Gridley Trail to Nordhoff Peak, May 1, 2012:
Sometimes the best approach is to accept the default.
A long time ago I needed to run a program that implemented an algorithm for a particular type of data analysis that was fairly new at the time. For the computer historians the system was a VAX 11/785 running 4.2 BSD Unix. I obtained a copy of the code and somehow got it to compile and all seemed well to that point. As with many programs of the era, upon execution this one read a command file full of directives in some arcane format that set all the required runtime parameters. I opened the command file in my old friend, the text editor vi, and did not understand most of the hundreds of lines of configuration details. I contacted the author and received advice that I have found useful in many areas of life, “The best approach is to accept the defaults.”
(and anything else that comes to mind in no particular order)
The second time I ran into him was at a camping and backpacking gear show that was held, as I recall, on the grounds of a Ventura County junior high school. There were displays of tent construction using 2 mil plastic as the shelter material. One tent was configured in such a way as to allow it to close up against wet weather; I thought it looked like a great idea and better than rigging the military surplus coated cotton canvas tarps I used for shelter. Snake (the only name I knew for him at that time) looked agitated by the thing and he called over the person managing the display. I remember what came next very clearly: “Do you realize that closed down like this under plastic condensation will form and then if it gets below freezing the edges of the tent will freeze to the ground and the flaps will freeze shut and everyone inside will suffocate? It would be like putting a plastic bag over your head and sealing it shut.” I was impressed; this guy was not only observant but could also process details into an important conclusion. I immediately thought of the Sherlock Holmes stories I avidly consumed.
Extending an invitation to participate in a backpacking trip is an act of faith. Faith that the invitee will not be an utter trail disaster. Then there is the responsibility tacitly accepted by the trip hosts to drag the pilgrim’s butt out of wherever should the trail disaster scenario play out in a particularly profound fashion. I found myself in a position that I had not experienced in many, many years: I had been invited to participate in a backpacking trip with a couple of seasoned pros. I would be the New Guy. Perhaps the history documented in this blog, including my recent solo backpack revisitation of Madulce, provided me a bit of credibility. Nonetheless, I felt uneasy playing the role of the randomizing factor. Backpacking is inherently a stochastic undertaking easily tipped into chaos with the introduction of new variables. However, this was a chance to continue my Los Padres Return concept and, most importantly, to load a pack and spend a few days in the Southern Los Padres backcountry. No chance I would squander the opportunity; the flight was booked within moments of receiving a firm date for the trip.
Mission: Madulce, Part 2
Read Station to Station No. 1: Madulce (Mission: Madulce, Part 1)
at www.craigrcarey.net for the story of Madulce Station.
More than two decades later an expatriate returns to Madulce Station
Madulce, Spring, 1983
Madulce cabin site, November 16, 2011
The self help gurus proclaim that a priority must be assigned to each demand on one’s time and the resulting hierarchy must be attacked systematically in descending order. Prioritization: an interesting strategy in concept, I suppose. But usually when I consider the data when faced with multiple commitments I find no quantitative framework for assigning a value to each component. So I make arbitrary choices; flip the proverbial coin, so to speak. And what could be a more paradigmatic statistical exercise than flipping a coin?
I often note with bemusement that my mind builds connections among events and processes that I could otherwise rationally explain in terms of simple coincidence. The Reyes Peak trail, Haddock camp, the California condor: these are powerful symbols of transition for me.
Condor AC9 (Igor), Southern Los Padres National Forest. Original print in my collection since ca. 1986. Photographer and provenance lost in history. Digital restoration of the print by the Los Padres Expatriate Hiker.
It does not require a suspension of rationality to go for a hike to talk to a pair of trees; the understanding that the trees did not reply thirty years ago and likely will not reply now is beside the point. Often, the appropriate counterpart for my conversation is no one at all except trees and the air above the upper Sespe.
Starting sometime before 1980 I frequently climbed from Highway 33 to Chorro Grande and stopped to visit the Sentinel Tree pair along the way. I did it based on an irrational and persistently indistinct gestalt possibly involving time, place and connection. Maybe free will and predestination were in there somewhere as well having a tussle of the antithetical. Ultimately, when asked to explain the reason for my affinity for the trees (and I was asked) I deferred to the words of Mark Twain: “I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn’t know.”
Crest of Piedra Blanca Trail Trail, August 15, 2011
Crest of Piedra Blanca Trail, November, 1983.
What do you do when you crest the familiar climb to the home of your youth and find yourself on an unfamiliar tread to a place you do not recognize save for the old sign that insists you are home?
Thomas Wolfe said “You can’t go home again.” To be sure, he said a lot of things, as the book exceeds 700 pages, but he did say that. To quote Forest Gump “I don’t know anything about that” but I do know my cognitive dissonance was severe as I looked at the now grounded Pine Mountain Lodge sign. I expected a Rod Serling voiceover; I had clearly entered the Twilight Zone. I thought of the words purported to have been uttered by Daniel Boone “I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks.” I was confused. And out of quotes.
The absolutely true and completely accurate story of the prodigious leap
Sometimes the Karmic Monkey Wrench Gang (with extreme apologies to the late Edward Abbey and anyone with karma) tests your resolve. My flight was booked, other arrangements made. I was going to California to begin executing the concept that forms the basis for this blog. Four days before my scheduled departure I contracted an upper respiratory tract virus that had been circulating for several weeks and that I thought I had avoided. I had several reactions to this situation, none of them anything less than reprehensibly profane. I was feeling somewhat better and was pronounced post contagious at the 24 hour point before the flight, so I felt there was no moral impediment to getting on the aircraft and sharing the circulating air with my fellow passengers. I was still fighting the discomfort of the inflammatory response to the virus, but what are you going to do: stay home?
Madulce Station, 1983
(click photo to open set)
Soon I will post a series covering my recent return to hiking the Los Padres after a nearly 25 year absence. But beyond seeing such places as Pine Mountain Lodge, Chorro Grande and Haddock I had another mission during my stay in Ojai August 12 to August 22, 2011. I was convinced a cache of my old photographs existed that included photographs of the legendary Madulce Station in its prime after the restoration in the 1970s. In a cabinet in a garage in Ojai I found a plastic box that had not been opened since sometime before 1990. In the box, among a number of old Los Padres photographs, were not only the old prints of Madulce I had hoped to find; there was also a complete set of negatives in the original glassine envelopes. I have posted scans of these negatives on my photography site.
Sometimes it is good to revisit the past and appreciate what was lost if one does not dwell on it. Enjoy.
The tagline for this site is “Hike; ignore the static.” This is not a pithy statement from the bowels of my murky imagination (can an imagination have bowels?). There is a story. And telling that story seems a good place to begin to realize the purpose of this blog.