Sunday, September 23, 2012

scree is my weakness

If there's one thing that is guaranteed to turn me into a Whiny Baby, it's scree. I Do.Not.Like.It.

To be perfectly clear, I am not talking about the delightful, heart-soaring deep scree-skiing type scree, where you can bound gracefully in big leaps down a mountain. I am also not talking about boulder fields, which have their own challenges, but are quite lovely. No.

What I am referring to is the thin patina of Grape-Nut sized pebbles that coat a sheer rock face. No matter what shoes or boots I wear, they catch in the soles and I find myself in an uncontrolled slide. I will pretty much go anywhere, but if it involves sidehilling or descending in this type of scree, watch out.

So what was I doing clinging to the side of a mountain this weekend? Well. Love, and a rare plant. Love does not have to be explained, as it causes you to do unexplainable things. The plant, though, this plant is only known to grow in three mountain tops in the world (all around here). How could I pass that up? I couldn't.

Up on the ridge, safe from scree for the moment.

So there I was, back in the scree, being a Whiny Baby. The plant wasn't easy to spot; this summer has been one long drought, and it was well past its flower. We poked along the ridge, finding only small patches, but the scree was worth it to see them: small curlicue plants with flat seed pods, hanging in there despite adversity. I could do that too, I decided.

The air was so thick it was a color, smoke from a wildfire a couple of drainages over mixing with the drift from wildfires further south. All around us were reminders of fall. We did not see anyone for two days.

What's this? A walking tent? Nope. It's a person who didn't bring the tent instructions for a new tent, and is about to get a little annoyed.

It all worked out, though.

The mountain is not a secret, but this basin is. A select few venture here, but for the most part it is forgotten. It wasn't always that way, though. We stumble upon old trails, strange tree markings, ancient fire rings, ditches, and mining detritus. And a while ago, a long time ago, this basin burned fiercely. I know this by the fire marks on old, old trees and the charcoal sprinkled on the ground. I wonder about this ancient history. I want to know the old stories.

Pretty. Pretty.

It could burn again, too. The meadows are parched, the normal pools dry. There is a hushed feeling, like the woods could burst into flame. I know that two canyons over, my favorite place is now burning. I feel sad about that, but looking around here, I know that it is an endless cycle of fire and renewal.

On Sunday we wake to drops of rain on our tent. It is the first real rain since July. It rains all day as we hike out and as we put our backpacking gear away. The spell is broken.


  1. Beautiful photos! I especially love the person tangled in the tent. haha, that'd so be me. :)

  2. You are NOT a whiner, trust me on that. Awesome photos, as always. What kind of camera do you use?
    And guess what? I took a rest day today, hee, hee.
    Love what you said about solitude and having two houses (though not by choice). I am such an introverted person. I can happily spend a week alone as long as I have my writing and my books (how can anyone ever be lonely when there are books??).
    Cheers and enjoy the scree (sorry, couldn't resist),

  3. You're entitled to scree-ch over scree once in awhile.


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