I know, I know- “Buckeye and Bodie” sounds like the newest up and coming Nashville Twangsters. But, it’s not. It is the succinct description of this last weekend. Wanting to take the new bionic eyes out for a test spin around the eastern Sierra, I split my time between Buckeye Meadows and the very western ghost town of Bodie, California.
It was a dry winter in the Sierras, the snow fall measuring just 33% of normal. That lack of moisture is painfully obvious at Buckeye Meadows. When I was there last year in the month of June it was soggy, and the waters were fairly high in the creeks. Now in May, it feels like the first of July. Things are dry. For people like me who treasure the backcountry and the higher elevations of the Sierras, this means more places can be gone to earlier, because the snow that blocks the crucial passes will be gone sooner rather that later. But there are downsides- one is there will be more human/bear interaction. The bears’ food supply will not be as abundant with the below average moisture. Therefore the other option on the menu is human’s food. They realllly like this option, are extremely clever and sometimes aggressive in going after it when the hiker does not store his food properly. Fortunately on this early trip I did not see any bears although I can proudly report if I had, it would have been with alarming clarity ( thank you Drs. Chaffen and Lyons). Sadly, the wildflowers most likely won’t see a stellar year and the fire danger will be extreme everywhere. H2O is the matrix of life in the physical realm. It has consequences on the plus and minus side.
There were a few other reason for this weekend jaunt besides giving the eyes a workout. I wanted to test out my aging knee on an extended hike ( while carrying moderate weight) and also test my equally aging sleeping bag at cooler temperatures to see if it still is serviceable in the great outdoors. We are talking a good quality but fifteen year old sleeping bag. Remember, I have been in Hawaii for almost eight years and the bag had a lot of miles on it before it was retired prior to Aloha. The knee is obviously much older but I have been working on it to keep the snarky tendons more compliant and in a less whiny mood. Alas, after meditating for almost forty years, this is the first year I have had to abandon the half lotus and sit in a chair. Age keeps us humble. Still, I would like to employ Mr. Knee this year on some backpacking trips so it was time for a lightweight trial run.
It is still early in the upper elevations of the Sierra Nevada Range. In the valleys around 4- 5,000 feet the cottonwood trees and even the aspen trees are leafing out. But above that, they are still getting ready to get ready. Green is not go quite yet. Nonetheless the quality of the light and air is wonderfully vibrant and pregnant with the anticipation of summer.
Wearing a lightweight knee brace, a pack that one would use for a 2-3 day trip and basic supplies, ( all totaling around 18 lbs), I ended up going in about five miles. One essential part to this hike is navigating Beaverville. Beaverville is my name for the location where pine trees, meadow and ribbons of water all come together. There is an abundance of downed trees, beaver dams, creeks to be crossed, and mosquitoes to be ignored. The trail, which is obvious through the meadow, get’s lost in Beaverville. Keeping in mind I hope to come this way again with a heavier pack and grander backcountry goals, I wanted to make sure just where the hell the best place was to negotiate this part of the trip. Long story, short, the drier conditions made the path quite obvious so I continued through and around Beaverville to upper Buckeye Meadows and called it quits just prior to the Roughs. This is where tiring legs, fading light and five miles of return hiking said it was time to go back to Buckeye Creek and the five-star North Face Hotel. But Lord, it was so hard to turn around.
Thanks to the knee brace, and the wisdom that comes with age, I plodded ( not raced) back to camp. It didn’t take long to set up the tent, do some stretching, eat and get in some reading before the day gave way to dusk, dropping temperatures and dreams of playful bears nibbling on my head during the full moon. Thankfully the dream bears went away early on and a decent night’s sleep was had by all.
The test results? The good news is that although the knee was tired and tender at the end of ten miles, it was 100% the next day. But at 23 degrees, the old sleeping bag didn’t have what it takes anymore. Time to put it out to pasture. It will make a dandy comforter at home in the winter and that’s okay.
The next day I was up with the sun and off to Bodie, 26 miles away.
In the next LIP we’ll take a tour around one of the most intact ghost towns in the western United States.
Thanks for taking some LIP from me,
P.S. Click on the photos to enlarge them.