Welcome to my Wilderness Journal

You may enjoy my September 2012 blog: Sharing Experiences of Great Mystery, which describes the purpose of this wilderness log, photo-art gallery, and poetry corner. In Peace, Bob

Monday, August 26, 2013

Trekking near Yosemite's Rim Fire

My friend John and I had planned a weekend of day hikes near Yosemite's Tuolumne Meadows a month before the Rim Fire broke out in late August. Highway 120, our usual Big Oak Flat route into the park, was closed so we entered the park through the Merced Canyon's Arch Rock Entrance and drove up toward Crane Flat. This is where we saw our first up-close view of the "pyrocumulus" smoke and ash cloud.

At dusk we took the White Wolf exit off Tioga Road and as we drove into the camp we saw that a moderately thick pall of smoke hung over the area. White Wolf is on the southern lip of the Tuolumne Canyon, the same steep gorge that was raging with uncontrolled fire just ten miles to the west. 

We checked into our tent cabin and had dinner at the lodge. As we left the lodge in the dark to walk to our tent cabin we could see that the down-canyon winds that usually start after sunset had begun to clear out the smoke.

We woke up to pristine skies and decided to climb the ridge to the south of Olmsted Point, a famous overlook on the Tioga Road with fabulous views southeast to Cloud's Rest and Half Dome and east to Tenaya Lake and its glaciated domes. I had done a pastel painting in the 1980s of this pine-studded ridge and had often wondered what it was like up there.

We parked John's truck in a pullout just up from the lake and with some trial and error we found a route up the northeast flank of the ridge. As I summited I began to think of our friend Bob who had recently died in a car accident while taking his son and some other scouts to the camp Bob went to when he was a boy. 

I decided to name a tree in his honor and immediately spotted this stately twin-trunked lightning-struck Western White Pine. It is a beautiful tree with views of Tenaya Canyon and the Cloud's Rest-Half Dome spur and of sapphire-blue Tenaya Lake. We honored our friend Bob, who we worked with as park planners for many years, with a brief ceremony. Over the years Yosemite has become not only a personal refuge of beauty and inspiration but also a repository of my memories of friends and family who have passed on before me. Yosemite is a landscape of the soul.


John and the Pyrocumulus (perhaps 30-40,000 feet high)

The Rim Fire Pyrocumulus with the Olmsted Point Overlook below

View from the Tioga Road overlook of the crown of the Bob G Tree (the bush-like foliage on the right edge)

Olmsted Point erratic boulder dropped by the last receding glacier

As we drove west to retrace our route out of the park via the Merced Canyon we saw the Rim Fire much closer to the park's western border, perhaps even now inside the park. The pyrocumulus cloud was darkly ominous. 

As of today, August 26 it has grown to 150,000 acres (the size of Chicago) and is the nation's number one fire priority. It is now 15% under control which is 15 times better than when we arrived in Yosemite on August 23. The park's 2,000 year-old Tuolumne and Merced giant sequoia groves are now protected with emergency sprinkler systems. We can only hope that the brave men and women fighting the fire by land and air gain the upper hand soon.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Redwood Ramblings

While camping in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in August 2013 my family and I hiked the 5 mile James Irvine Trail from our campground to the Pacific Ocean and the incredible Fern Canyon. Here are my best photographs from this hike followed by images from a solo hike I did along Prairie Creek.

Poem: Oceans Roaring in Moonlight

Walking alone in the moonlight along the edge of Elk Prairie

Seeking a silent audience with a great Tree

I enter a tall dark wall of redwoods and switch on my headlamp

Thinking of mountain lions

The canopy opens up and I douse the light

As eyes adjust to filtered moonlight

I feel the looming gravity of this Ancient One

With my light I trace the gnarly trunk of the Arco Giant

Twenty-four feet in diameter and 227 feet high

Candelabra-like multiple trunks, some broken off in storms

Spiraling bole peppered with huge burls  

Massive crown hosting a hidden ecosystem of epiphytes

As I lie down in a pool of moonlight beneath this Great One

A single delicate-winged insect flutters up into a shaft of light

Quieting myself I notice a distant eternal roar

The western ocean pouring over miles of redwood-clad hills

No beginning or end to these waves crashing into this Turtle Continent

My brief time runs its course between the moth and this tree

For thousands of years witnessing storm and fire

Standing here beneath the coursing moon and sun and stars

Listening to the eternal roaring

For a moment a link in time

Joined by the ancestors and our children—born and unborn

I rename this tree “Oceans Roaring”

Tonight this tree is my father and the ocean my mother

Tonight I am their moonstruck child

Emerging blinking from the dark tunneled forest

Into the bright moonlit meadow now blanketed in cool silver mists