A Book V excerpt. I’m in the eastern Sierras, on the way to Lone Pine and another attempt of Mt. Whitney, this time as a two-day backpack trip instead of the usual 1-day Bataan Death March. I’m camping the first night at June Lake, south of Lee Vining. In the morning I’ll rise early and drive two or three hours, depending on how often I stop for coffee and photos, and reach Lone Pine by late morning then up to my campsite at the Whitney Portal. This excerpt has me in downtown June Lake for dinner. The ‘alien’ reference in the first line: When I first walked through town at mid-day around 2:30-3:00 several hours earlier, the village seemed deserted and I surmised that aliens abducted the townspeople.
THE MOUNT WHITNEY JOURNALS – Book V – 2009
Tuesday, August 4, 2009, 7:00 p.m., June Lake, CA
Back in town, it appears that the aliens have released the humans, or they’ve woken from their siestas, because there are now scores of people walking around. I opt for an in town meal, knowing it’ll be better than anything I might cook on my stove back at camp. I park across from the Tiger Bar, cross the street and walk in. It takes a few seconds to get my bearings. I’ve arrived at the busiest time of dinner and the place is crowded. I estimate the crowd is equal parts boisterous young drunk people, boisterous children who ate too much sugar, and the exasperated parents of the boisterous children. This will be a quick dinner.
I find a spot in the middle of the bar and as always, I’m ready to order almost immediately. For good or bad, I rarely ask questions, never ask for things that aren’t on the menu, request special orders or make substitutions. The menu is burgers, chicken or pizza, so I can’t even imagine a question. I suppose I could be a smart-ass and ask, “Do you cook your French fries in lard, butter, or bacon fat?”
The bartender is busy making drinks and tending to other guests, but when he does greet me, he’s jovial and patient, two qualities I often lack when I’m behind the bar. I order a cheddar and bacon burger and a Coke. I spend the meal talking to a pleasant blonde lady from Los Angeles. She says her husband and kids are still out doing active things like fishing and hiking while she has dinner and a few beers. June Lake, she says, is her family’s yearly destination and she’s in love with the place.
Since I’ll be spending the next few days in self-imposed quasi-solitary confinement, camping and hiking alone, I’m glad I’ve chosen to eat among other homo sapiens tonight. I won’t be completely cut off from human interaction on Mt. Whitney, and I’m sure I won’t turn into Jack from ‘The Shining’, but why take a chance?