“Hey Jacob you ready?” Elias yells enthusiastically
“Yea, let’s go!” Jacob answers.
Through the sound of a rushing creek I slowly awoke realizing the boys were off again on another adventure. My mind stirred and I remembered drifting to sleep the night before while watching Ila and Michelle’s eyes reflecting the bright white light of infinite stars above. I stretch big but not to disturb the girls since they’re still dreaming of stars, put on my blue shorts my blue T-shirt and greet the big sloping sage brush plain and the Sierra’s, aaaah, heaven.
“Coffee is ready hun!” I say after I hear Michelle starting to stir.
Both burners on the trusted Coleman stove are frying breakfast now. Michelle and I sip coffee together and deeply enjoy discussing nothing important.
“I guess Ben is down in Prescott by now” I say. I am reflecting on the first day we arrived here – four days ago. We met up with Ben and Ruth, our friends who recently moved from Prescott to Mammoth Lakes, two hours to the North. Together we went on a hike after connecting that morning, up sage brush slopes with snow capped peaks towering way above. Big horn sheep ran on distant hillsides and wild flowers were in bloom as we hiked up a trail with no goal other than catching up. Ila attached their dogs leash to Ben coaxing him down the trail. We shared dinner, drinks, stories and soccer that night.
“Pancakes and eggs are ready” I yell loud enough to make sure the boys can hear as they play out in the sage near the creek. Do they really need to come now? No, Michelle and I can enjoy breakfast quietly, they’ll eat later. They pretend they didn’t hear me regardless and keep playing.
This is more or less how we greeted the last five days, completely surrendered to the comfortable and spectacular scenery. Every morning soaking it up, letting it inspire us all over again and then diving into the next adventure.
On our third day here, we went up to the great craggy and snowy mountains that stand high above camp. Mount Whitney is the tallest of these peaks. It sits at just around fourteen and a half thousand feet in elevation higher than all of the mountain in the contiguous US. Although the mountains are high and craggy, this year they remained snow free for over 2,000 feet of our hike taking us to over 10,000 feet of elevation into the snow. Jacob and Elias were entranced by the seriousness of the mountains as they ran way ahead up the dry trails, telling each other stories. Michelle and I tried to keep up with Ila. Living in the desert for weeks without big mountain strolles made this hike all the more appealing.
“What a beautiful hike that was” I say while flipping one of the classic pancakes I’ve been making on a regular basis since we left Bellingham last year – about 4 inches in diameter and cooked deeply in butter. Not complete without eggs and really nothing is better when you’re hungry.
“Super fun,” Michelle agrees. “Still not enough to wear out the boys though,” she adds.
It’s true that over the last month we’ve noticed a big jump in their fitness. The way they were jogging up those switch backs was an incredible affirmation that this year of athletic family adventure is above and beyond what they would ever receive during a conventional year at home. The mental and physical health benefits will reverberate through their entire lives.
On the second morning I woke up to Jacob and Elias going on their morning adventure but this time it sounded like the adventure was taking place closer by. A rush of panic hit me as I remembered it was Easter Sunday. “Darn – did the Easter Bunny do its job” I thought to myself. Ahhh… I remembered that yes indeed, the Easter Bunny did do its job….almost. In the end it mistakenly gave Ila, Jacob’s treats and Jacob, Ila’s treat but I decide to forgive the bunny this time. I imagine the delivery rabbit was a cousin of the Easter Bunny anyway, the Desert Long Eared Jack Rabbit. Regardless, the boys found chocolates eggs, rabbits and other delights throughout the sage brush that morning. They also woke up to a basket stuffed full of treasures and dutifully helped their sister discover the magic as well.
“I wish we could stay here forever.” I say
Michelle knowing what I loved most of all agreed, “We should just load up one of those rocks in to our roof rack and take it with us.” She was talking about yesterday when we went rock climbing!
The basin that we are camped above is not just a sage brush plain but just below us there is a series of craggy broken hills called the Alabama Hills. The famous granite outcrops with a spell binding mountain back drop has been viewed by millions of people throughout the world as a classic western scene for dozens of big Hollywood productions. The gritty granite usually tops out on super cool 40 to 100 foot block of granite. The landscape of rocky climbs has no defined end to it.
“Not even two months left on our trip.” Michelle says in a solemn tone.
“Ya”, I answer. “I miss it already.” We both know what I’ll miss, the same thing we’ll both miss, the mystery, the adventure, all of the excitement when planning the next stage, the endless time together just enjoying each others company. I wonder if we’ll do this back home. I wonder if the boys will continue to be so excited to see each other in the morning and go off to play indefinitely like they are now. I wonder if I’ll get the time and if they’ll get the time to go on one of these big adventures. We’ll still do this stuff I know, but not like this. Not every day.
“I wonder where we’ll live back in Bellingham.” She questions the universe out loud.
I shudder at the idea of going back to the day to day, but shoo the glimpse of it and my mind takes me back to the sage blowing on the breeze, the sound of rushing water and the two brothers out there absorbed in a close friendship. Then my mind moves on to where we are going.
“Can you believe that there are over 30 million people on the other side of that mountain range?” I inquire. It was hard to fathom considering how absolutely barren our current landscape was, but in that still moment it hit me. That single mountain barrier is holding back one of the most densely populated regions of our country.
“I’m excited about tomorrow.” I say
“Me too” Michelle answers with a mutual understanding. We are referring to something other than lots of people that lies on the other side of that mighty ridge line. Something else that we haven’t seen very much of for quite some time and I know we all miss quite dearly: