Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Benton-saline safari: hot springs and dozers

more pix on picasa site:
terrysworld007.blogspot.com -

Saline valley pres day 2010

I spend a week alone after linda and cathy decided not to come, doing t guide, perfect day wed, ski to wild willys hot spring in sunset.

went to ridgecrest for major toms potluck, good times with saline crowd hang at the cinder cone,
visit sam and plot on the grand canyon trip in 2011.
Prep on Monday work out, food buy, lunch with mark, to town, j calls, comin in tmw,

We party down prep stuff, then watch road warrior on the big screen.

Interminable prep, forgot fireworks, Johnny and I take off at 10 am to bishop, shop vons and then off to big pine and up death valley road, still no snow on, into eureka valley, mud puddles, big rain here, workers on rd grading, up behind the dunes, and spot garbage mike In his big green truck headed to dedecker canyon and the staircase of rock. Mike is there, not sure, until we slide right up, then he builds roads and comes on later. J and I cruise, stop and pics, and talk, grind down on the pass road, dodging and hitting rocks all along the road.

Make camp at checker gulch, no one else around here. we eat turkey and j soaks I cruise in the camper. Sleep. Mike comes down late, and he makes it. Johnny up early, me coffee, then up to upper, Mike talks and we have a good time again.

Check out the lower, get a book, visit lee, no one here either, Mike arrives and shows me his new telescope, made from some lenses and a pop bottle. We banter and talk, just like old times, I am greatly relieved.

Lazy day snooze in the afternoon, mike comes down for dinner, stuck chuck brings his dogs, going berserk, we play guitar into the night. And see the lights coming down from s. pass. They progress to the lake and then stop. Whutzup? A big mystery. We crash without knowing but figuring something stopped them.

J does a foray to lee and finds the nps has been notified a bulldozer is blocking the road at the lake. Shit. We hang and finally a caravan comes in Oregon john leading the pack, he and jeanette are getting married at the lower at 3 pm. With beer tasting after, a gathering of the tribe. So we partake, cute ceremony. They had to move a 2 ton boulder and then dig out the bank so people could get past. Put there sometime between Sunday aft and Monday aft. Johnny is ragin: Who what where why, who coulda? Who woulda? Mebbe miners. Oh well. We are here and dint have to deal.

Another fine evening, playing guitar, fun songs, chuck strumming also, no dogs thank god.

Saturday: perfect blue day, 67 years young; golf game, major bkfst, sausage, bacon, eggs, underdone pancakes. Soak, at upper, good crowd. I repair to camp and bake cake, sleep a bit, then to ball field for text to judy, back in time to warm up meat and salmon for the potluck, great crowd, great party, Christine and long hug remembering turtle jim, friend who died last fall, icon of the valley. Maj tom and Carolyn, finally trail off to bed and tubs.

Sunday ball game another perfect day,I hang out and announce teams, sing anthem, red coat and uncle sam hat, good times. Potluck, huge crowd, good food, remember turtle jim (and at ball game). Crash in inyos truck, and drives me home to rest. Left mug there, search to no avail.

Monday, yet another perfect day, not a cloud, now planning to stay till Friday, then come home to Benton for terrence stamp and bubbly Julie. We pack up for a day trip to the bulldozer and to macevoy canyon across the valley, Mike wants to go too, immediately in pain and whining about his back and loud stereo, which he turns down. We put up with this until the main road, and I switch seats with him, and he is better. NEVER ride in a vehicle with mike again.

Bulldozer scene, huge rock moved by handyman jacks and Flipper pulled with his winch and power wagon. Up to the mouth of snowflake mine canyon on a rough rd, hang, roll rocks and kk and Johnny slide down a trof of slippery talc pieces. Bad road out to n. main rd, but eventually back to the springs to another Terry’s perpetual beans dinner with tritip chunks and Johnny’s potatoes, to sleep early, read new Ludlum book. And fade away.

