This past weekend I ended up at the cabin by myself for a few days. I’d heard about a volunteer opportunity at the Kern River Preserve and thought it would be great to get to know the people involved as well as maybe meet a few locals. The Preserve is literally just down the road from the cabin and Raquel and I had passed the sign a hundred times already since buying our place but never visited. The original plan had Raquel coming with me, but she had a lot of work on her plate and things she wanted to take care of at home so I decided to head up solo.
It was a quiet and mostly dark drive up on Saturday morning. I left the Marina at 4:30 am to make sure I’d be at the Preserve in time for the 8am start. I got lucky enough to catch beautiful sunrise light over the mountains as I approached from Bakersfield. When I got out of the truck at the Preserve and saw my breath, I thought “Damn, it’s been a long time since I’ve been in cold like this!”. The bright and clear sun made it manageable, though, and it warmed up significantly in an hour or so.
It felt good to be working outside in the sun. The cool, fresh air to breathe while laboring in a field, my hands in the dirt and my mind free of distraction. The views of Fay Canyon, where my cabin is, are lovely from down on the Preserve. The other volunteers and I chatted about hikes they’d done there and peaks they were still itching to conquer. In passing, I mentioned that a friend of mine had hiked one of the peaks I could see from my place. He had done it without any fanfare or planning. He just got up from the party and walked off. I told the folks I was talking to just how jealous I was that he hiked the mountain before me. They were surprised that it ‘only’ took him about three hours to do it. Then they suggested I was pointing to the wrong peak. After a long stare I could see that they were totally right. There was another peak just to the east of the one I’d been pointing at. It was clear to me that that was the peak he had climbed and it clearly blocks my view of the other peak when I’m standing at my cabin.
The hours of work passed quickly. There was great conversation all around and, as I thought I would, I met many of my neighbors in Fay Canyon. Four out of the ten folks who were there lived right in the canyon. I learned so much about the area from them. About the flood of 2010 when days of rain had pushed the South Fork of the Kern River so high that the road into Fay Canyon was closed for days. About how the Preserve had worked with the Department of Fish and Game to protect so much of the land around the Preserve and surrounding the private land in Fay Canyon. About the history of the Kern River valley and how it was only ‘discovered’ in the early 1800’s when Joseph R. Walker charted the path through the mountains from the Mojave Desert to the San Joaquin Valley. You can still visit the National Historic Landmark at Walker Pass at the highest point on State Route 178.
Needless to say, it was sad to part company when it was time to go. I knew I had to check in at the cabin, though, so I said my goodbyes and headed up the road. Turns out my time laboring was not over yet. When I turned on the water I discovered that yet *another* pipe had cracked from the freezing temperatures! Lucky for me, this one was on the hot water line, so I was able to turn off the hot water coming out of the heater and work on the fix while still having water flow to the house. I’ve fixed so many of the pipes under the house now that I feel like a pro crawling under there and cutting and repairing the lines. Thankfully I had all the parts I needed (when you live far from a hardware store you keep extra parts around – just in case) and had the line fixed up in about an hour. You have to wait a few hours for the pipe cement to cure, though, so I distracted myself by cleaning around the house and making my much needed dinner for the night. When I was finally dying for a shower I went and tested the line and discovered, to my pleasant surprise, that tonight’s shower would be a hot one!
++ Creekside at the cabin ++
The next day brings us to the title of this entry, as I’m sure you’ve all been wondering about that. After a nice, quiet morning on the deck, some small chores and a supply run into town, I found myself creekside, enjoying a sandwich and relaxing into cabin time with the rushing water’s assistance. Before long my sandwich was done and my camera beckoned. I was in an exploring mood and had tons of energy so I started bushwhacking upstream. It didn’t take long before I discovered another little swimming hole I’d never seen before. Nestled in-between two huge boulders and considerably bigger than the little dipping holes closer to the cabin, I made a mental note to visit again when the weather warms up a bit more.
I kept on moving upstream and decided to climb the steep banks of the creek and see what I could see from up there. The sun was warm out of the canopy of all those trees on the banks of the creek and the views opened way up. I could see the cabin a little ways downstream and the peaks on both sides of the canyon were beautiful. I left my jacket hanging on a fallen tree and continued higher up on the hill. The views kept getting better the higher I went and before long I started noticing that Peak my friend had climbed, before me, in the distance. At first I thought “Well, I didn’t bring water with me and I’m still a little worn out from the yesterdays work so I probably shouldn’t do it today”. But then I climbed a little higher. And a little higher. And before I knew it, I was closer to the peak than to the cabin.
++ Half-way view. The cabin is in the center at the bottom. ++
++ Unquestionably Uphill ++
Somewhere along the way another frame of mind had taken over. One less concerned with whether or not I ‘should’ be climbing, and much more focused on seeing how amazing those views would be from the Peak! I kept going. Higher and higher, slipping here and there on the sandy soil, and occasionally stopping to catch my breath and relish in the view. There were quite a few times along the way when I stopped and thought “H, which fucking way did you go here, cause I’m stumped!” But I knew I was on the right path. I had watched him climb this before, so I crawled under prickly bushes or circled far around boulders I couldn’t climb and finally found myself at the foot of the giant boulder that looks like a little praying figure from a distance. I knew I couldn’t climb that one, but I climbed the boulder right next to it and found myself at the ’top’!
++ Victorious self-portrait in shadow ++
The view was as incredible as I thought it would be, but the presence and peace I felt was a complete surprise. Just being among all those huge boulders felt like being in a church, albeit one without a roof. The mountain and sky views were the gospel being preached here and I was all ears. I soaked it in and listened intently to what the wind was whispering. I didn’t hear it cry “Mary”, but it’s sweet sound calmed me deeply. It was thrilling to be alive and at the top of my mountain looking down at my little cabin by the creek. In that moment I was so thankful to my friend, H. If he had never climbed this mountain and showed me that it could be done, I’m not sure I’d ever have tried. My jealousy was replaced with joy that I had friends like this. People who through their own actions, not words, inspire me to do great things.
Thank you, H. It was an honor to follow in your footsteps.
++ Granite Gaurdian ++
++ Old boundaries must be crossed ++
++ Rock formations; Present and Passed ++
++ Fay Canyon’s Eastern edge ++
++ The hard-earned view. The cabin is in the bottom, left corner. ++