Happy Thanksgiving to all from a California mountainside
By Don Quilici
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! While you are leisurely reading today’s Outdoors page and patiently waiting to eat a huge, mouth-watering, turkey dinner with all of the trimmings, Elaine and I are relaxing at our “cabin,” north of Portola, Calif.
We are there with my son Jim and daughter-in-law Kathi celebrating this year’s Thanksgiving holiday with a “small group” of close relatives.
And, when I say a small group of close relatives that is probably the biggest understatement of the year!
If everyone shows up, there will be a grand total of 17 of us.
Yep, 17 souls all crammed together into one cabin in the “boondocks.”
They will be there from Carson City (Elaine, Jim, Kathi, Kathi’s Mom Laurie and I), from Sacramento (Ryan and Charity Kacalek), from Redding (Barry, Teri, Bethany, Kelsey and Lindsey McGee), from Denver (Todd, Tamara, Micah and Shannon Currey) and from Greeley, Colo. (Elaine’s Mom, Mary).
But don’t worry, it’s not nearly as bad as it seems on the surface.
Our cabin is actually a very comfortable, brand-new, 2,000 square foot, two-story home, complete with city water, sewer, electricity and telephone.
It was built in 2002, high (elevation 6,000′) on a Northern California mountainside, with a fabulous view of the surrounding countryside.
We have all of the amenities found in a home, including a gas furnace, two full bathrooms (an absolute must for 17 people!); two bedrooms; kitchen with fully-stocked pantry, refrigerator/freezer/ice maker, gas stove/oven, microwave oven and dishwasher; a “large” room that has a dining area with dining table and chairs and a front room with couches, easy chairs, lamps, end tables, plus an entertainment center containing a television set with VHS and DVD players.
The main floor has floor-to-ceiling, Cathedral windows and two sliding doors that lead out to the deck.
The deck is 15 feet up in the air and is a great location from which to watch the many mule deer that come to visit us.
Upstairs, in addition to one of the bedrooms and bathroom, there is a large loft containing a Futon bed and my personal computer, customized for editing video from 8 mm video to DVD.
Downstairs, there is a full basement, where we have our clothes washer and dryer, furnace, electric water heater and tons of storage space.
That is our cabin and that is also my version of camping out, nowadays!
And, by way of reminiscing, “camping” at our cabin is one heck of a change from how I used to camp out in the old days.
For more years than I care to admit, I used to look forward to backpacking from late April to the end of October into many of the more remote and rugged areas of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Those areas stretched from Lake Tahoe all the way south to the Mt. Whitney area, near Lone Pine, California.
Together with my backpacking partners, I huffed and puffed, sweated, strained and slowly plodded, up and over high Trans-Sierra passes such as:
Bishop Pass, west and then south of Bishop.
Dorothy Pass on the boundary of the Hoover Wilderness Area and Yosemite National Park.
Mosquito Pass in the Desolation Wilderness Area on the southwest side of Lake Tahoe.
Mather Pass on the John Muir Trail, west and north of Taboose Pass.
Paiute Pass, west and then north of Bishop.
Pinchot Pass on the John Muir Trail, west and south of Taboose Pass.
Summit Pass in the Hoover Wilderness Area, west of the Bridgeport area.
Taboose Pass, west of Big Pine (I’ve climbed this 11,700′ pass a total of five different times through the years!).
Thunderbolt Pass (The highest pass (12,000+) that I’ve ever climbed), which lies at the base of North Palisade Peak, west of Bishop.
In addition, I’ve backpacked in:
The Desolation Wilderness Area.
The Emigrant Basin Wilderness Area.
The Hoover Wilderness Area.
The John Muir Wilderness Area.
The Mokelumne Wilderness Area.
Kings Canyon National Park.
Yosemite National Park.
On those countless backpack trips through the years, we carried our heavy backpacks for miles and miles to reach our destinations.
My longest trip was 10 days and we never got below 10,000′.
On another trip, we traveled a total of 50 miles at high altitude.
Once we would reach our destination for that particular trip, we would pitch our tarps or backpack tents and set up camp. Then, I would blow up my inflatable raft and we would fish for all kinds of trout such as cutthroat, golden, German brown, Kamloop and rainbow.
We cooked our meals over a small, smoky campfire/grill or on a very small backpacker gas stove (if there was no firewood in that area).
We would swat mosquitoes and flies and chase Blue Jays and field mice away from our food stash.
At night, we would listen to the coyotes, and then fall asleep in our down-filled sleeping bags, either under the tarps, in our small tents or under the stars (dependent on the weather!).
I’ve been badly sunburned, soaking wet from torrential rainstorms, hiked out in deep snow from a sudden snowstorm, battered by fierce winds, froze on frosty mornings, got hammered by hailstone storms and worried about being struck by lightning bolts during rainstorms.
So, yes, I will be “camping” today, but it sure will be a lot more fun than in the good, old days!
I’ll be “roughing it” at our cabin, with a large crowd of relatives, and I sincerely hope that you and yours have as much fun as we plan to have for this holiday.
Most importantly, take a moment, today, to be thankful for all of your blessings this year. I sure will!
• Bet Your Favorite Pigeon
Bet your favorite pigeon that he can’t tell you the name of the highest lake that I have ever fished.
If he grins and says, “It is Upper Striped Mountain Lake at 12,000+ feet in the John Muir Wilderness Area,” he could have been one of my backpack partners on that trip.
Note: We fished that lake the last week in August, that year, and it was still half-frozen from the previous winter!