High Point Hobknobbing

On October 5, 2009, in Environmental Ethics, Lifestyle, Nature, by Meghan

I can’t help myself, I am drawn to the earth’s high places. While I do care for the lil’ details, I prefer to big-picture conceptualize. Up there on high points, the world is an open book that lets me envision and learn on, boundary-less.

Yesterday, today, tomorrow, and days yet to be invented in my life are dreamily splayed out on pika-strewn outcrops and lightning-singed juniper tree tops. Looking down from up high, geology is no guessing game as mountains, valleys, and crystal-ly minerals are identity-labeled, textbook-like. From perch-y peaks, one cannot miss the trauma that humanity has inflicted on its home, like the gray, 3000 foot thick lower atmospheric pollution layer and the water-devoid Owens Valley. Tundra tip toeing reminds you of your smallness, gives you humility, shows you that the world underfoot is way more important than you will ever be.

My granite-slab campsite in the shadow of Mount Hoffman

I spent 30 minutes trying to find a soft spot for my tent on this granite ridge near May Lake in Yosemite National Park, underneath my next morning’s destination, Mount Hoffman. I should have known, though, that when I lay down for the night, the granite would cradle my back like no spring-ed mattress could. Nature has a funny way of providing unexpected, genuine comfort.

Glacially-carved granite makes a nice backdrop from the Mount Hoffman summit.

The implausibility of ice’s ability to break, push, and blender-pulverize rock yields to on-site understanding of glacial omnipotence after running one’s hands along the barren, glacier-polished granite of the 10800 foot Mount Hoffman. I decide up there that the “rock, paper, scissors” game needs a new, trumping player, ice.

Self-portrait on Mount Hoffman's summit

High points allow you look memory right in the brick-wall face, for better or worse. Yosemite’s Ten Lakes hide in the valley behind me, and I spend my Mount Hoffman summit time reflecting upon on the small miracle that occurred there about a year ago, changing every day of my life since.

The view looking into Yosemite Valley from the summit of Clouds Rest

A week later, I assaulted the 9930 foot summit of Clouds Rest, a perpetual lip of Tenaya Canyon that many days keeps clouds canyon-bound. On this day, the Clouds Rest view was controlled not by clouds, but by air pollution. Particulate matter lingering in this wilderness area’s air comes from hundreds, thousands of miles away and makes me red-faced furious. I think, “Kind people, stop being dumb and pretending the world is alright just because your home seems okay. We are so much more than just ourselves.” I remind myself the same and climb off this self-salvation mountaintop and back into my community.

The summit fin of Clouds Rest looks like a giant cairn to me!

From far off, Clouds Rest’s summit looks like a loping, lazy ridgeline. Upon arrival there, one learns that it is instead a seeming rock cairn created by giants. We humans place rock cairns or rock ducks to mark significant places or routes, and I can’t help but agree with whomever or whatever marked this place as important.

High Sierra fall colors

Fall in the soft, later afternoon sun is so freaking beautiful that one wants to roll in it, not ever leave it, become it. I spend so much time looking up that I often forget to look down at the details. This is one detail I’m glad I didn’t miss.

The talus slopes of Mount Dana are unyielding, challenging to climb.

Down the road a week or two, last minute inspiration diverted me to the hanging pendant of metamorphic rocks within the rest of the Sierra Nevada’s granitic batholith. That is, millions of years ago these country rocks were dragged, kicked, and mutilated by the intrusion of hot, high pressured magma into them. Then, some more millions of years later, they were pushed up sky high, where they would be exposed, draped, pendant-like atop the rest of the Sierra Nevada’s granite. In my simple mind’s humanitarian interpretation, Mother Nature kicked the shit out of this rock, then later felt bad and put it podium-high in apology.

The rough-edged view fro the summit of Mount Dana.

13061 foot tall Mount Dana sits at the top of this proverbial pendant, podium. The rocks there are rough, sharp, and unfriendly. People who get beat up, knocked down in life are often a little rough around the edges too, so I can empathize for Mount Dana.

On Mount Dana's summit, the sharp rocks make it a bit difficult to relax!

Yep, Owens Valley hasn’t much water, but what’s left of it in Mono Lake glows in showy-blue, as if in competition with the sky. I can’t help but marvel that, even when tempered by the creeping fingers of human extension, wild places somehow still survive. Up there, I lay on sharp rocks that poked into calves, thighs, spine. I covered my face from the intensity of the sun at that altitude. It would be a lying stretch to describe the summit of Mount Dana as a place that provides physical comfort, but I know without doubt that it yielded me comforts of other, less describable kinds.

Some people attempt hobknobbing with movie stars, the political elite, their god. My hobknobbing desires are simple: I seek the places where the earth meets the sky.

11 Responses to “High Point Hobknobbing”

  1. Danni says:

    So very awesome Meghan!

  2. Leslie's Keith says:


  3. TrailClown says:

    It's all about balance. It's just as important to be "grounded" as it is "ethereal". The metaphor of Earth meeting the sky is important and poignant. Wonderful post.

  4. RunnerinLV says:

    A very enlightening post Meghan, thank you. Your post reminds me of what a great country we do live in. We have all those places we can go in relative safety. Where I am right now, I have seen some amazing views and vistas, but it's in the middle of war torn country. Maybe someday, it will be safe enough to travel and hike. Meanwhile, I will live precariously through posts such as yours and create my list of places to go, and run, and admire when I get home.

  5. Backofpack says:

    Beautiful and beautifully written. Thank you Meghan.

  6. olga says:

    You are living life, girl:)

  7. Caroline, Boston MA says:

    Lovely post. Reminds me that I've been working too much and need to get up in the mountains. thanks!

  8. JeffO says:

    There are many people who are blind gluttons, who have never stood on a mountain and seen the brown-clouds. I've even had trail runners tell me that the brown-cloud in Colorado's San Juans did NOT float all the way from LA and LV, yet they show it in satellite images. Denial.
    But the biggest problem isn't caused by anyone specifically you can point fingers at. There's just too many of us. Way, way too many of us. And the population is still growing exponentially.

    That's why I appreciate what we have now even more. I think what it'll be like 30 years from now. Today, things are more beautiful than they will ever be again.

  9. olga says:

    I am drawn to high points as well, and that's a downfall of living in TX…big one:)

  10. Sunshine Girl says:

    This is such a pretty post, I had to read it twice! What small miracle happened on Mount Hoffman last year? Inquiring minds want to know!?! I'm glad you are back in computerland writing about your beautiful places.

  11. Paul Charteris says:

    Meghan's blog… where poetry and geology meets

    Wonderful stuff.

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