Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Sierra Time Warp

As I drove into Sequoia National Park, years and years fell away. I was twenty-six again, decades of possibility ahead, living in a small cabin in the big trees and planting trees for a living. In the long summer evenings, I sat on the Ready Room porch with young men who fought fire. In my mind, nothing could slow us down and we would never grow old.

But here we were all these years later. I met my friends, the ones who never left, for a 12 mile hike. Caught in an afternoon thunderstorm pattern, the Sierra is nevertheless desperately dry, and we found only a sprinkle of snow at Pear Lake, 9200 feet. As we hiked we remembered, and things I had forgotten came flooding back. How had it been so long ago? And why is it that the friends you make in your twenties seem to be the most true?

Marble Falls, in the foothills. I hiked through poison oak and didn't get it! There's hope. people.

Granite climbing at Pear Lake. 
I ventured over to where my cabin used to stand. Here was where I impressed the tree climbing crew with my prowess in splitting firewood. Here was where I met the firefighter who would go on to smoke jump and later, break my heart, but also who opened my eyes to fighting fire in Florida, a rich chapter in my life. My cabin is gone now, replaced by the "John Muir Lodge." Tourists swirled everywhere, and to escape them I drove down to Cedar Grove and hiked 13 miles before noon. The backcountry was strangely empty, a contrast to the tourist roadside stops.
Mist Falls was very misty!

After that I went to where the hotshot crew used to live, where my friend still works as a cook. It's different there too, only a handful of the crew living on site, where all 20 used to stay. They all have families now, when it used to be footloose guys following fire across the country.

My friends debated as to whether this was a foxtail or a western white pine. I just thought it was cool.

 I was only in the Sierra for two summers, but don't you always remember the places where your life changed its trajectory? This was one of those places for me. Seeing my friends, I also saw the path not taken.

9200 feet and barely any snow.
I almost expected to see the girl I was in the mirror. Instead there I was, an older woman now. That's how powerful a time warp these places can be. I think sometimes about the alternate paths I could have taken. I know there is no such thing as parallel lives, but sometimes I imagine other versions of me out there living in them. One of these would surely be in the Sierra.


15 comments:

  1. I see the parallel me often - sometimes she shows up on the news fighting fire out west or up in Alaska, sometimes she's on some timber crew up in MN. And sometimes she's hiking with you. :)

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    1. Yes my parallel me is still on the fireline too.

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    2. Since the real me is still on the fireline, the parallel one must still be a park ranger.

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    3. Since the real me is still on the fireline, the parallel one must still be a park ranger.

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  2. This post really resonated with me, especially this part: " I was only in the Sierra for two summers, but don't you always remember the places where your life changed its trajectory?" I think that's why Alaska is so special to me. I became that dirty, scabbed-knee adventure child again.

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    1. I was kind of old by the time I got to Alaska but yes, I can see that for you because you were the right age. The twenties was when my life really swung in different directions. I guess 30s too to some extent.

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  3. Hi Mary, what beautiful shots, it's beautiful there. Makes me want to jump on a plane and go there. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. John, everyone should see the Sierra at least once. Get on a plane! Of course, you live in a beautiful place too.

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  4. Blogger seems to be posting some comments several times. Maybe when you hit back. It just happened to me. BEWARE

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  5. I spent my 40th birthday paralleling my 15 y/o self. I see that girl daily in my daughter. I can only wish that she doesn't meet half the struggles I met at that age.

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    1. I bet she doesn't, she will learn from you and your wisdom!

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  6. I see those parallel lives, too, in myself and in my daughters. They have been fortunate to dip into many, though those all probably leave a trace behind. Not many of us get to go back to our 26 year old selves and find the world still there and still beautiful. The photos are gorgeous.

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