A deep breath roused me, and I realized I was in my own bed, though I hardly remembered getting there. Twelve hours before, I had left Idyllwild in my dust, flying through the night along the 395 to get to Big Pine. Despite two thirty minute naps on the side of the highway, I remember the road winding and blurring as I had pulled into the trailhead, Kurt knocking on my window, the conversation about how worked I looked and how tired I truly was. I hate missed opportunities with a passion, but I allowed reconciliation in that these opportunities -- climbing with Steve Larson and Rob Yang on Saturday, then Kurt on Sunday -- occurred simultaneously, and the overlap (and mileage, and drive time) was too much. Still, between the ego spank on Tahquitz and having to cancel the trip into the Palisades, I was blue.
The clouds above the Crest gave me some solace as I headed out the door to brunch, the intention to drive to Mosquito Flat foremost in my brain. But a bad accident and a lowering deck turned me back south and west, onto Line Street and up to Aspendell. My friend Brent had been in town earlier that week, and had told me the road to North Lake was open, the trail to Piute Pass clear at least to Loch Leven. I paused just outside of Starlight to aim the camera at the Crest, the skies opening briefly over Mt. Humphreys and swirling low above Tom and the Wheeler Crest. Distant rumbles to the north confirmed my choice of paths that day, and the TOF happily splashed through the puddles along the high road.
I didn't take much with me: an extra fleece, rain jacket, both cameras, a liter of water. The creeks rushed over the rocks to my left, hidden from view by dense aspen and new growth. Dandelions dotted the meadow, all colors made sharper by steel skies. The lillies are primed to bloom here, but the persistent changes in the weather are holding them back. It had just rained before I had walked through, and the air smelled of earth and steam and humidity, freshness. Spring is in its birthing process now. A few pockets of hail lay hidden near the creek, under sawgrass and lupine. Drips of rain cradled in leaf cups. I breathed deep and calm as I slowly strode up the road and the trail through my favorite groves. The ghostly, clay-red spires of the Piute Crags faded in and out of the clouds.
Nilts'a Bi'aad: Navajo for the Woman's Rain. My Din'e guide had described the difference to me as we had eaten amongst the towers of Monument Valley a few years before. Beneath cliff ruins and red rock, we had listened to rolling thunder in the distance, but on us fell a warm and caressing rain, droplets pocketing the sand and dust around our table. Now, as I strode beneath the trees, a single rumble signalled the start of the storm, and I raised my hood, putting the big camera away. Drops tapped my jacket and the earth beneath the trees, softly moistening the hard edges all around me. More than a mist, less than a shower, the forest melted beyond my gaze. There was no more sound save the dripping, and I tried to step quietly along the trail. I had reached just above 10K, touching it for another weekend, and I smiled at the bench for Loch Leven ahead. Not wanting to be the tallest object on the moraine crossing to the bench, I turned in the scrub aspen and headed down. Diamond droplets hung suspended on branches in the muted sun, lighting my way back to the TOF and home.
You see, it doesn't take a summit to find the magic of my mountains.
A few moments from the afternoon:
Rest of the pics are here.
From the luckiest girl in the world: Climb Hard, Be Safe.
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