Leaving Ashland is always strange. We set out pretty early for us, around nine, but drove slowly through town, stopping for coffee and goodies and to let two delightful hikers admire Mo. And Storm, or course.
If I were chasing vicarious thrills all I would need to add is a parrot and I’d be set. (If I do this, get a parrot, someone please smack me upside the head as we would say in Oakland. It would be Hella deserved.)
I ask the woman who owns the parking lot coffee place how long she has been there because I don’t recall this being here. “Twenty-two years.” We left 22 years ago.
We leave nostalgia in the rear view and climb the pass. I don’t blink an eye at these ascents any longer, Storm the wonder bus just makes short work of it and seems unaffected. I see another bus, same era bay window, pulled off on the exit near the summit but there is a truck in the way and I can’t get over to visit. The turnaround would be miles in the making so I honk but the man has the engine compartment open and he is preoccupied, and we miss the connection. A bit later I see another from the era but it’s on the back of a transport vehicle heading South. Even then, it’s like seeing a tribal member.
The drive to Reno is stunning, first Mount Shasta dominating with its impossible beauty and then miles and miles of rolling forest and driving on really great highway when you take the turn East and South towards McCloud with the sign advertising Susanville and Reno. Forest for days. But dry, very dry and eventually we come to the scar left by the recent fire. It was massive or perhaps there were two, and thousands of acres were burned leaving standing poles scarred by the inferno. These raging beasts are fickle, however, and they leave patches unscathed and it has a strange beauty, perhaps because although it is devastating it is, at the same time, natural. The forest is built by and for fire as much as we might like to think otherwise.
And then we are on HIGHWAY 395! My favorite highway, because it brings one to the Eastern Sierra and the Owens Valley, the gateway to the high country. Here is meanders gently through spots of forest, grass fields and meadows which are, in some cases, dry reservoirs. It is lovely from start to finish.
Reno swallows us in our rush hour arrival, and we find our giant, for us, Airbnb. It has two bedrooms, two baths. It’s a really nice small house. Michelle is asleep before her head hits the pillow. Mo is doing that, “Okay, new place, when are we leaving?” look.
I order ribs delivered and watch a movie.
And now, I sit here on this morning, this very morning, writing about the future.
In a couple hours we will head south to Bishop, Ca and this will likely be my last installment for about a week. You see—drum roll please—Mikaela is joining me for a backpacking trip. This has been, in a way, years in the making.
She, her boyfriend Sean, Michelle’s co-caregiver Kim and her son Griffin are joining us at a campground near Bishop. Two vehicles and all the backpacking gear. We’ll spend a night, partially to help with elevation acclimation, and then Kim will head home with Michelle and Mo and Griffin will join Sean leaving Father and Daughter to tackle a loop of the high sierra.
I used to do this sort of thing and my body still seems sound enough. Hey, the insurers sold me term life till my eighties! It’s been a long while and I know I’ll be Hella sore the first few days, maybe all the days, but I am looking forward to this big time.
Kim and Jeannie have caring for Michelle all planned out and I couldn’t be better covered. They know her so well and have been watching over her for years. Frankly, I’m more concerned about Mo! He hasn’t been away from my side for a loooong time and has bonded with me. I hope he doesn’t go full on Disney and run away, traversing hundreds of miles to find us in the mountains.
All is planned and permitted (I hope!). We’ll be pushing up into the granite mountains that I so love.
Send those healthy knees and strong back vibes and we’ll see you on the other side.