Tuesday, Kk and inyo pack up after a long morning and I head down to the lower to find Tequila Pete of Maine and Missy, and Skip and Terry from Colorado with great hugs. Pete and Missy were stuck on the s pass in the snow, got turned around, went to Ridgecrest and rented a 4 wd truck, come in over steel pass last night, ready to party. I settle into Colorado camp, skip and Terry, and the ft Collins crowd, Dt carving another face on a root, Skip cooking up a storm, waffle iron at the ready. Timbo gone back to work in Lancaster, 4 years from retirement, but having a good time at boeing. Kk and inyo come by to give goodbyes, and are off to women and babys over steel pass. I do a soak-nap-soak in wizard pool, and news of potluck at skip and terrys, so I prep for that. Visit major tom’s camp, with Carolyn, and buy a beautiful photo of the Inyo front from the wizard pool for my photo bank. We confab about the grand permit, and agree. Potluck steak bbq at skips, with a goodly crowd, record some outrageous conversations; mike lurking in the shadows. Getting ready to leave tmw. Get severely chastised for farting in the general vicinity of Terry. Double shots of tequila going around, I take a nip and head to bed.

Up early with the sun hitting camp at 730 am, another shitty day in paradise, clear as a bell, Johnny makes more salmon scrambled eggs for a grate bkfst. G mike has his and fades off into Lippencott land to escape the valley, headed for a desert survivors hike and campout near niland, socal east desert. J and I prep for hiking and head to the Black mt. Loop trail, rising steadily above the valleys, jets roaring by beneath us, grey darts zooming past the springs. At the music rocks and telephone ridge, I fire up the iPhone and get Judy up from a nap, have a short conversation before being cut off by the poor att reception. Hot up there, I take a snooze and j does also, then he goes long way around, through the canyon, and I kick back, talk to Little Linda, she has been at the house in Benton, leaving already for Kelso, and head back to camp for another snooze, and then upper soak, good conversation with neighbors with starlight camper up the gully. Back to camp, cut up the rest of the meet for a final go at tpbeans, thinking about leaving tmw, but the weather is so perfect the water is hot and friends are still here. What more do you need? Heat up the pot over the fire and Johnny arrives with a bottle of wine and we partake of the juice of the gods. I crash and think this is not a bad way to spend another day, so maybe ill stay.

Up to another clear blubird day,coffee ritual, j makes oatmeal and blubs and we settle in for another day. I write, he rides to the lower to do dishes, he fell off his bike yesterday, with a beer in one hand and hurt his shoulder, and is hurting, not leaving today, and neither am i. Ha ha haaaaaa.

Soak the upper, more new people, old Gif here for 2 weeks with great conversations about desert doins, and people. More tales, Major tom got turned around on south pass, high centered on snow, had to dig out and beat a retreat to Lippencott rd, passing g mike on both the valley road and Lippencott. Skip had eggs bene for all, I missed it, will be there tmw for waffles, he makes great ones. Cruise the camps, no one new that I know, talk to rob and dawn with another poptop next door, and he comes for a visit and a rundown of my camper setup. This takes about an hour and repeats itself every trip. People love talking about campers, comfort and little tricks we have learned. The solar cell is always a hit, and Im playing music on the stereo, charging the computer and batteries all at once. The new deep cycle batt is helping a lot with the depth of charge.

J and I fix another major meal, down a bottle of cab syrah and watch the darkness gather, punctuated by a fingernail moon high above with promise of more to come. Fighter jets rumble by high in the sky, a constant reminder of wars happening. Daytime flybys are deafening, with ears plugged as they scream 200 feet overhead, helmets visible, bristling with armament, bound for where men win glory.

We pack up more wine and treats and debark for evenings activities. No community fires happening, so we enter Pete’s sphere, a group of 10 revelers, playing guitars, partying, passing the lung, drinking tequila and micro brew from ft Collins, colo. They are a great group from all over, Pete and Missy from Maine with DK and Robin, other colo people, us from calif, Dave from bishop, all out for a good time and challenging survival in the deserts of the west. I fade and head for home, reading a bit, then fading off into dreamland with the brays of burros and the crys of coyotes echoing in the canyons.

