Book I excerpt. Mike Gibbons, Mike Galli and I just left Yosemite Valley and are now headed to the town of Lone Pine where our motel room at the Alabama Hills Motel awaits us. Once on the road, we make better time, but we are still hours away from our destination. As for this excerpt, I think this might have been my first time traveling through the Yosemite high country along Highway 120. When I wrote this excerpt shortly after the 1998 trip, I admit I wasn’t familiar with the landmarks and in this case, I misnamed the lake. Lake Tenaya is a large beautiful lake, further east than the one I made Mike Galli stop at so I could take photos. The body of water in this excerpt is more of a pond, and so small that I haven’t been able to find it on my maps. Nevertheless, I still chuckle whenever I’ve driven past it on subsequent visits to the high country of Yosemite. But each time, I drive past it without stopping, content to leave the mosquitos undisturbed.
THE MOUNT WHITNEY JOURNALS — Book I — 1998
Now it’s time to press on towards Lone Pine. It is now around 6:30 with still another five hours of travel ahead of us. We backtrack to Highway 120 and head north to the upper Yosemite plateau then turn east towards Tuolumne Meadows and Tioga Pass. Galli is still driving, and Gibbons naps for a while in the back seat. Just as the sun is about to finally set on our long day, we drive past Tenaya Lake. Tenaya, I believe, is Indian for “A thousand angry mosquitoes swarming hungrily about the face and ankles and any other expanse of skin you white men are stupid enough to expose”. If not, that’s what it should mean. The beauty of the sun reflecting off the tranquil lake lures us to stop, much to the delight of the mosquitoes that inhabit the swampy shores. We park about 50 yards down the road and with my camera in hand I jump out of the truck and bound down the road, like a paparazzi who just spotted Madonna, to try to snap a few photographs before the sun disappears behind the trees. As I crash through the sparse underbrush and crouch in the soft mud of the shore, I quickly meter and compose the scene with my 20mm lens. At first I am cognizant only of the beauty of the light on the lake and the reflections of the sky and trees on the surface and in the task of getting it on film. But I soon become aware of a sensation on my ankles as though someone is pricking me with needles.
Moments later, I am running desperately back up the road to the Jeep, under full attack from a swarm of mosquitos. As I near the truck, I notice that the Mikes, likewise, are under attack. They are swinging and flailing their arms wildly as if they are fighting ghosts. I rejoin my friends and together we are able to mount a defense and fight off the beasts long enough to allow us a retreat. Looking at Gibbons, I notice he has one nibbling on his ear and another one moonwalking across his forehead. I pass up the temptation to do my Three Stooges routine-telling him to “hold still, this won’t hurt a bit” while I swat him with a tennis racket or mallet. Instead I gently brush the pests away and we jump back in the Jeep and resume our trip eastward.