Buy the book on Amazon Kindle.
I had breakfast in the bright, log-laced cavern of the Awahnee dining room, seated at my lone table beside a horde of healthy-looking Irish redheads. After breakfast I returned to my room and packed up what little clothes I had brought with me. At three hundred bones, I would not be staying an additional night. I drove back out the valley, the Cathedral Spires to my left. I stopped by Glacier Point, with its spectacular views, but found mostly annoying tourists. No inspiration whatsoever. I kept on.
Five miles down the road, I spotted some serious backpackers getting ready at a trailhead and pulled in to see where they were going. The sign read Mono Meadow Trail. I grabbed my water bottle and tailed off after them, cutting through the dust still floating in their wake. The trail is a straight, even shot through pine woods and thence to the meadow. Most of the meadow section is underwater, this being the beginning of the spring melt. There are plenty of overwater boards and logs, though, so I don’t get wet till ten feet from the stinking ending, when I try to jump from the end of a log and land with a splotch on a muddy bank, pasting it like modeler’s clay along the sides of my tennies.
Just past the meadow are woods burnt out from a year-old fire. Small saplings and grasses are starting to grow back, but most of the landscape is covered with charcoaled logs and spikes of branches arcing upward in throes of hot death. I traverse the flat top of a long boulder, pass through another wood, and come out on a wide, rushing river. I fill my water back to the brim and struggle through pile after pile of river rocks, smooth orbs of granite ground down to perfection, bejeweled with flecks of quartz winking in the sun.
I stop at a trio of large rocks, set in a perfect triangle, its sides ten feet long. At the very center of the triangle is a flat square of rock, marked with the footstep of a hiker. I pry it loose and find, underneath, a rock as perfectly spherical as a rock can be. It settles into the pocket of my palm like a baseball. It’s a light granite, gray with flecks of black and white. I give it a little toss; it smacks back down in my hand. I take it and hop back onto the trail.
I drove out of Yosemite to a national forest campsite called Big Sandy and built a fire as I watched the pines shoot their silhouettes against the dying light. When the wood drew down to coals, I cleared out my back seat for a good long sleep, my round rock nestled into the square of my beverage holder, just behind the gear shift. Tomorrow, I would head north.
Photo by MJV