Sunday, October 18, 2009

Atom-by-Atom: Celebrating in the Sierras

It's harder to get older nowadays. My last birthday (a year ago) seems to have just happened last week. Why is it we feel time rushing, zooming past us so fast that we can't get a grip. Can't make it slow like a big yellow light on the street. Is it perception? Less time left on the planet to follow our dreams? I guess we'll never know answer. Maybe it's best we don't. Maybe the questions make us LIVE without hesitation.

So to reign in this birthday, the extended family road-tripped it up to the Sierras, my heaven. We went comfy this year and rented a cabin at Convict Lake instead of roughing it in late autumn. (Mornings at 8,000 feet are chilly.) We had a bit of luxury. Ice cream to buy next door. Hula-hula hoops to play with out in front. Deer to admire on our porch.

Autumn brought with it the changing leaves, peace on the over-stimulated eyes. Warm temperatures and clear skies highlighted the azure water of Convict Lake. Rugged shale, old oak and pine. Clear air. Ah to breathe. Really breathe.

Hiking in Mammoth is always a treat. Near Lake George, we decide on Barrett and TJ Lake (Dogs had cut-up feet from the shale the day before, so first we spend an hour properly wrapping all three dogs' feet in kid socks with non-adhesive medical tape and duct tape for bottom gripping! No, it didn't work. We start hiking and the socks stay on for about 5 seconds. Unwrap them, and then I must carry a bag of soggy socks and poop. The joys of hiking with dogs!)

On the trail, the pines shelter us, cool our breath and remind us of how easy it is to feel alive. The dogs hike, three in a row, tail-to-nose, good scouts. The lakes give us emerald gifts, and in the heat, so tempting for a little swim. I wade in. Brrr. Then splash! AHHHH! High elevation lakes in autumn? What was I thinking? The freezing water shocks me. I can't breathe. Feels like a giant crushing my chest. I stay in a whole 2 seconds. Dan fishes (but the Lori-no-catch curse still prevails!) On the way down, we grab a ride across the lake with the fisherman in the family (son and BIL.) Three dogs and a boat-full of humans across the sapphire ripples of Lake Mary.

That night we soak in the hot springs (turn right at the green church, and pass three cattle grates.) Wild Willies rocks. We laugh with Mammoth locals and meet a really great couple--artists from LA, dissolving into the Sierra sky at sunset. It's perfection, and we witness it here and now. It's times like this that slow the rush. For a brief, shining moment, you feel as if you've grabbed on, atom-by-atom, and it's amazing.

On the way home, we stop in Bishop and rent tubes and a 2-man kayak for the dogs and me. Heading for the Owens River. Three dogs in a kayak? Extreme-Canine Kayaking. The next Olympic sport? NO.
Lucy can't stand seeing her family float down the river in tubes, so she's off into the water in a heartbeat. I can't figure out how to maneuver the windy river with three dogs in my face. I have to yank the dogs back in the kayak every five minutes. I'm exhausted and frustrated. But I will not quit! After pulling all 70 llbs. of Logan back into the kayak, I think, "I can do this." Then the mosquitos hit. Swarms of blood-thirsty bugs that haven't eaten since summer. They feast upon us, especially Leo, who's petrified and hasn't moved an inch since he got onboard. We stop and spray ourselves down.
The last part of our journey is peaceful. The dogs are too tired to jump out. I've finally mastered the art of rowing a two-man kayak on a windy river with three dogs in my face. And, through the tall grasses, I spy huge antlers of a elk or deer, plus two herons flap along the banks. It's a bit magical, and wraps up nicely as we soak in the warm water thermal pool at the half-way point.

Adventure wouldn't be adventure without a little hardship.
A little beauty, and a lot of fun with my beautiful family.

The Sierras welcome us home once again.