Serenity Now, Hiking Later

At this moment, I’m awaiting some long overdue rain here in Northern California. Cold and cloudy outside, perfect weather for staying indoors with a cup of Peets coffee and churning out some words. Good nap weather too. Today’s blog entry is again an excerpt from The Mount Whitney Journals, specifically my 2009 trip. I’ve just driven from Lone Pine to the Whitney Portal Campground where I’ll camp for two nights to acclimate before my 2-day backpack climb to the summit. I’ve arrived a little early for my 2:00 check-in time. I just spent the last 45 minutes eating lunch at the Whitney Portal Store near the trailhead in the hope that by the time I go to the campground, the present campers will have vacated. I discover they haven’t.

The serene calming waters of Lone Pine Creek


August 5, 2009.  At 1:45, I get in my truck and return to the campground. I’m dismayed to find that the campers have yet to vacate. There’s a Honda Accord in the parking space in front of the boulders that separate the road from the campsite. I confirm that my name is on the sheet for today and tomorrow (8/5 and 8/6). I drive around the loop, out of the campground and park along the road in the shade of some pines. I feel myself getting antsy, even though I’m technically still early. I foresee this becoming a challenge to my Zen-ness.

I spend the next 15 minutes scrolling through today’s photos on my Nikon and writing in my journal. At 2:05, not having seen the Honda drive past, I decide to press the issue and ask the campers – now officially squatters – if they plan on leaving soon. When I pull up, I see a young, thin man in his 20’s placing bags in the trunk. I ask how much longer he thinks he’ll be and, mustering some diplomacy, I remind him of the 2:00 checkout. He apologizes and says he’ll be about 10 minutes. Not wanting to seem like a stressed out, impatient flatlander, I abstain from offering to personally expedite the process. Instead I clench my jaw, say ‘ok’, and drive back to my spot on the road where, using my telekinetic powers, I endeavor to remove the lead from their asses.

Sitting in my truck, I roll all the windows down to feel the breeze coming off the mountain to the west. As always, it takes a conscious effort to ward off resentments. Finding myself getting angry and playing out scenarios of confrontation that would rival ‘The Outlaw Josie Wales’, I knew it was time to take some deep meditative breaths. I’m grateful that as I’ve gotten older and marginally wiser, I can recognize these episodes and nip them in the bud.

From where I’m parked, I can see the access loop below me. By the time I see the Honda driving towards the exit at 2:15, I’ve purged my anger and ceased using my limited knowledge of telekinesis, voodoo and the Dark Side of the Force for my own ends. At the entrance gate, we approach each other and when I see the Honda driver stop and roll down his window, I stop as well and we end up chatting like neighbors out of the kitchen window. He apologizes once again and tells me to enjoy the site. He’s with what I assume is his wife or girlfriend. I ask if he’s camped here before. He says that it was his first time. With a smile I tell him that this will be my third time at site #8 and he just had the best campsite on the property. They ask if I’m going to climb and I tell them my plans. Our conversation is cut short when an SUV pulls up behind them. They wish me luck and I drive on to the now vacant campsite #8.


About victorvolta

I am a freelance photographer/writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. I grew up in the very suburban city of Santa Clara. Education: San Jose State University (class of '84) BA degree in Journalism with concentrations in Photojournalism and English. Favorite Foods: Ribeye steaks and Stan's Doughnuts (separate plates, usually). Favorite Drinks: Strong gourmet coffee and Trader Joe's Blood Orange Italian Soda (separate cups).
This entry was posted in Book V Excerpt - 2009, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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