Monday, January 16, 2017

Freedom Trails

* * *

I got to the Pantoll gate much earlier than usual, around 6:45, and was surprised to find four cars already waiting at the gate. The first two idled their engines, spewing exhaust fumes, until the ranger showed up just after 7 o'clock (two more cars had shown up by then), and the second guy even kept his headlights on. Go nature lovers!

Pam and I went to the De Young Museum yesterday where we breezed through the wild and colorful Frank Stella show. I kinda liked Stella's later sculptures, but I found more inspiration in another part of the museum with the Danny Lyon photo exhibit--black-and-white shots of bikers and prisoners and everyday poor people from the 60s. The exhibit is called "Message to the Future," and as I looked at the images and thought about Martin Luther King, Jr., whose life we celebrate today, it did not seem like the message has really gotten through. The last 50 years of progress toward all Americans living in a land of opportunity has been incremental in but a minuscule way.

I think Dr. King would have felt the same exaltation that I felt this morning among the waterfalls, tall trees, steep fern glens and mossy boulders--assuming he could have given himself over to a moment of freedom from the important work he gave his life for. I feel blessed to be able to drive up to Mt. Tam and get nature's glad tidings, and that I am privileged not to have inflicted upon me the intolerable weight of oppression, ignorance and inhumanity that so many suffer all their lives, a heroic weight that Dr. King carried for so many as his sacred duty.

When I think about how little has changed in my country's treatment of black people and others who have been oppressed and scapegoated during my lifetime, I know there's still a long road of struggle for civil rights, and also for the right of current and future generations to clean air and water, and to having someplace close to home where wild nature can be encountered, where one's spirit can be renewed in the guileless authenticity of uncivilized creation.

I almost forgot to look for them.

The grotto of fetid adder's tongues was my last stop along Cataract Creek before heading back up to my car which was parked in the pull-out above Laurel Dell (the West Ridgecrest gate was already open first thing in the morning). I met a guy near the top who was walking with his dog down the fire road who told me he'd just seen a bear cub run across the road in front of him. He said he waited for the mama bear but she never came. I'm sure my eyes must have widened as I told him that would be a very unusual sighting. Very unusual. I know they've had the rare bear sighting up at Pt. Reyes, so I figured it could be possible, but of course I had my doubts.

I drove north to where he'd seen his animal, thinking it must have been a bobcat, coyote or even a turkey, but I had put my long lens on just in case. Fog blew over the ridge from the northeast which made for some nice God beams in the woods.

I roamed around without seeing any animals, although a raven high in a redwood tree was carrying out a lengthy soliloquy that I could not fathom. Maybe it was telling an old story about when black bears had freedom to roam in these parts. 

It's been a while since I've even seen a buck deer on the mountain. I did see a coyote on the road on the way up, just a ways before the Mountain Home Inn. A couple of deer also stood in the road until I slowed nearly to a stop just a few feet away from them as they stared at my car. Then one bolted stage left, the other stage right.

* * *