Going Out is Going In - Noel Russ
Our past 3 weeks were filled with anxiety as we waited on decisions that would define the coordinates of a giant 90 degree turn in the winding road we call “life”. As the 3rd week of white-knuckling came to an end, I decided we needed to get out of dodge...maybe a snowy mountain range and the smell of sagebrush will give us a new perspective – I thought – or maybe a night sleeping in 15 degree weather will. We left in the middle of the night, driving in silence as the “what ifs” filled empty space inside the van.
I know the roads of Alabama Hills like the back of my hand. I could drive them in my sleep. As we traced our way down the washboards, I rolled the windows down waking the big dog woke up – her nose rose into the air, sniffing wildly. We parked and quickly released the hounds – as they ran out into the ink black desert and we sat on stoop listening to the Great Horned Owls coo their interrogative calls through cracks in the granite hills. Then we went to bed.
Morning in the Hills is pure magic. I ritually park the van at an angle where we can get the clearest view of Mount Whitney from bed. Saturday greeted us with blue skies and balmy 40 degree weather. It felt like Spring - like we blasted 3 months into the future and could testify to its goodness. We drank coffee for 3 hours, and broke camp at noon. My best memories on the trail, and on the road, have been earmarked by mornings that drag on forever – to me, this is heaven.
We drove up the 395 with plans of snowshoeing out to hot springs that lie within the Long Valley Caldera. We assumed the barriers of snow, ice and wind would deter the adoring crowds from the Eastside’s geothermic sweethearts – but we were so wrong. So instead, we glided around the tundra with the dogs, until we got tired, and decided it was time to eat again.
Our favorite campsite on the Eastside, is not a campsite at all. It’s the dead end of an unmarked road that runs along some power lines and then makes a last ditch effort going west before running straight into a thicket of willows and sage. There’s a creek which runs alongside the north edge of our parking spot which supplies us with free water, and sound therapy. In the summer, this creek also supplies the entire Owen’s Valley with about 10000000 mosquitoes – or so it would seem in May.
Early evening fires are the runner’s up to long mornings in my camp book. They are often a luxury as most of our days end with chasing sunsets down the highway, and reaching camp after dark. We built a fire, strolled around the rabbit bush, and made raviolis while listening to Alton Ellis. We told each other stories of this same time, exactly 1 year ago, when we also camped at this spot. Recognizing we had journeyed 1 year into the future and could surely testify to its goodness.
12 hours after sundown we were welcomed into another day by our favorite mountains and a sense of hope which we found somewhere between the Whitney range and the snowy lowlands, below the humming power lines and over the clamoring of washboard roads. I don’t believe we find hope in the wild, but I believe that in the wild - we discover ourselves..and our hearts are the homes where hope lives. John Muir once said, “I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”