Camping at Atwell Spring, Sierra Nevada

Autumn has arrived in the desert.  The wind is howling and heavy, winter-like clouds hang on the mountain peaks west of Ridgecrest.  It is snowing up there.  The air is a cool 65 degrees during the day and dips into the 40s at night.

I love it.

Some people get spring fever. I get fall fever.  Wool sweaters, hot tea, changing leaf colors and lots of blankets on the bed are my season.  And, there’s not a better time to go hiking.

I spent this past weekend in Sequoia National Park, about a 3 1/2 hour drive from here.

We pulled into the Atwell Spring campground in the Mineral King area around 7:30 Friday evening, our stomachs a bit queasy from the 500 some odd twists and turns up the mountain road. 

We pitched the tent and threw out our bags.  Sleep was the immediate need.

The following morning we woke and decided to do the tourist sites of the park.

We drove through the glorious Giant Forest, home of a huge sequoia named General Sherman.  We stopped for a pee break, looked at Sherman and moved on. 

A half hour later we arrived at General Grant, another humongous sequoia tree. We were gonna pee there too, but a bus load of senior citizens pulled in and had the facilities occupied.  We moved on.

Bordering Sequoia National Park is Kings Canyon National Park.  Some consider it to rival the Yosemite Valley.  Not having seen Yosemite, I cannot make a comparison.  But, I can say that Kings Canyon is the most rugged, raw, rock mountain landscape I have ever seen.  Big mountains with grey rock walls rise straight up from the King River a couple thousand feet below. 

I thought of pictures I have seen of Chamonix in the French Alps as we drove down into the canyon.  I school-boy dreamed of climbing one of the peaks. 

We destined ourselves at Cedar Grove and found the Hotel Creek Trail.  A few minutes into our hike, we came to a tiny ribbon of a waterfall and decided to spend the afternoon there.

The day passed…

Sunday was a day of hiking in the Mineral King area.  A hundred or less more twists and turns up the road lay the Eagel Creek Trail. We were stepping out for Mosquito Lake by 9:30 a.m.

Three miles up the mountain, sitting at 9500 feet, was Mosquito Lake.  We arrived to the company of two mule deer on the far shore feeding in tall grass.  The lake was a shimmering bowl of water surrounded by pine trees.  It softly reverberated “solitude.” 

I was at home.  So much so that I stripped off my clothes and dove into the lake.

The water was freezing, literally.  My ankles felt like they were going to shatter.  I laughed.  I shivered and shook.  I smiled.

We bathed in the sun and talked of living our lives minus work.  We tried to scheme ways of making money by doing exactly what were doing at the moment.

We ate bean and rice burritos, napped on a rock, and scribbled some thoughts in a journal.  The day was perfect.

Walking down the mountain, we stopped to absorb the beauty of late-afternoon in the forest.  The tree tops danced a classicl ballet with the aid of the wind.  A clearing in the trees glowed a warm golden russet hue.  The sky was robin egg blue with a touch of pastel yellow in the corners. 

We were lightened, our steps likewise as we meandered down the trail.



(written 15 October 2000)

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