Friday, August 17, 2018

Photo Friday: Into the Kaweah Basin

Part II: Shepherd Pass to the mid-Kaweah Basin

Last week, I shared the beginning of our 9-day backpacking trip into the Kaweah Basin in Sequoia NP. This week, I'll take us into the middle of the trip, and the middle of the basin. Give me a couple more weeks to get through the trip, because the scenery was amazing, and it's hard to pick just a few photos to share here.

Day 2

We left off in the middle of the second day of the trip, as we entered the National Park at 12,000' Shepherd Pass.
Descending from the pass. It's a broad, very gently sloping valley, in sharp contrast to the east side of the pass.
Still dropping from the pass. We have to descend to the confluence of the deep valleys in the center of the photo, then climb up the valley to the right, and up to the basin below the dark peaks.

We found more than one old cabin, probably reminders that before the area was a National Park, miners and sheep herders wandered everywhere. This cabin had a new door with new hinges, and we wondered if the Park Service used it in some way. We initially camped next to the cabin, as it was starting to rain fairly heavily. It was a poor site, with no views and no breeze, meaning plenty of mosquitoes.

After the rain ended, we went for a little walk and found this spot only a couple of minutes away. With views and an open field and few mosquitoes (at least until after sundown), we decided it was worth the effort of moving our camp.

Day 3

Our camp was located on the unmaintained Tyndall Creek trail, a direct route between the PCT/John Muir Trails and the Kern River. In the morning we continued the descent. The trail was pretty easy to follow, but the final descent was definitely steep.
We have to drop to the bottom of the valley, then keep dropping before we can start climbing again.
The Kern River trail wasn't exactly a heavily-used route, and we had to hunt a bit to find a safe (or at least dry) crossing of Tyndall Creek (of which more in a future installment).
The Spouse makes good use of his longer legs and agility.
By late morning we hit our low point (aside from the trailhead), about 8000' at Junction Meadows on the Kern River. At this point it's a beautiful, clear, slow-moving river, though not far upstream it was raging in the canyon far below the trail.
Collecting water. We have a good climb ahead of us, around 1500' before we have hopes of a camp.
Before beginning the hot climb up the Kern-Kaweah River we had to cross the Kern. Fortunately, the trail goes through an avalanche zone where the river is braided into at least 3 streams, and though changing our shoes was minor hassle, the water felt great on our feet and didn't wet us above the knees.
Note the jumbled broken trees from last winter's avalanches.
We went too far looking for the perfect spot, and had to backtrack a quarter mile to find a perch with room for our tent above "Rockslide Lake" in the narrow canyon. In the morning we'll cross the stream and make our way up a side canyon into the Kaweah Basin. Meanwhile, I always enjoy a room with a view.

An important part of our afternoon ritual on arriving in camp is the bath and laundry. Unless air and water are both icy, we go for full immersion whenever possible.
This water was just far enough from the snowfields to be more refreshing than painful, though we didn't linger.

Day 4: Into the Basin

The next morning we began the climb up the unnamed creek that drains the Kaweah Basin (we called it Kaweah Creek, but it is not to be confused with the Kaweah River, which runs on the west side of the range, or the Kern-Kaweah River, which ran down from Colby Pass and which we crossed to being our climb).
The way looked daunting from below, but as promised, very easy route-finding kept it a Class II hike--no hands required.
It only took an hour or so to reach the first lake on the way into the basin, but we knew we wouldn't really be there until we crossed the rim by the waterfall.
Studying the options. We ended up in the willows, which wasn't brilliant.
Topped out the waterfall, and we knew we had arrived. We still had a fair way to go to get to the heart of the basin, but this spot was so perfect we had to stop and absorb it for a while.
I was absorbing a snack as well as the view, while the occasional mosquito absorbed some of me.
By the time we reached the general area where we wanted to stop, it was getting urgent to make camp. The light afternoon rains of the previous two days were clearly going to give way to a more serious thunderstorm. We managed to get our baths just in time to dive into the tent as the storm hit, the first of 4 consecutive afternoons where we got hailed on.
Typical camp. Tent, clothesline, a bucket of water. And, in this case, my boots drying on a rock, because I'm not as agile as Dave is.
The author making a happy home.
After the storm, as it did every afternoon, the sun came out and the sky cleared (though each day it cleared later than the one before, so we didn't always get this lovely light). A little exploration revealed a tarn perfect for evening reflections.
On the left, Kaweah Peak, and in the middle, I believe it is Red Kaweah.
Next week, we'll delve into the heart of the Basin, climb to 12,800', and then begin the return journey.

