Posted in Uncategorized on July 9, 2019 by moosetracksca

It was just a walk under a never ending blue sky. There was a purpose to the steps, but no hurry, especially on the uphills. I tried to keep my breathing calm, always a battle. The colors were thrilling, the breeze intoxicating. When I finally plunked the Beast down above the last snowbank in Mulkey Meadow, I couldn’t wipe the look of wonder from my face. I thought perhaps it was the new-to-me ground under my feet, but no. It was the sense of being, of presence in that moment. The wonder was a long-delayed sense of relief.

I am spoiled now: fat and slow and liking my comforts. A chair to sit in once I get to camp; happy hour of triscuits and Brie and olives and usually bourbon. I like getting into camp early so the sun is still warm when I bathe in the creek or lake. I like an inflatable pillow for my head rather than just my extra clothes in a stuff sack. I like to sit and gaze out at nothing, think of nothing, the sounds of cicadas fading away to nothing. I like to watch the light change, the wind dance, the ants gather… from my chair. I don’t bother to weigh the Beast anymore: I know it’s too much, and on some days, I do care. Tomorrow, in fact, I will care.

But I put in close to ten miles today, so I am proud. The only thing I cursed were the horses and mules who have softened the sand here further, making those on two feet push across the endless beach that is the decomposing southern Sierra. Ankle-deep at times, my toes would capture and throw a barrage of sand to my forward ankle, my shoes catching more and more through the day. When I reached the south fork of the Kern, I dumped my shoes into the stream, aiding the grains with their slow march to the sea.

The cloud blew in over camp a bit ago, shading the late afternoon sun, and its breeze pushing the bugs away (but not before they sampled me a few times). The cicadas have calmed, allowing birdsong to float over the meadow. The lupine, and pussypaw, and paintbrush, and primrose are still bright, even in the muted light. I can see traces of copper-red of foxtail snags on the hills nearby. Frogs and birds are trading stories. A buck strolled, leisurely, across the grass earlier. I am just watching and listening.

The tone of water is always something to which I look forward. It’s only occasionally been frightening, as in a flash flood or a waterfall directly in my route. But the thrum of rain, the clink of a small ephemeral stream, the rush of a swollen river over boulders, brings me a sense of deep calm.

Today there was no trail to start, but not on purpose. There was a sign, a few rough steps, a line in my map. But either time, non-use, or the weather had washed those sandy slopes completely clean. I zigzagged the climb, the Beast enforcing gravity, my breath heavy as I scanned for paths through the manzanita and stacked granite. There are few shortcuts I trust, and this was why. But, the lonely forest of foxtails, straight and thick-trunked, provide needed shade and a chance to catch my breath. “This is where you get stronger,” I reminded myself.

And as I cleared the final ridge, I heard the rumble of Golden Trout Creek two hundred feet below. My shoulders relaxed at the thought of cold water being poured into me. I bombed down the sand, poles placed just so to balance myself. I was skiing again, making my turns solid and smooth, until the final run out at the water.

It ran fast, the current strong, splashing up to my thighs as I crossed, planting each pole solidly before another step. I faced upstream, made sure my foot was sound. Across and up, I found my trail at last, heading north. It climbed slowly beside the creek, affording perfect views of the white cascades over granite. Meadows sprung away be seeps and springs, a few more flowers to enjoy.

I found camp early, by the water. It wasn’t supposed to be: I was looking for another trail heading northwest. But when I stopped and checked, I had surprisingly missed the turn. I backtracked the 1/10 of a mile, looking for a sign, a few muddy steps, but nothing appeared. I wasn’t eager to hunt down yet another route that day. The rush of the river beckoned me to be still. And so I was.

I could remember a time when this would not have been enough; where I would not have taken a moment to appreciate what my mind, body, and heart can accomplish. A few times, I looked back at Tunnel Meadow and tried to convince myself to go back down to the trail and take it around. But there is still something in me that wants to see: the rocks at the top of the ridge; the hidden bowl of trees, sand, and washes; the dryness coupled with a touch of green from a running spring. These were now mine, as I searched for the roar of the water. And this whole afternoon let me reap my reward.

I wasn’t quite asleep when the shaking started, and I was awake enough to know to lie still. The movement seemed jumbled, a few sharper jolts, then swaying. Even after it stopped, it didn’t stop, with small swings over the next 45 minutes. The forest was completely still, save the water, which just rushed on its happy way, unperturbed by the vibrations rolling through the mountains. And I felt, grounded. I pressed my cheek and palms to the thin floor of the tent, wanting to absorb that energy being set free by a piece of the earth moving. I was lying with the earth, felt it groan. It is alive and powerful, as I want to be.

