I didn’t see Weaver Lake…but then again, I didn’t die trying

I didn’t sleep that well last night because I was anxious. Weaver Lake or no?  The app AllTrails recommends it. That’s one. A few other things counseled prudence, which is one of my main virtues! Or cowardice, but I prefer prudence.  The Sequoia National Park website, exempli gratia, tells me to stay away from water:

Don’t go near the water…

Two people in the last week died, drowned. In safe seeming situation. Jon, my Sequoia archivist, told me they were warned: even if it looks safe, it isn’t. Rocks are slippery. The current is cold fast relentless.  Don’t go near the water.  Last night Jon and I looked at the map:

Sequoia Map

The red line that runs a rather drunken NS is the main road. Follow it north until there is another road to the East (right) called Big Meadow.  Four miles along that road is where the trail to Weaver Lake starts.  It’s in the Jennie Lake Wilderness. Wilderness. You know, in my head last night, lions and tigers and bears, oh my.  Plus Jon, he who blithely scaled the walls of a Venetian fort that was absolutely closed, he who almost fell off the side of a cliff in Turkey, he who glories in living on the edge, that Jon, was clearly not excited about the idea.  Above the snow line. May be closed. May not be safe.  The guy at the visitors center (who should definitely not be working in a visitors center) cautioned against it.  ‘Oh yeah no, go further up to this easy trail.’

So, don’t go: my anxious non-sleeping says so, Jon says so, the guy at the visitors center.  The only thing to do is ask someone else.   At Lodgepole I asked a much nicer young woman who  said the road was closed. Then she checked and said it wasn’t.  So, of course, I went.  Found Big Meadow Road, found the “trailhead”

You would think this means “this is the trailhead”. Ha

Finding the actual trail head is easy once you know where it is.  I parked. Two guys from U. Washington (Mechanical Engineers. Rising Juniors.  God, am I nosey) pulled in next to me.  They were hiking to Jennie Lake to spend tonight and to Weaver Lake tomorrow. They did not know where the trail head was, exactly.   But they said I reminded them of Travels with Charlie. I assured them that I am not half the writer Steinbeck was, but then again, I’m also not half the jerk he sometimes seems in that book.  They couldn’t believe I drove from NC.  it was very adorable.

Then there was the guy from, I think, New Zealand. He was not adorable. He asked us where the trail head was.  No idea. He went away, came back and pointed authoritatively.  I walked. It was not there.  They found it. I found it.  I tried to keep a respectful distance.  His wife (girlfriend?) was lagging behind. He did not wait.  I passed them as they were taking a rest.  They reappear later. But this was where they stopped:

I’m running out of captions for spectacular views

We soon hit snow, obscuring the trail.  One of us was happy about this:

Oh man SNOW
I’m staying here

We hit a trail sign, pointing left.

one of a very few trail signs…this one says basically: yes you do have to cross the stream

Left was a stream of running water. Was it the kind of water one could die in?  I didn’t think so, but see above on the warning from the parks service and Jon.  We crossed.  I aged.

More snow and then a clear, gorgeous trail

Please can you take off the leash?
Wilderness trail

Through a meadow of flowers that look prettier than they photographed, so I will spare you.  Suddenly the trail was gone. Well there was a trail, but it had become a running stream.  Hard to cross. While I was debating what to do, a whole pack of woodland Hermes came across the stream.  They were actually more like a pack of St. Christophers, from a Christian camp–maybe five boys of high school age and their guide, from Orange County (see above on nosey).  While I was struggling to figure out how to cross, New Zealand and his lady came, crossed (he crossed, she struggled) and left.

Guide: Can I help you get across?

Me: Thanks, that’s so nice, but how am I going to get back? They (head nod toward the departing couple) aren’t going to help me.

Guide says nothing. He and two other guys lift a really big rock (I wish he had done it on his own, so I could make him Homeric, the kind of rock it takes ten men today to lift). The carefully position this rock, big enough that the water won’t wash over it, so that on my return crossing I have nothing to worry about.  Allow me to prove I am not making this up:

Who says Chivalry is dead?
The Saints, testing the rock

I promised to get them all into Davidson.  They were so nice.  The trail got harder to follow,but was still amazing.  And then it stopped.  Water cascaded down the slopes, full of rocks and  debris, but no trail. New Zealand and company (who had again stopped and I had again passed them, feeling very much tortoise and hare) went off up the rocks. “Are you sure that is where the trail is” says I. They looked at me and kept going. Clearly I was interrupting their sylvan holiday.  Another couple came along and we slogged through the water and rocks and there was indeed a bit of a trail further on.  They were sauntering. I was marching with purpose, lest I totally bag the whole thing.  Trail again. Snow again, trail again.  And then, damn it. Water. Lots of water. Fast water.  The saunterers had caught up with me and invited me to follow. But they were camping. How the heck would I get down? The water was down a slope of snow. On the other side the trail emerged, clear, and clearly covered with snow, ascending. In the distance, snow.

I wished them a good hike (“But we are not very far”) and turned around, prudently cowardly. And then down the rock, debris, water and across it.  Suddenly, a dog. Off leash, and then another.  And one totally happy Calliope, running circles in the snow through the water.  Three people from Fresno, who invited me to come along, seeing that the dogs were madly in love with each other. But by that time, I was done.  I really wanted to see the lake (“loveliest place in the Sierras” said one review on AllTrails).  And yet…So far a couple of hours all uphill.  Uneven terrain. Bad knees. Back hurting. I was done.

