Just a few days ago, I labored along Selden Pass’s lower slopes. A sort of no-man’s-land, this portion of the steep incline is blanketed in head-high chaparral, the ubiquitous shrubbery that cause California fire fighters to have innumerable nightmares. I was not in one of my better moods, which tend to range the entire spectrum out here, from bad to worse and from grand to greater. It was hot, I was sweaty, and the mosquitoes were closing in. I didn’t care to be where I was so I got into one of my head-down hiking modes and began my march madness. “This isn’t what hiking should be about,” I told myself, knowing damn well that hiking has no guidelines, no rule book. But yet I kept at it. Left, right, left, right.
Then, as I clambered around a disconcertingly precarious rock formation, I emerged upon a small grassy clearing. There before me stood, though barely, a newborn fawn. It had to have been a day old at the oldest and was as adorable as anything I’d ever seen. (No, I’m not gay.) Mom stood nearby, safeguarding and keeping and a close eye on me, prepared to defend baby Bambi if it came to it. I retreated and let them be as they were, just mother and child in a beautiful, boundless world. I didn’t snap a picture for I didn’t dare ruin the moment. I simply thanked The Big Cheese Above for creating such ridiculously cute creatures and enabling me to witness them in their docile domain. It was perfect.
Then again if Chuckie doesn’t float your boat, there’s always Rolling Thunder, who found himself among the teeming throng at Yosemite Valley.
And what a hub, with the result that it was the crowds that had a much bigger impact than the incredible scenery.
A common trait reoported among PCT hikers is to struggle with crowds after so long on the isolated trail but here it was just manic.
And it was ordinary America in a way we hadn’t seen for a long time. In Mammoth and most of the other mountain centres, there was a gross national fitness much higher than the norm.
But here there were the archetypal obese Americans, wearing matching leisurewear and every one wielding a digital camera. I felt like one of those African warriors brought down to Nairobi for tourist photos.
The sense of being overwhelmed was fortunately subsumed by the list of town chores: food, post office, laundry etc.
It was standing in line for one of the chores that a freshly laundered woman said: “You look like a you’re hiking a long way.”
“We’ve come from Mexico on the Pacific Crest Trail,” I replied without the usual enthusiasm for the answer, because I suspected she’d have been equally impressed if I’d walked from the day-use car park.
“The Pacific Coast Trail,” she replied. “Imagine that.”
And I don’t think she could.
Rolling Thunder is a New Zealand newspaper reporter taking a leave of, uh, absence (I was tempted say “his senses”). As a professional courtesy shown only to members of the hiking fraternity, I have refrained from correcting his grammar (which, actually, doesn’t need much correcting. They must have good colleges down there).