Up again to a fuzzy day, high clouds, word of weather coming in, but Johnny is gonna hold tight, hes determined to spend 2 weeks here, and has a good start. I m leaving after 9 days, that’s good for me. And James and Julia are planning to arrive tonite in Benton. I putter, put things away slowly, eat more tpbeans now a stoop, and chip away at the job of packing. Finally off, with warm goodbyes with Johnny, my desert compadre.

To the lower for farewells and a skip waffle, 20 to them for food and beer, and to Lee for campground host payment. Now off up the hot dusty road to Steel pass, stopping for pix and pee and vistas, all great. No problems on the staircase, measure width to tell people how tight it is. We have conversations at the dunes about the road, and the road ahead, finally over the pass to Bishop, Vons and home for more fun times.

Copright 2010 Terry Wright 1832 words

Monday, February 1, 2010

Fish Lake Valley incedent

Fish lake valley hot springs incident.

Another perfect bluebird east Sierra day, sunday, a day for puttering and then time for an excursion into the vast outback of the northern white mts, encircled by white streaked peaks and promise of adventure, people, hot springs, to see god.

But first things need fixing, the bolt on the negative lead on the battery of the venerable 88 tacoma has broken off. I made a special trip to Bert’s garage and fixit shop on the highway north of town. He shambled out from the front seat of his office, the beaten up pickup, with xm radio, where he presides over his kingdom, 3 acres of cars, parts and other junk, to some, to him, history. Banter first, leading into the real reason for my visit, the battery connection. I had jury rigged the ground when the bolt broke with a hose clamp, but I had to take it off every time I jumped Win’s truck, or the landcruiser huddled in the shelter of the old trailer mitch had given me for a bag of weed and gas money to haul it down from Carson city. His verdict was simple, replace the broken bolt with a new one after prying the mess apart, which he started to do with his knife, but stopped in time so I could get home and finish the job myself.

Anyway, I pop the hood, dig around in the tool box and found some bolt packs, ready made from the hardware, selected something that looked the right size and stick it into the hole I had vacated by prying the old bolt loose and send it flying to a snowy grave. The new bolt in place, all set, but I find the hose clamp is still in the loop, so I end up undoing everything and slipping the clamp over all the important parts that belonged there, and refastening the nut, and another nut to the bolt end, securing the ground forever. Cranking down on the screw end, thoughtfully oriented so I could get the screwdriver to it and 2 nuts on the other end made the whole rig bombproof.

Now what? Too good a day to waste, suddenly the whirling entities of fluid logistics packets aligned and said Fish Lake Valley, Mary Ahnger, warm weather , old friends and locals at the hot springs bubbling at 102 degrees, always an adventure. Prep takes a while and im outta there later than I thought: 2:30, but I realize the truck clock has been changed by the absence of battery, look at the iphone, more like 2 pm, now im happy.

Now for Mary, facebook has her number, but no response. I down a bowl of Terrys perpetual stoop, the latest incarnation of a smoked turkey from the freezer and the contents of the frig and bean suppository.
Finally gas up at the corner and head up the hill, Montgomery pass, with the buttress of Mt Montgomery rearing its head to the south streaked with snow gullies like spiderwebs across the bare rock..

Grind up to the pass, over into Nevada and down the grade into no man’s land, a monster wildness of mountains, fans, valleys, time to space out. I take the turn onto 256 into Fish Lake and stop to photograph the glistening ridges in the sun, punctuated by sage poking through the blanket of snow. Drive slowly past a grazing herd of wild horses, looking fat and happy. Mellow out and head into the valley, finding the hot springs road on the left past the mine yard full of equipment. It is 50 mph dirt rd winding into the wilds of desolate desertdom. I hold it down and finally round the corner to see the springs and a trailer, and a gaggle of locals, kids splashing and big guys drinking cheap beer. OK whats this gonna be like? I’ve dealt with locals before, but never this crowd, by reputation a rough bunch, isolated from the real world.

