Saturday, 16 May 2009


FOUR HAPPY THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT MOUNTAIN PASSES I needed a cool Shangrila because Colusa, Ca suddenly got hot. The West is blessed with hundreds of them. AND I KNOW WHERE THEY ARE!

Consulting the road map, I spotted the nearest one 45 miles away on hwy 20. Though I've never been there, I know approximately what is there:

I know there is a mountain pass (the high point where a highway crosses a mountain) because the map shows wiggly lines through a mountainous area. So I crank up and go .--what splendid freedom, and when I arrive: BINGO! There's my pass. And AAAAAAHHHHH it IS cool (in both senses of the word) as I knew it would be, because as one gains altitude, the temperature drops by about 4 degrees per thousand feet. I estimated it would be about 15 degrees cooler here.

And I knew there would be a side road at the pass leading into the mountains. BINGO again! There it was. (It is the logical starting point for mountain access.) I have camped a hundred nights or more at mountain passes. Never have I seen one where you could not camp.

AND I knew that out that road from the pass, within a mile (usually) WOULD BE A WIDE FLAT PLACE--------WITH A NICE VIEW-----WHERE ONE CAN CAMP-----FOR FREE.

(I've learned that road builders need these as staging areas for their equipment)

But this day I traveled on, Up and into the mountains, hoping for an 8 star campsite: (flat, free, cool, beautiful, quiet, with TV, phone and internet access) I settled for 6 out of eight---still qualifies as Shangrila in my mind.

After I'm settled and tuned in, I walk my domain letting it tell me its tales. The story here jumps out at me: At this very spot a raging wildfire was halted by a bulldozer's fire break.
Note my trailer in the distance. A long and dramatic battle line. Sometimes it held, sometimes not.

I walked among the casulties noting this sizable tree extinguished in bare seconds. Joan of Arc would have wished to go so quickly. The vegetation that escaped the fire is incredibly dense. when dry and stoked by Santa Ana winds I can now envision a 40 mph fire.
Here's a horror story I walked up on and one you'll have to google to appreciate. This orange stuff is a spindly vine parasite called dodder: the only known plant that finds its victim by smell. What's it doing in Shangrila? It's killing things, like the fire killed things---being a part of the cosmic drama. I remind myself not to judge it. Do I want a world without killing? No, I think I want a world that wakes up my senses.
And then I did something I've never done before: I cut my own hair and photographed the results for you. Nothing to do with Shangrila--just had a weird moment.

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