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Published: June 26th 2017
Geo: 37.9575, -119.121
After Yosemite (read about it here), my next stop was to be Reno. All of the campgrounds in the park were full, and I didn't want to drive 30 minutes back to the east, only to have to reverse my direction in the morning, so I decided to just drive through the park, to the leeward side of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
The drive was lovely. Moody. Like how the woman you love somehow looks adorable when she is angry. I started a little before dusk, the skies beginning to cloud up as threatening weather drew near. As soon as I was out of the main valley, I hardly saw a soul. Relief. A twisted mountain road, often still lined with snow yet to melt and become part of one of the magnificent falls, one drop at a time.
The air grew cooler, the skies darker, and ominous clouds grew like bacteria in a petri dish, nearly choking out the sky. Dozens of shades of blues and grays, contoured skies, reflecting their colors on the massive granite domes and faces, mirrored in sapphire lakes, ponds, and puddles, shades of evergreen, mahogany, and field grass slightly warming the scene. Hanging a
photo of a view like this may actually drop the temperature in a room.
I crossed over Tioga Pass and beyond the eastern park entrance station, down a highway adopted by "Rainbows and Butterflies", watching in my rear view mirror as the clouds began to eat up the tips of the mountains, perhaps giving them one last bout of snow. I was in desperate need of a night alone. Though I absolutely loved the time spent with friends in Flagstaff, LA, San Diego, and most recently, Mariposa, it had been a while since I had just spent the night out alone, in the bed of my truck, off a country road or in national forest land.
Near the bottom of the pass, just a few miles short of Mono Lake, I saw signs for a national forest campground. $15 a night. For what, exactly? A parking spot, a flat spot to pitch a tent, and a pit toilet. And if you're lucky, a huge barrel of potable water. Really? Five years ago, when these were only 10 or 12 bucks, I found it a bargain. Whether I've become a more efficient and independent camper, or whether I have just lowered my
standards (perhaps both), I refuse to pay this when it is national forest land and I know I can find a spot off an access road out in the trees for free. And I did. Off of the entrance road to the campground, I found an access road that followed some old power lines. It led me over a small hill, conveniently passing by a large juniper whose branches warmly welcoming my Tacoma and I. Out of sight, even though just a couple hundred feet off of the highway.
I boiled some water on my tailgate for chicken flavored top ramen. Damn. That stuff tastes so fucking good sometimes!
It was breezy and cold, still and tense, and lonely. But it felt good. I cried a little that night as I fell asleep. Sometimes, it feels good to shed some tears. And if you think I'm any less of a man for thinking that, well, kiss my sensitive ass. The rain started that night at about 10pm, ironically about the same time as my tears. Perhaps the skies were acting out of compassion for me. She surely does not need my compassion, so it could have only been that way. Think
of it. The boundless skies, the eternal heavens, the roof of the world, the wind, the clouds, the glow of the sunrise and sunset, the rain, the crack of thunder, the quiet serenity of a winter snow - as your shoulder to cry on. Never too busy. Never out of cell service. Never past her bedtime. Never judging. Faithful skies.
She cried through the night. I woke at 6, her tears mostly faded, and so I just laid there in her comfort for an hour or two, waiting patiently for her to find a calm. The little town of Lee Vining provided my truck and I with the means to move forward - gas and coffee, respectively. I was also provided with stunning views of Mono Lake - sage and sand complexly adding to color schemes similar to those of the prior evening, a perfect gift from my faithful, moody friend.
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