We start talking. “hows the water?” to a bald older dude, tattooed arms blue sunglasses, “just fine, warm as always”. The others turn and sense my presence, I fall into the conversation, beautiful day etc. Younger bald dude talks about the area, I say “didn’t they dig some geothermal wells just over here?”. He sparks “yeah, and I worked on two of them, on the floor, running the prongs that lift the pipe, and the other guy ran the chain, that was dangerous work. We went down 5 miles into the earth,that’s a lotta pipe hauling”. “I’m a geologist, I’ve been on many rigs. “ He grabs my hand in a firm shake, “ya in the day, I was the main man on the rig, Halliburton ran the show”. “We geologists love you guys, you bring the stuff to us we cant see any other way.” We are instant friends. I see that I would be welcome in the tub scene, only kids in there now, with bathing suits on. I had anticipated this and repaired to the pickup and put on my trunks, grabbed my chair and a plastic goblet of wine, and entered the fray.

A big round Indian looking guy with a badly beaten up face, black right eye, lacerations on the left cheek, and very drunk, approaches me, and starts talking. “Are you looking at my face?” shit I’d better be careful, sounds like a volatile dude, and drunk at that. “How can I help looking at your face?” . I grab his shoulder in a friendly gesture and he smiles, just bsing me, oh well, I’m as good a bullshitter as the best of them, a match has been made. “Joe is mine, goodta meetcha”. “Terry is mine, I live over the mountain in Benton” waving at the long ridge of the northern Whites. Nods all around hes a local, “ya we know Benton, go through it on the way to bishop, the nearest big town.”

A large lady with the roughneck, “I’m from Minnesota, visiting, its different up there, down to minus 70, winds from the north, freezing pee before it hits the ground.” “My woman friend lives in Tulsa, she’s in the middle of an ice storm, the whole city is shut down” my rejoinder, it strikes a chord, and stories of cold start flowing back and forth.

We talk about the land, I mention the sump, and theyve all been there. Young baldie starts in " thousands of years ago the natives here used to drive mastadons and other game off those cliffs, main course at a mastadon bbq." "wow" I come back " can you imagine a monster beast bbq with hundreds of starving people around buiding a big fire and roasting it, chopping off steaks as they get done." All think about that and many grins come out. I can visualize with the best of them and they know that.

I descend the newly repaired ladder into the warm tank, and relish the penetrating heat, buffeted by bouncing kids, chattering, but mellow. A boy about 6 jumps in and out in his underpants, and an older girl finally hauls him off.

Another woman is drunk too, with 2 red haired girls, babbling about nonsense. The kids are running around. I complement one on her necklace, and she proudly shows it off, she made it. She asks about my necklaces, and I tell the story of the split twig figurine, 4000 years old evidence of man in the Grand Canyon, and the Alaska killer whale symbol of the Tatshenshini, they are all listening.

Talk turns to birds; several are poking around the edge of the pond. “Mudhens, that’s what they are called they taste like mud, bottom feeders all” Joe pontificates about the birds. “In Minnesota, we have loons” the large woman shakes her body and a cross on a chain bounces on her breasts. “I used to live in Maine” I rejoin”I found out how to cook a loon. The way you cook a loon is to put a loon and a rock in a pot and boil it until you can stick a fork in the rock, then you throw away the loon and eat the rock” to great guffaws all around. I love these people, living on the edge of civilization, on the edge of everything moral, physical and mental.

I check out the latrine, a concrete shithouse, park service type, then change out of my now cold skivvies and return to a monster fire in the making, of railroad ties, black smoke, looks like they are in for the duration. I listen to the fire talk, the women have disappeared into the trailer, and the men are having men talk. Time to take off, sun getting low on the high ridge of the White mountains to the west, streaks of light emanating from puffy clouds, and high cirrus in the west, a portent of things to come weatherwise.

Goodbyes all around, see ya laters and good feelings as I drive off into the sunset, over the pass, thru the bug station, eliza with her goggle dark glasses wishing me a good day, and home to the double wide to sip whiskey accompanied by the fading of the light on the monster view of my White mountains

1446 words, Copyright 2010 Terry Wright.