Travel Reflections: John Muir’s Sierra “Range of Light”
Every fall I take a vicarious backpacking adventure into California’s high Sierras with my husband and a group of buddies who’ve been making the annual trek into what writer and environmentalist John Muir called “the Range of Light” for almost a decade. They train with climbs up nearby Southern California mountains and then spend weeks planning what food and gear to take–restocking, replacing and repairing in readiness for the big expedition. Leaving in late September or early October, they take advantage of fall’s usually still-warm and exceptionally clear days to climb mountains with elevations from 11,000-14,000-feet (3,000-4,000 meters), risking early snowstorms.
While his photos, like these from his hike this month through Onion Valley and Kearsarge Pass, let me glimpse places I’d love to explore, I’m happy to leave the heavy lifting to him.I gave up backpacking myself long ago, after suffering through a grueling few days with a leader apparently hell-bent on beating a personal record. A sore and gimpy right knee (never the same after two skiing accidents and surgeries) and blisters from newish boots left me unable to appreciate the stark panorama of boulder fields, pines and high lakes along the trail through Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Pass. The other groups on our bus later joked that we had been led on the Bantu Death March. That trip certainly marked the death of whatever lingering desire I had for kamikaze-style adventures. While I still hike and ski, I’ve lost my risk-taking predilection for backpacking trips and slalom courses. When it comes to hiking, I’m more inclined to saunter in the way John Muir described it:
~ John Muir, quoted by Albert Palmer in A Parable of Sauntering