weekend encounters

So far, resting the ankle has not made life dull. On the contrary, it’s brought some rewarding and unexpected experiences. This weekend’s encounters included new and strange wildflowers, a bear, and a sort of underground superhero.

We started on Saturday by throwing some things in the car and going out to Fossil Falls, where I showed Ann how to set up a toprope anchor and belayed her while she worked on some crack problems. I knew I’d have a hard time resisting getting on the rope myself, so I pointedly left my rock shoes at home. It was a cool day for the desert (90s), but after a few hours we were ready to head for the mountains.


We went up Nine-mile Canyon, the same road we to took a few weeks ago to our Domelands outing. On that drive we saw vast fields of purple and yellow wildflowers, now they we transformed into more muted yellow lupine and scattered patches of Matalija poppies. The craziest flowers were the pictured snow plants, which we found higher up when we went looking for picnic spot. I don’t know how these things live, but they have no chlorophyll and tend to sprout up like mushrooms from the moist forest duff.

We were happily munching our picnic fare when Ann’s dog Jezzie perked up, then turned tail and ran a few steps, like she was looking for a place to hide. Ann had never seen Jezzie do anything but give chase to forest creatures, so she immediately started looking around for something unusual. It turned out to be good-sized black bear, just a few yards away. She alerted me. I stood up, raised my arms, and a loud noise rose up out of me. The bear took off, thundering through the woods raising clouds of dust. Jezzie was skittish and stayed very close to me for a good half hour after that.

After a very pleasant nap we started along many miles of picturesque, winding mountain roads to Ponderosa Lodge, where the Southern Sierra Climbers Association was hosting a slideshow by Herb Laeger. All I knew of Herb was that he is a climber respected by many of the locals I have climbed with. So I was expecting some nice slides featuring our local climbing crags, and was disappointed when Herb announced that show would be entirely about caving. But that only lasted a second. Soon we were completely absorbed in unbelievable pictures of alien-looking underground caverns and creatures from every corner of the world. The slides seemed packed with lifetimes worth of explorations. The adventures involved not just climbing but discoveries of all kinds: geological, cartograhical, historical, archaelogical, botanical, and biological. I have no idea how one man could do it all, much less pay for it, and Herb gave no clues. I feel like I’ve encountered a sort of superhero, and been left to wonder about the secret of his powers.

We found a secluded place to car camp, had breakfast with many climbers at the Lodge, and returned home. Ann made it back to Redlands to visit relatives, and I had a luxurious nap. I still want to climb, but I won’t knock the restful life just yet.

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