I slept in, the sun high in the morning sky and warming the tent when I swear I heard someone say, “wake up, Laura.” I rose, stretching an aching back soft from too many nights in comfortable beds and not on firm ground. Birds called above the sloshing creek, a little breeze whistling the trees. I took my time, knowing it would be a short day and not to rush.

On the eastern side of a vast, green meadow, I watched the evening sun banish the clouds I wish would stay for sunset. There are still patches of snow up high on the Crest, remnants of a winter some thought might not end this year. The grasses and sage were ruffled by the breeze, the call of frogs wafting softly as the water slithers it’s winding path. The light played here all afternoon, with I, alone, the silent observer. It is this I must remember when life is at its most trying: the buzzing of bees and flies; the light chirp of birds; the wind in the trees; the stoic silence of mountains. This is presence. This is connection with my soul. This is peace. This is my salvation.

This is home.

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 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 ( 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:

The article:

Modern-hiker’s Original Story:

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?”



The Lake of 1000 Postholes

Posted in Backpacking with tags , , , , , , , , on January 28, 2014 by moosetracksca

I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to be in this drainage.

–Yup: I can’t see a damn thing, save the ten feet in front of me with this headlamp; I’ve been going hard for 9 hours and somehow I thought I’d been able to step up this moraine while still wearing my snowshoes.

Hear that? That’s running water beneath you. And up ahead? Yeah, that’s a cascade. Maybe I should have holed up on that shelf a few hundred yards back down. Maybe I should have made camp in the trees, near the running water, eaten a good dinner, tucked in warm with the sound of the breeze whispering through the tent.

–Maybe I should try not so hard to be so damn stubborn.

Oh, shut it. You’re almost to the lake.

–Really, sometimes the conversations in my head just crack me up.

Come on, now: Focus. Look around. Does anything go?

–Hell if I know.

Wait: there’s a loosey-goosey section just above you, then step across the blocks to those ledges.

–I can see the headline: woman buried under rockslide and her own pack.


–<sigh> OK, 10 steps up. Now 10 more. Now 10 more.

Well, isn’t this a lovely knoll… In the middle of nowhere.

–Hey: it’s flat, there’s snow for melting, there’s even a laundry tree.

Does this mean I’m done?

–For today. Now, get this tent up.


<poof> Nice work.

–What? I thought you enjoyed postholing.

Not when I have an objective.

–Oh really, now? And what would that be?

I’d like to finally get up Mt. Davis.

–And your plan to head around the lake instead of across it? How’s that workin’ for ya?

Wait: what’s that over there?


Does that big flat boulder not have any snow on it?

–Oh no you don’t. Don’t even think about it. We have miles to go…

And the sun just came out from behind the clouds. It’s so warm. My legs are tired. I’m tired. There’s a notch for my feet, and it rises at a perfect incline to lean back on my pack…

–Damitol, you are NOT succumbing to a nap rock. In January. Where you have the lake all to yourself, save a few loud-mouthed birds. Nope. Keep plugging. Time to head up the pass. Ready? Head down…



I can’t believe you made me slog around the lake instead of walking right on across it.

–Shut it. Have some whiskey. And triscuits. And cheese. Enjoy the last sun. At least your boots are dry.

Just try not to mix anything up with the marmot poop. Goddamn gorgeous knoll for camp.


High road or low road? Sliding up scree or sliding on ice?

–Really? That’s all you’ve got for me? Meh, let’s see how conditions are down low by the river.

It’s a long walk back up from Agnew Meadow, you know.

–Yeah, but I’ve got all day. And way too much energy stored up from the best nap ever.


Please see more pictures of the weekend here:

From the luckiest girl in the world:

Climb Hard. Be Safe.

On the Trail of the Bighorn: Mt. Lewis (Jan 3-5)

Posted in Backpacking, Skiing with tags , , , , , , , on January 18, 2014 by moosetracksca

The air barely moved at Tioga Pass as I stabbed my skis and poles into the drift. The Beast leaned up against my truck’s wheel well, waiting patiently for me to heave to and stumble in my boots towards what little snow covered the road. I had to smile up at Gaylor Peak, then over to Mt. Dana and Gibbs, and I shook my head at the sad view of their rocky slopes. The sun blazed in the early afternoon as I glided down to the Mono Pass trailhead, the fallen giants lay quiet between patches of white and brown.

Laura came into view twenty minutes after I arrived, her pack swollen and taller than she. “It’s mostly down,” she insisted, but I liked this idea of travelling with another woman loaded down as heavily as I.  Her touring rig slid easily down from the parking lot, while I pushed each step. Too late, I realized that the snow wasn’t sliding under my skis and skins, but instead was sticking, turning the skin track into a boot track. At the creek, I stopped to try and wring the skins out and wax them, but I was now part of the “Mountain Relocation Team”, where I would haul snow from the flats to higher elevations, whether I liked it or not.

