A Gathering of Friends
It was a perfect Saturday morning as the Lady and I walked away from camp before dawn.
We climbed the moraine. The eastern escarpment of the Sierra Nevada rose before us, not yet lit up by the first rays of a rising sun.
It was cold, 24°. Cold enough that our fleece hats were pulled down over our ears. The Lady had on her mittens. She loves mittens. The cold felt good on our faces, a promise of a coming winter. A beautiful expanse was all around us. This was enough for us. This was good enough; as I said, perfect. This was a moment we could spend the rest of our lives in.
The crunch of the season's first snow beneath our feet was icing on the cake. We were in a familiar place. It was a handy place, a good place. A place all the others knew, an easy place to gather.
Mono Lake was where it should be down below us. We could see it; the skies now clear of smoke from the season's wild land fires.
One of the best things in the world is feeling the sun’s first warmth on your face on a cold morning. This is something to live for.
We walked slowly and just let the day get on with its beginnings, the sun rising higher in the sky.
In the distance, below us, we could hear the voices of our friends – MarkBC, the Teds, the Barking Spiders, and the Lighthawks. We had gathered again in what seems to have become an annual event. We walked down and joined most of them on the view point below camp. Some had arrived late in the night. This was our first greeting in this perfect place on a perfect morning.
Well maybe not quite that perfect. MarkBC answered when I asked about the Spiders, I had noticed their absence on the point. “They are having trouble with propane. Everything lit this morning then went off. Then propane flowed from the unlit stove into the camper.”
“That explains the open door when its 24° outside,” I said.
Mark continued, “I lent them extra tools. If they can’t get it fixed, they may have to return home.”
After draining a bit of propane from a possibly overfilled tank – young kid filling it at our local gas station – everything was fine, disaster was averted, the early morning bird songs were again heard……………
I’m stretching it here and you know it. This was a cold fall morning, not springtime. At least there were the grating calls of recently gassed Clark’s Nutcrackers. Nutcrackers are abundant at Ted’s Dunderberg camp.
After a relaxing breakfast, lots of stories and getting reacquainted conversation, we decided to head over to Upper Summer Meadows for the day. We would also relocate to a new camp spot.
“How long do you think the idling engine will run on a full tank of gas?” I don’t know if I was asking anyone in particular. The group was gathering around our truck.
“Maybe as long as a couple days!” Tone, inflection, nice upbeat voice, I knew it was Barking Spider that answered. Everyone could tell from my body language when I lifted, actually attempted to lift, my door latch that the door was locked. This was met to be only a quick stop along Dunderberg Meadows Road to regroup. The Lady had dashed out her side for a quick pee break and had somehow pushed the lock rocker switch without either of us realizing it. This had never happened before. She returned. “Do you have your set of keys?” I asked.
“Sure, they’re in my coat pocket.”
“Your coat that’s on the front seat?”
We were traveling with a great group. MarkBC pulled out his tool box. Everybody put their minds to work. No one, even in jest, suggested a large rock. It was found that the Lady hadn’t completely closed the door. There was that little gap. That tiny space. Would it be enough?
Lighthawk retrieved the thin long stick he uses as a simple lock to keep his cabinets closed. Barking Spider fed it in as I pried the top of the door to widen the gap. We could not see the switch from our angle. From the driver’s side, others directed the stick toward its anxiously awaiting target. Too shallow of an angle. The point slipped off. “Duct tape! We need to make the tip sticky with duct tape.” I heard feet moving toward a supply cache. “Or maybe a longer stick! They put in fiber optics along this road last year. We should be able to find a survey stake left behind!” Mrs. Ted came back with a longer stick.
“Yes, I heard it click!”
“Will the door open?”
“Try the door!”
The door opened.
It had been only 15 minutes. “This was a great team building exercise!” someone said. “Yes, we have bonded as a group. We can solve problems!” The Lady and I felt so much better. We were traveling with a great group, a group that sees solving a problem as fun. I suspect that the ones photo documenting the event were a notch or two higher up on the fun meter.
We stopped along Dunderberg Meadows.
We developed the habit of an immediate key check.
This is what we had come together to enjoy.
We worked our way up to the end of the road into Upper Summer Meadow. After lunch we wandered.
A primitive road leads a short ways further up to a small piece of private property. It is a nice setting. We only looked about and were respectful that this is a private inholding.
