SKINNY DIPPING IN THE HIGH SIERRAS


The first ever backpacking trip for the seven year old grandson took months of planning. It’s like waiting for Christmas—it takes more than twelve months to get there, and childhood excitement grows until it explodes. The fear factor sets in as departure time gets closer. As they watch the backpacking gear stack up in readiness, they begin to doubt their readiness for this great adventure. Their nine year old brother had made his mark in the wilderness two years before and offered great encouragement as the time approached.
Seven seems to be an appropriate age to expose a rambunctious boy to the wilderness, and the Forest Service insists upon that age before they give a permit. The have enough discipline to listen to wise old grandmothers, and enough fear of the unknown to look before they leap. Or maybe it’s the other way around.

We were hiking at 10,000 feet in the Sierras where the sun never gets around to melting the snow pack even by August. It’s pretty cold at night, and a cozy sleeping bag sometimes isn’t as cozy as you might like. The chipmunks are very busy night and day getting ready for a really cold winter, so the nighttime traffic over sleeping bodies, including exposed faces, is a real “treat”.
Mealtime is always a contest to see if you will get breakfast or they will.

It was an eventful beginning. After a short walk from the trailhead, we took a boat to the actual trail. My husband and I had hiked often in this area, and felt it was a safe enough beginning introduction to the pleasure of the outdoors. We each took a boy, and I was in charge of the smaller one when we took off. We immediately ran into a lot of snow, and I had to be the one to “take a short cut” and get two of us lost!

Mountain trails lose their familiarity when covered with snow no matter how often you take them. This should be printed in very large red letters on all maps, and pasted across all foreheads before embarking.

We remained lost all day while a formerly smug granny consoled a frightened 7 year old boy. But all was well when Dr. Advice showed up and offered a ton of unwelcome and humiliating advice, and we settled down for the first night in the wilds of California.

We had hit a great time to have it all to ourselves, as we encountered very few hikers, and the more elevation we gained there were no others. When we got to the top of the mountain, the sign identified our location as “Dick’s Peak, 9,700 feet”. There are lots of small beautiful and icy cold lakes scattered throughout the Sierras, seducing sweaty hikers to cool off in their pristine depths.
“But I didn’t bring my swimming suit”! both boys cried after I sensibly suggested a swim. “Who cares”, responded Dr. Advice, divesting himself of his clothing. “There is absolutely no one here to see you”, I told them, after they fiollowed suit.
So now they are captured forever in paint, contemplating the beauties of the wilderness, sans clothing.


Both boys are now grown with families of their own. Both are still interested in the outdoors, and the younger one is a wildlife biologist.

HOPPIN’ OCTOBERFEST!


A strange title I must admit, but it’s hop season, and time to get crazy. And in case you wonder what the heck I’m talking about, hops are what give your nice tall glass of beer its flavor. Sort of a grassy salt and pepper; hidden from view, but oh so necessary.
I speak with some authority on the subject, having been commandeered as a high school student to help pick the hop crop in Grants Pass, Oregon during the War. By the way, hops are closely related to marijuana, in case anyone is interested. Of course, hops do not contain the stuff that gives pot its signature characteristic, so go ahead and enjoy that glass of beer on a hot afternoon.
Of course, you can use hops in other ways, even as a stuffing for pillows, which is said to bring you some pretty vivid romantic dreams, but the majority is used for beer. Hop bines (that’s correct, bines, not vines climb up wires 25 or 30 feet in the air. They are harvested mechanically now, which is not at all as romantic as when the whole town of Grants Pass turned out in 1942 to strip them off their wires. Meanwhile, it’s October, and time for an Octoberfest!

We all know the most important ingredient for a successful Octoberfest party has to be beer, so invite some guests, draw up a keg, and celebrate the season!
Here is a good supper dish for those waning days of Indian summer, perhaps served with a platter of mixed bratwurst.

BTW, if you haven’t tried Farro, it is an ancient grain which just needs a little more publicity to make everyone on your block “be the first to try”. It is coarse, like barley, and like wheat and barley, needs long simmering to puff it up. It can be served hot, like rice, or chilled like this recipe.

FARRO SALAD
Two or three cups cooked, chilled farro
6 Tbs. toasted pine nuts
2 nectarines, choped
4 ounces crumbled feta
16 finely minced basil leaves
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. white balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper

The farro can be used as a base for a hundred different recipes. It is only limited by your own imagination!

TRACKING DANGER IN THE CANADIAN WILDERNESS


Dateline: Calgary, Alberta. Law Enforcement officer Sgt. Harry Carruthers, on patrol on a typical day with his dog Beastly, was alerted when Beastly suddenly stopped, ears erect and nose twitching rapidly. They had been tracking the suspect for more years than they cared to remember without a single sighting. The hair on Officer Carruthers’s neck rose and his blood turned cold in anticipation.
Beastly uttered a low growl and the hair on his back was stiff with fear.
Harry had a photo of the suspect which he carried in his breast pocket, although in the 50 years he had been tracked, nobody had actually seen the criminal. Could this be the time they had all been hoping for?
The suspect lay, apparently dead, under bushes and in dank, moldy grass. He removed the memorized photo again from his pocket and studied it. The size, color, thickness of tail and length of claws seemed correct. Yep, this is a rat!
Sgt. Carruthers of the Rat Patrol was elated and careully placed the rat into a plastic container. Henceforth it would be known throughout the territory as “Medicine Hat Rat”, and his plastic container labeled “Rat under Investigation”, so that by checking the website, people would know what to look for, and learn possible means of eradication.

Beastly found the first one. Since then there are over 200 sightings annually, and about 4-6 turn out to be the real thing. Canada has saved 1 billion dollars over 50 years in property and crop damage and health care. Now they are helped by infrared cameras, much as Canada tracks rampant raccoon traffic.

Recently, as Carruthers and Beastly were out on patrol, Beastly stopped in full trot and came to a point and the hair on Carruthers’ neck rose once again. Inspection reavealed it to be a muskrat.

Some stories are true that never happened.” Elie Wiesel

OUR VANISHING VOICES


I Am Home sculpture by kayti Sweetland Rasmussen
“One language dies every 14 days. By the next century nearly one half of the roughly 7,000 languages spoken on earth will disappear as communities abandon native tongues in favor of Enlish, Mandarin or Spanish”.
As one Native American in Parker, Arizona, who is one of the last speakers of his Chemehuevi language says “It’s like a bird losing feathers. You see one float by and there it goes—another word.”
Many people around the world speak dialects, and broken languages (those whose country ajoins another often collect words from their neighbor and add to their own, thus contaminating the original language.)
When languages disappear, they take along with them the legends, customs, etc. of the people. It takes away knowledge.
Language identifies us. The Seri people are an idigenous group of the Mexican state of Sonora. The Seri language is distinct from all others in the region and is considered to be a linguistic isolate.
The people say “Everyone has a flower inside, and inside the flower is a word.” The petals from the Seri flower are dropping rapidly, and with a population of slightly below l.000, it won’t be long before the petals are gone from their flower.

When governments attempt to destroy a native language, much as the United States did to the Native American, the language in its pure form loses much of its flow. In the sculpture above, the returning child is enveloped by his mother’s robe which is embellished with the stories of his people. A familiar story told in another language, never achieves the original tempo.
I found it interesting to read that the three languages proposed to substitute the remaining languages are said to be “English, Mandarin or Spanish”. In California alone, those three languages are readily apparent.