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DAY 2: Grandviews from this Dead Letter Office

July 14, 2008

Day 2: White Mountains, Inyo National Forest, Eastern California

After an easy oatmeal breakfast with coffee and exceptionally delicious treats from the Alabama HIlls Cafe and Hard Rock Legends bakery in Lone Pine (a croissant and even better a Danish made with locally grown fresh peaches), the boys play more ball and I dive back into Mysore yoga challenges with Barbara Henning (You, Me and the Insects). She’s plagued by bugs and heat; here we have no pestering insects and the temperature is perfect. My life is calm while she is learning how to manuever a scooter in crazy traffic…(has a car gone by yet today? Maybe one or two?) She is surrounded by hordes of people and no one she knows; the two people I love best are laughing and playing together. We can’t see or hear another human; there is no one else within miles.

Too soon, we pack up and continue to Schulman Grove. Random patches of wildflowers including various purple and violet penstamen delight us, and soon we’re at the Visitor Center. The Ranger on duty has been there 18 years; my first visit there was 20 years ago when I was on a college environmental studies field quarter with ecologists Dr. Kenneth Norris and Dr. Stephen Gleissmann. There was no visitor center or much information then; now it is a lovely space, a log cabin with windows and light and a wood burning stove for the plentiful cold days, especially in early season, around Memorial Day, when the days are cold and the popular 4 mile long Methusalah trail still has snow on it.

We spread peanut butter and jelly on bread and head up the Bristlecone cabin trail, a new trail built within the last 5 years. The trees may not be that “old” along this part of the trail (maybe a few hundred or a thousand not like the 3-4,000 year old trees on the other side of the mountain), but the child is excited about seeing the old cabins and the mine remnants and that motivates him to keep moving under the hot sun. We stay on the outside of the old log cabins, examining how the logs fit together, poke our heads inside, and marvel what life would be like up here when the mine was in operation and the road was steep and more rough. The old dirt mine road crosses the paved one and descends down Black Canyon which is now a mountain bike, mostly single track route which descends 6,000 feet…and the trail goes basically straight down!
The trail we’re on climbs more then connects with the Methusalah Trail and with a little Cars role playing (I’m Tow Mater and the boy is Lightening McQueen) we reach the saddle and its views of Deep Springs Valley far down below. We switch back quickly to descend in that direction, with Lightening in the lead roaring 100 miles around on the empty trail, even though it’s a Sunday of a three day holiday weekend, joining the Methusalah Trail at the bottom and about 2 miles to the VC. The trees are stunning, as always, and we pause on our ascent to catch our breath and to enjoy the trees and the views. If we’d thought ahead, we’d have brought the interpretive brochure to know what the numbers on the trail designated; lacking that info, we devise our own.

Back in the van, we descend 2000’ in 2 miles to arrive near Grandview campground which has pit toilets, tables, and fire rings, and runs on donations. I’ve stayed there many nights but tonight we head for a secret spot with entrancing Sierra views—and a table and a fire ring! It’s a great place for tents but a little tricky to level the van. And it’s not a road for the fainthearted, with sheer drop offs into the pinyon-juniper woodland.

We explore the area, collect some firewood, do a little bouldering on the friable rock before a dinner of corn on the cob and rack of lamb, with a bottle of 2005 Dead Letter office shiraz. I love this label, and I love this wine, even though the last bottle left a substantial assortment of chunky sediments in the bottom of my glass and on my teeth.

It’s pure pleasure, this one, chilled a bit from the heat of the day in a bucket of melted snowwater, is lovely as well. There is not one thing I do not love about this evening except that it must end.

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