The vistas were inspiring. The Lady watched deer below us.
Lighthawk worked the golden light.
Little Miss Callie enjoyed herself with exploration and play.
The remains of an old stamp mill lie below the compound.
The steam engine that powered it is partially buried in the collapsing rubble.
It had been a delightful and relaxing afternoon. The weather was perfect, cool and definitely fall like. We walked back down to our vehicles and we met Patrick and Carol, pvstoy on Wander the West. They had driven up to join us for the evening and overnight. Camp was back along Green Creek. Ted had already headed down. Was he up to something? Was Ted going to be Ted? He had mentioned “props” again and that he would be providing late afternoon hors d’oeuvres.
The Teds' truck was decorated.
There was evidence that Ted was around.
Italian music filled the evening air and the chef appeared.
The array of food was incredible. This was real style.
We ate our fill and thoroughly enjoyed Ted’s fun.
Dinner was capped off with one of MarkBC's famous walnut pies.
Dinner was capped off with one of MarkBC's famous walnut pies.
Patrick and Carol had a special treat for us when darkness came. First, the Lady and I got away together and walked up to Summer Meadow to watch the day’s ending.
When we returned a screen and projector were ready along with a laptop. Patrick and Carol are excellent nature photographers and have traveled worldwide. They shared their photography and adventures with us. It was a great evening and a real treat. This had turned out to be a very special gathering of friends.
MarkBC, the weatherman, told us the forecast was a chance of showers in the morning. Stars were out when I made a quick trip outside at 5:30. When I exited the camper a little later, bundled up and with the camera, snow was lightly falling.
With our mugs of hot coffee the Lady and I walked back up to Summer Meadow. The rising sun tried to break under the clouds and light up a small piece of Bridgeport Valley to the north.
Clouds engulfed the high peaks and the snowfall enhanced the desire for fall to turn to winter.
The rest of the group had another day and night to share. The Lady and I had to head back home. Hugs and handshakes and goodbyes and waves and we were on our way. We thank our friends for another very special fall gathering.
A post script – After diligently having a hide a key on all our prior vehicles and never using it, it was too easy to “never getting around to it.” Monday at noon I stopped by our small town hardware store. Dave and his wife run the place. We use to complain about the somewhat higher prices – “I’ve got to run over to ‘Holdup Hardware’” or “I’m making a trip over to ‘Costalot’” that is until gas prices climbed and time became more valuable to run down the hill. And, every real project takes a minimum of three trips to the hardware store, right? The business has grown and we’re seeing local folks employed.
I walked in and announced I needed a key made. The girl at the register was quick onto her radio, “Need a key made!” They love those radios. Dave was within sight doing inventory in an aisle. On the radio he announced he’ll take care of the key.
“Hey, Ski. What do you need?” he asked from across the room.
“You got ‘em trained on radio use, don’t ya Dave?”
“Yeah. We love these radios.”
“I need a key for my truck.”
He squinted his eyes and looked at me.
“Just for getting in the door,” I added.
“We can do that!”
He made the key. “Do you have the truck here?”
“I had to go to the post office so I got the truck.” In a small town it is required you add information about your day and events so it can be spread throughout the community.
“Try it.” Dave said as he handed me the key, still warm from its birthing.
I was right back in after trying it in my driver’s door. “Don’t open.”
“Really? Let me work on adjusting this cutter.”
After the adjustment and some recutting and a new second key, just to be sure, I returned from the second test. “Nope, neither of these keys opens the door.”
“What?” Dave’s brow was furrowed. His mind was working. He pointed at my key still in the cutting machine. “Does that key open the door?”
“Good question! I’ve never once opened the truck with a key. Always just push that little magic button.” I pointed toward my keys.
With all the keys, Dave and I were out in the parking lot. The driver’s door would not unlock with any of the keys. “Well, I’m feeling better!” Dave announced.
“I’m not.” It was my turn to think. “Let’s try ‘em in the passenger door.”
They worked. “Have you had the driver’s door lock changed?” Dave asked.
“Nope. We use the magic button……………………….but seems like when I was checking the carfax report prior to buying this truck, seems I remember it had been reprocessed once. Maybe the lock was punched out and just quickly replaced.”
“Could be it.” Dave nodded. “What are you going to do?”
“Open the passenger door with the spare key.”
I know it is only a matter of time before the Lady returns from Safeway and announces she was asked about our truck getting reprocessed.