Published: November 23rd 2007September 4th 2007
The weekend before I was to have surgery, I decided to go on one last backpacking trip. Honestly I didn't know if I would ever be able to go backpacking again. What if the cancer had penetrated the bladder wall, spread to the lymph nodes and required serious treatment? I might need my bladder removed completely, or perhaps radiation therapy, chemotherapy and more surgeries. My future was uncertain, so I decided it best to forget about everything and go to church- The High Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Instinct told me the best place to go was the tallest and most pristine part of the Sierra's- Sequoia National Park. The road we took was treacherous, the drive was horrendously long- it took 2 hours to go 30 miles. The Valley we visited has been deforested by the mining operations there at the turn of the century, and the trailhead quotas are frequently full. It's Perfect!
We shared the campsite with deer, over 15 deer. They seemed playful, unafraid. My mind alternated between wonder and contentment, then reality snapped and I contemplated my upcoming surgery. "I have cancer" is all it takes to really make you define reality. Close your eyes, breath-
now open and look around. Ahhh... the high Sierra! My home away from home, my escape from everything below 9000 feet. I went from being scared to death to being scared to misplace my steps during a hike, instead of contemplating my death I instead contemplated the death of a marmot. My dreams at altitude were as vivid as ever, giving me comfort that I do live other lives than the one i was dealt.
We visited mine shafts and caves. I found an infinite assortment of metamorphic rocks and different kinds of granite. Mineral King is the place where the intrusive granite thrust itself through the metamorphosed limestone and shale. Half of our campground was granite, the other half marble. Rivers appear only to disappear, and hundreds of creatures living in these caves are found nowhere else on earth.
Ancient stratovolcanos once rose from the ocean. Their reefs supported coral ecosystems for millions of years. The coral reefs built on each other, layering one on top of each other. More eruptions ensued. More sediment covered it over. After millions more years it became limestone, and millions of years more pressure and heat turned the limestone into marble.
Then the Sierra was uplifted, and in the process the great batholith of molten granite raced to the surface of the heart down the heart of the Sierra's. Countless ice ages and eons of rain and snow eroded the rocks away, and the scene before me is just a brief glimpse into this process. Granite on one side, Volcanic rock on the other- and down the middle the marble strip. Remnants of millions of creatures from millions of years ago. They all lived and died together, only to be turned to stone.
Who am I to think my life is any more important than them? I tried to become one with the marble, but all I could do was think about the deep geologic time laid out before me. When we left the Sierra's and went home, the incessant lyrics of Amanda's Michael Jackson CD kept spinning in my brain. "So Tonight, Gotta Leave That 9 to 5 Up On The Shelf, And Just Enjoy Yourself".... For me, I gotta leave that Life and death up on the shelf, and just enjoy myself! Once again, the Sierra helped me do just that and put everything in perspective.
The last vestiges of Foxtail pines frame Mt. Florence(3789 meters)
surgery the following Wednesday went well, I woke up to the news that the tumor was very superficial, my MD completely removed it and no other treatment was necessary- This was the best possible scenario! Looks like the Sierra will be seeing my face again, for now...
There are more photos below