Very smoky today! Good idea to leave. It’s 7:00 AM and the breakfast bell just rang. There’s already a big line to get food.
At dinner last night–which was delicious, by the way–Kris and I sat with two couples who had just come to hike a short distance of the JMT, going out at Bishop Pass (from Le Conte Meadows). They had decided to scratch the trip and hike elsewhere. We sat with a very sunburned-faced, tense man of about 60, who said he was waiting for his daughter, who was out hiking the JMT solo. She had said she’d be at the ranch yesterday and hadn’t shown up. He said he wasn’t worried, that she was tough and defended death-row inmates in San Quentin. He had flown to Fresno from St. Louis, MO, rented a car and driven to Florence Lake (dodging all the cars full of vacationers fleeing the smoke on Kaiser Pass Road), and walked the 4.5 miles to Muir Trail Ranch. Suddenly, a hiker walked through the gate, and his face lit up. “My daughter!” He ran down to her, they embraced, and there were tears not only from them but in the eyes of all six of us watching the reunion. Kris took a couple of photos of them, which was so thoughtful, and arranged to email them to the father.
It felt so good to sleep in the bed, piled high with blankets. Should I awaken Kris for breakfast? I think so…
After the delicious breakfast, we packed a lunch for the trail, packed up our packs once more and walked the 4+ miles to Florence Lake. The smoke was worsening by the hour, and I was glad to be getting away from it. I’m starting to cough, and have a low-grade headache, smarting eyes, and a chronically dripping nose. No fun!
At Florence Lake, waiting for the ferry, we watched two guys–a hippie and a cowboy–unload trash and empty propane tanks from a truck into a boat, and exchanged small talk. When we said that we might be headed to the ocean, the cowboy said, “Take me with you! I’ve never seen the ocean, except once from a different continent. Spent most of my life around Elko, NV, cowboying.”
I said, “Well, come along! We’ll take you.”
“Can’t. My boss wouldn’t like that. Got another month of work here.”
“Well, just walk away, and find another job somewhere else later on,” I jokingly suggested.
“A cowboy can’t do that. It wouldn’t be right.”
It felt good to get back in the car and drive the crazy Kaiser Pass Road back to Hwy. 168. Very narrow, and many blind curves and crests. It takes an hour to drive the 17 miles or so.
When we got in email range, I wrote to my friends in Big Sur, asking if we could come to Rancho Rico for a couple of days. Then we just started heading that way. My friend Lygia called, all bubbly and sweet, and said, “Yes! Come!”
California is an amazingly diverse state. Driving from the high Sierra to Big Sur in only a matter of five or so hours, we traversed the fertile San Joaquin Valley, and rolled into the rolling and golden grassy hills that eventually became a dense oak woodland with scattered chaparral. Then to the thriving farmlands near Salinas and the artichoke fields of Castroville, on through Monterey and Carmel and the astounding Highway 1 through Big Sur. Darol Anger once said, “There’s no other landscape where the vertical and the horizontal vie so hard for your attention,” or something close to that. The steep hills plunge into the restless surf and the Pacific stretches out to the horizon.
Lygia greeted us warmly with Chappellet Pinot Noir that featured her own label art, a big salad, homemade goat cheeses, ravioli, and conversation. Then we helped to put up the goats and horses for the night, collected eggs, and listened to the coyotes calling from the rugged surrounding hills. Jag, the enormous Great Pyrenees mountain dog, warned them off with incessant barking.
I didn’t take many photos today, as I was just anxious to get away from the smoke, and then I was too busy driving. Photos of Big Sur tomorrow! Now it’s off to bed in our little cabin under the redwoods.