Laura pulled ahead while I wallowed a bit, the skis too heavy to even kick against a tree to clear the snow. “It’ll just make me stronger!” I yelled ahead, and she laughed as she logged another sighting of porcupine tracks. There were signs of all sorts of wildlife, actually: marten, birds large and small, rabbit, even bear. I wondered if the lair was anywhere close. At dusk, Laura looped back a bit after spotting a flat bit of open ground in the trees, but I wasn’t done yet. I would prefer a view of some sort, having done the work, after all. We trudged another half mile to the clearing and meadow where the Mono and Parker Pass trails split. I found a clear spot on the lee of a great whitebark pine, and we quickly got to work setting up camp.

On an overhanging branch, I hung a new light I had received for Christmas, and our site became perfectly lit. Extinguishing our headlamps, we sat and laughed over stoves as we melted the meager snow and boiled water for dinner. There was red wine, a little tequila, tortellini and bacon-spinach pesto, and cookies for dessert. Under the Cheshire cat moon, we caught each other up on the fall activities, as well as how she and Rob had settled into Tuolumne. The air was still as we crawled into our bags, and the moon set behind the Kuna Crest. In the absolute dark, the stars were almost three-dimensional, reaching down to the earth; the Milky Way stained the northern sky. I drifted off watching Orion do his cartwheels to the south.

We awoke early, but were none too keen to spring from the lofty down cocoons behind the whitebark. Ice crusted the rim of my bag from my breathing. The sun was teasing the eastern faces of Koip and Kuna when we finally sat up and lit stoves for breakfast and coffee. Shadows of Dana and Gibbs reflected in the orange atmosphere across Tuolumne Meadows. Laura called in to Rob to give him a rough itinerary of the day, and we crossed the meadow to gain the ridge towards Parker Pass.

We ran out of snow atop the ridge looking across to Spillway and Helen Lakes, and both took stock of the pass to Lost Lakes, so sadly half-covered in this meager winter. At the top of the ridge, we racked our skis for ¼ mile before trading out our ski boots for trail runners. Stashing our skis and boots on a sun-soaked slab, we hiked up the rocks to the ridgeline, gazed back down into Bloody Canyon and to Mono Pass. I looked up to Laura, and was about to call out when she squatted and waved her arms at me, motioning for quiet. Twirling her hands about her head, she silently and emphatically mouthed, “BIGHORN.” My breath caught as I stepped to her, and I pulled out my little camera as quickly and quietly as I could. Not two hundred yards ahead on the ridge was a huge ram, solid and proud, out for a daily stroll, soaking in the sights.

Laura and I exchanged giant smiles, high-fives, mini-dances of happiness, and pulled up our shots to compare as we walked across the ridge. The ram had really not taken much notice, and had calmly walked around the corner. Excited, we followed the ridge to the great overlook, straining to see any sign of the ram, even with her binoculars. Laura whooped a bit, but I took her lead and bellowed out a call. “Great: harassing the sheep, now?” she smiled at me. But I turned to look a mile distant to the summit of Mt. Lewis, and up popped the rounded rack! So, we had a tour guide!

It took another 30 minutes to finally make the summit of Mt. Lewis, in trail runners, short-sleeve shirts, dripping sweat from our ball caps. The air was clear; a light breeze breathed its chill onto our necks. But the view was epic! The switchers to Koip Peak pass were devoid of snow, the snowfield shining blue and barren in the sun. I wondered aloud if the Alger Lakes might be skate-able. After eating lunch, and having a few more pulls of wine, we strode back down the easy, rocky slope and traversed back to our skis. The snow below wasn’t great, but at least we could claim about ten turns each in the facets.

The wind had picked up during our descent, and we were glad to have the tent that night, even though it meant being “in” for over 12 hours. Laura’s radio faltered, so by early morning she was packed and ready to go, eager to get in touch with Rob. I lingered in the morning dark, waiting for the sun as I sipped coffee and munched oatmeal. My toes screamed at being shoved into cold ski boots, but the downhill work quickly warmed me through. I passed through the silent forest, played tag with the sun as it rose around each corner. I couldn’t help but hum along with the wind in the trees as I slid across the lower meadows.

The road climbed from the trailhead, and opened to look across the lower slopes of Mt. Dana once again. I red stop sign just before the pass glowed against the white ground, blue sky, and dark trees. Leaning into each step, I found a rhythm.

Not a bad way to start the year. Image