We turned back and had a mini picnic (string cheese for Calli, Kind bar for me, water for both) here:

PIcnic spot
Yes, the same place Zealand had stopped, more or less

We got to the bridge pretty near the start of the trail, and I made Calli pose

We made it

I left a note on the windshield of the engineers, telling them I didn’t make the lake but did make it out. Then we started our long, slow, DOWNWARD, way out of the park, stopping for some spectacular sights:

Big Trees
Really Big Trees
Shooting into the sun, but still
This is the definition of breathtaking

I got to the park at 8:30, drove out around 5.  There are more  photos.  Lots more. But…since I’m going back tomorrow, maybe to that easy trail ….

Mastering the learning curve: Nashville to Little Rock

If yesterday I was too focused  on ‘getting there’, today I was maybe not focused enough.  But I had a blast all morning and paid for it this afternoon.  Took Calli again to the same dog park (and got lost going back to the hotel). After breakfast and loading the car, we drove into Nashville to see the replica of the Parthenon in Centennial Park (built in 1897 for the Centennial exhibition).  Centennial Park is great: easy parking, beautiful grounds–just lovely.

Pond at Centennial Park

The Parthenon is a hoot.

The view of the Parthenon across the pond in Centennial Park

Calliope did an excellent job of guarding Athena’s treasury in the opsithodomos

Guarding the opisthodomos

She also makes a great sphinx

The Parthenon Sphinx

She also gets a patience award…

I had picked out a hike outside of Nashville and on the way to Little  Rock. It was just off I-40 and looked great. But there were signs all over warning about theft and I asked an older couple who were just leaving. The guy had been a defensive arts instructor and went on at length about how dangerous it was and people come off the highway looking for opportunities. Meanwhile there have to be 6 cars there. I decided to take a risk for once. It was pretty hot. But a great little hike:

The trail at Hidden Lake


I managed, even with the AllTrails app, to go a bit astray, but am not sure how. The hidden lake was worth it

Hidden Lake Tennessee

But then I paid for my full morning– five and a half hours in the car, and I was a bit over heated and ate almonds and a Kind bar for lunch while driving.  I did stop for water and dog walks at rest stops, but the rest stops  are not great.  Maybe also listening to “Sicily: Three Thousand Years of Human History” is not the best choice for a long drive.  Sometimes I turn it off and just drive.  Calli was a trooper.  We hit Little Rock in time for traffic. But the La Quinta here is in a new part of Little Rock, sort of outskirts…very new (the opposite of yesterday) and nice.  And we are very tired…

Day 1, not as expected

Woke up in a raw panic. It took me a few minutes to figure it out.  I’m traveling. Have to get moving. Have to get to the airport.  Whew. No airport. No hard and fast time schedule.  Panic dissipates. So Calli got her last run round with Luna at 6:30, as usual, and I got my last fix of Summit Coffee.

Then, the road. Oh wait. Not yet.  First the Latin Placement Emails.  Then the road.  Left at 9:30. Calli was pumped.  For a while. Where are we going? Fisher Farm? Lucky Dog?  Huh? Wait. Why? We are just driving driving driving.  And,  as for the driver, she was in ‘get there’ mode. It didn’t seem like a road trip until we got beyond Asheville and the Smoky Mountains.  Had to be new territory. Then I started to relax more.  At every rest area   I checked for nearby hikes (thank you All Trails and Bring Fido). Nada.  And I  had to keep moving. Why? Well, I don’t know. I was annoying myself and I was really annoying the dog.  (“Seriously, either a dog park or I’m going home”).

Rest areas in Tennessee are not puppy palaces–this sign is only one of several varieties found are all over the place:

I’ll spare you the rest of the pictures.  We never did find a hike (there was a great one, but it turned out to be 30 miles behind us. We didn’t go).

I finished listening to Michael Lewis’ “The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed Our Minds”, which is about the lives, research and remarkable friendship between Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman. Mostly I liked it a lot.  (end of review…too tired).

I have always been curious about Knoxville and got off to see the University, a sprawling construction site with no visitor parking.  I parked illegally in a staff lot (I am staff, just not there) near the (huge) music building, which sports this impressive rock:

And a lot of construction.

Eventually we got to Nashville, where I’m staying at the very underwhelming LaQuinta. But only a ten minute drive away is an incredible dog park and somehow I summoned the energy to put the very confused Calliope back in the car for a romp in greenery:


Now THIS is more like it

We are going back there tomorrow!  Dinner? Bourbon and Ramen Noodles and Chocolate. 🙂

Travels With Calliope, or Carrie Fisher made me do it….

When Carrie Fisher died suddenly late last year, I knew it was time to stop putting off my bucket list. My kids assured me that my general approach to life has always been a lot healthier (“Ma, she did a lot of cocaine in her 20s”), but still…  A few weeks later I upgraded to a junior suite (on my own dime) at the SCS in Toronto.  Always wanted to do that. Worth it.

Now with the flimsy excuse that Jon is finishing his Masters at UCLA and I want to be there so we can not attend graduation together (we’ll be in Sequoia), I’m loading the dog in the car and driving out to California. And then, well, as long as I’m out there….

From Davidson we’ll take a week to go to West Hollywood; from there to visit friends in Ojai whom I haven’t seen in too many many years.  Jon will be working at Sequoia National park, so I’ll be there for a few days as well.  Then to visit my cousin Elizabeth in the mountainous Downieville CA.  After visiting Liz, I’m going to drive through the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Black Hills National forest and the Badlands (where I’m staying at a place with no address, just a GPS coordinates!).  Then off to Rochester MN, where my niece is a resident at the Mayo Clinic.  From there, two of my sisters will join me as we cross Lake Michigan (on the pretty pricey ferry), stay in Holland MI and then drive into Canada to cross over Niagra Falls.  Then on to NY.  And, finally, home…with a stop in Roanoke to see Conor.