relevant now, in 30 years, or in 300 years, is yet to be determined.

But, for me, bottom line:

She broke the law. She should understand her actions have consequences. And she should be punished to the full extent.

That’s what relevant.

Links to a few other articles:

Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd’s article in The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/27/graffiti-national-parks-art-narcissism-crime

The Cosmopolitan.com article: http://www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/news/a32482/female-graffiti-artist-is-new-most-hated-person-on-instagram/

Modern-hiker’s Original Story: http://www.modernhiker.com/2014/10/21/instagram-artist-defaces-national-parks/

The Green Dot Tour: August 2014

Posted in Uncategorized on October 2, 2014 by moosetracksca

There is a bench of stone at Washington Pass
That beckons, “Come, traveler, and sit a while.
Share of your journey with this grand audience.”

Eyes shut, I melt into the silence of the perch.
Granite spires watch;
River roars through the heart of the valley;
Breeze whispers across treetops and my face
Turns up to the warmth of the sun.

They sit with rapt attention at tales
Of sand and waves, sunshine and rays;
Of moonlit fog hiding the onslaught of the tide
Until the foam creeps within feet of my tent;
And I watched, helpless, and praying that I would not
Be sucked away.

The mountains nod with a rush of air.
Distant cousins to the giants living offshore,
They know their fate is entwined with the river and wind,
Which carries them to the same churning ocean
And soft beaches.

“What lies ahead?” I wonder to the emptiness.
That grand question which may only be answered
By venturing forth, unafraid.

“Mist and rain,” whispers the wind.
“Trails and cliffs,” sing the mountains.
“Lakes and cascades,” rumbles the river.
“Adventure and sights never seen,” laughs the bench.

How could they have known?
Of lightning ripping a blackened sky under sheets of rain;
Of vistas emerging from behind cloud curtains;
Of rolling hills both of orchards and charred from fire;
Of glistening glaciers tucking further into their birth mountains.

Of laughter and tears borne of the divine pleasure of experiencing the world as gently as possible.

“Go, now, traveler,” the bench of stone murmurs.
“But remember this place, and make sure to return,
As we are always ready to hear the stories of the world
Beyond our heights.”

The wind rises beneath me as I stand.

Please enjoy the slide show of photos from this latest adventure here:

We are Women of the Mountains: Patricia Peak 7-20-14

Posted in Day Hiking on July 20, 2014 by moosetracksca

We are women of the mountains, she and I.

I tread worn paths; pack weighs heavy across broad shoulders.
My head bobs, gaze shifts to step and check my route.
I track the wind-breaths across the lake,
Its dance and rush upslope pulls the sweat from my chin and hair,
Lifts my arms in embrace and play.

I sit beside the creek, watch it swirl around boulders,
Green hairs of algae awash and waving in the current.
I stand atop the ridge and summit, looking down, looking back.
Trace my history to the horizon.
Plot my slow advance along a future road.

She rides the clouds, pushes hard as they erupt away from heated hills.
She showers sparks as she carves her turns,
Her joyful roar rumbles and echoes across basins.
Her laughter: the playful shower of rain on green meadows.
Her flushed cheeks: the glow of sunset.

She runs the streambeds, splashes diamonds along the shoreline.
Twirls as she leaps the lakes and races the breeze.
She only pauses atop the peaks and ridges,
To feel the sun beckon her higher, sends the wind to carry her home,
And she soars once more.

We are women of the mountains, she and I.

I miss her.

But she is everywhere.


Pat was killed in a fall during the Sierra Challenge last August.

Pat was killed in a fall during the Sierra Challenge last August.

What have I done? — Musings on a Winter Sierra Ski Tour, and Perhaps a Bit More.

Posted in Backpacking, Skiing with tags , , , , , , , on March 28, 2014 by moosetracksca

“What have you done?” was the question posed upon our introduction.

It was not intended as a slight, or a look-down-your-nose sort of statement.

But it gave me pause, taken somewhat aback, wondering if I should defend myself and how I have dedicated my time.


“I didn’t believe you had done those things,” was another phrase heard from someone else soon thereafter.

And this time, I pulled up hard, wondered aloud why anyone might think me a liar,

A cheat,

A fraud.


And so I chewed on the phrase, ran the words across my tongue and lips, tasted the emotions dancing in my mouth.

Bitter, salty, sour,

And sweet.


WHAT have I done?

I have taken the landscapes for my home, matched the topography of the maps to what my eyes see before me,

Discovered the imbalance between the printed page and peering over an edge and thinking…

“Nope, that ain’t gunna go.”

I have watched the sky’s habits and moods from the most brilliant of blues, to the dusky greys of dawn, to counting the blanket of stars on a winter’s moonless night.

Pulled clouds between my fingers across the mountains.

Been blessed by rain, threatened by thunder, tickled by feathery flakes of snow.

I have hiked,

And skied,

And skated,

And snowshoed,

And climbed,

And fished,

And cooked,

And scrambled, and ambled, and rambled,

And lounged,

And napped,

And laughed…

Ohhhhh… the laughter.


I have cried for my own pains and fears, for the loss of friends and friendships; mourned my own shortcomings made so painfully obvious when my day’s efforts are reduced to “just get there” or the objective, whatever that may be, is elusive.


What HAVE I done?

None of this belongs to me, inasmuch as my holding a title, or deed.

Yet I pride myself in every tree, every slope, every boulder or crag,

Every babbling, bubbling, burbling brook that creeps through a meadow.

I see myself in the landscape: the soft and the hard; the light and the shadow; the windswept and the basin.

There are so many unknowns yet to explore, between the mountains and me.

What I have are my stories: of days pushing hard and others lying back; of challenges met and missed; of unspeakable beauty and unfathomable terror.

But all with lessons attached, and, once revealed, opening another door along my life path.

Life is flux and flow, creep and soar,

Letting the wind alternately beat you down and then lift you by the arms to carry the weight of your being and your burdens.

Even the mountains bend to the wills of time and weather.


What have done?

I have done nothing without the love, and support, and gifts of time and knowledge of so many others. I cannot claim to know what they saw, other than an eager pupil, sharing the love of challenge and high places. Without these teachers I would be floundering, lost before I even started, or worse:

Never having left the comforts of my home.

I integrated those lessons with those of the wild, with that which I think I know of myself,

And stepped away, even for short whiles, from the bluster of the “normal”.

Only to realize that, for me, these places on high are normal.

That wandering throughout the year, adapting methods and gear and techniques, is precisely what I should be doing, no matter where I happen to be.


What have I DONE?

There are no first ascents, or descents, within the societally accepted meaning of the words, in my nature.

Every trip and adventure is just that for me: a first.

Each step forth is into a new river, a new environment, and new sky and earth.

There is no “early” or “late” season, only this day, this hour, this moment.

I delve into opportunities to just be, a level of presence that exhausts because of the level of focus it demands.


And then, I let go completely…

Sink deep into my perch on a boulder resting in a sea of white,

Pull the thick blanket of winter silence over my shoulders,

Allow the hands of the wind to gently caress the single tear running down my face and then embrace me in warmth and acceptance.


For it is in that  moment that I am one with my own soul and that of the earth and the sky.

I have stood atop those peaks, called from the heights, scanned the horizon for the next adventure.

I have allowed myself to be confident, arrogant, terrified,

And at peace.


I listened to the wind as it roared and whispered; danced between flashes ripping the blackened sky.

Camped on high ridge lines and tucked behind copses of pines or in caves.

I wait, not always patiently, for the next lesson.



The next time someone asks, “what have you done?”

I will know to take in a deep breath.

Crack a small smile.

Bring a light up to my eyes.


“Where would you like me to begin?”




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