Just to bend your brain a bit.

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2018
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

#WEP Challenge: Change of Heart 

 Write…Edit…Publish (WEP) is an online writing community now partnering with the Insecure Writers Support Group (IWSG). We post the third Wednesday of every second month. WEP challenges are open to all. 

I'm supposed to post my feedback preferences, but I'm not sure what to ask for... I'll learn as we go here, so for now I'll just ask for whatever reactions you had to the story.

Change of Heart

“There you go, Ma’am. There was a bit of nastiness, but it’s all clear now.” Jason tipped his hat to the absurdly grateful homeowner and collected his payment, smothering his smile until he was out of sight in his van. Then he allowed a broad grin to escape as he straightened the bills—more than he had asked for, no doubt as a token of her gratitude for cleaning up that “bit of nastiness”—and filed them in his wallet.

“The spirits won’t like you mocking them.”

Jason shook his head. He kept hearing Great-Aunt Mathilda’s voice. How had the old biddy known what he was up to, anyway? He shook his head harder as he continued hearing her warnings. The old lady was crazy. What she said about the spirits proved it. Who but a crazy old lady would believe the ghosts were real?

Your clients do, a part of him argued.

“Well, they’re all crazy, too! Or just plain fools.” Jason realized he was talking aloud to the empty van and started the engine. “Next appointment, Siri?” That was talking to someone who wasn’t there as well, but it wasn’t considered crazy.

“Spirit clearance at 89 Witmore Lane.” The slightly sexy, slightly mechanical voice halted. “You’d better be ready for this one.”

What the hell? That hadn’t been part of his memo. Siri mostly sounded human, but she wasn’t. She couldn’t do that.

Jason shook off another wave of—not guilt, because he’d long since made sure he had no conscience. A frisson of fear? Well, hardly. Jason wasn’t one to be afraid of things that didn’t exist. His only fear was that someone would decide that ghost clearances were illegal, or that one of his clients would realize he was a fraud, because there were no spirits.

He pulled away from the curb and followed Siri’s directions to 89 Witmore Lane.

“I am so glad to see you, young man.” The well-aged homeowner greeted Jason effusively. “The spirits have been getting so obstreperous of late, I really didn’t know what to do, until I saw your ad.”

Jason nodded solemnly.

“And you have all that modern, up-to-date equipment,” Mrs. Smith said, gazing admiringly from the device in his hands to his van.

Jason, who knew that behind the curtained windows and gaudy paint the van was an ordinary camper badly in need of some house-cleaning, shifted a little, smiled, and gestured with the complicated device he carried. It was, in fact, a completely inert sculpture he’d picked up at a fund-raiser for the local middle school art department, but it impressed the clients. There were lots of dials and little windows with needles behind them.

“I’ll just get started, then, Ma’am.” He began walking toward the stairs, his eyes on the dials, pointing the ‘sensor’ around him. He was pretty sure that sensor had started life as the spray hose from someone’s kitchen sink, but the artist had turned it into a listening snake. Jason wished he’d been the one with that artistic talent.

He was upstairs when he caught the first movement. Not something seen out of the corner of his eye slipping around a doorway, which had happened several times before and which Jason attributed to an over-active imagination (though he in fact lacked imagination, he was not aware of this shortcoming). The movement he saw was in the main dial of the ghost-o-meter, known to his clients as a “spiritual emanations detector.”

He took a second look, but the dial was inert, as always. Just to be sure, he shook the box a bit. The needle didn’t budge. He turned it over and checked the dials on the other side. No movement.

He turned it back over and resumed his “scan” of the room, and the needle jumped again.

“Dag-nabbit!” He practiced a kind of folksy clean-cut persona for the old ladies. They ate it up. Mrs. Smith wasn’t in the room, but you never knew when the client might be spying on you. Some were so scared they left the house while he “cleared” the ghosts, but others wanted to learn how you did it. Jason always put on a good show. “Dag-nabbit! Am I going to start imagining things now?”

He twiddled with the control knobs for good measure, then continued his sweep, trying to ignore the needle that now jumped with each new movement of the sensor.

By the third bedroom, Jason had forgotten about putting on a show, and was alternately cursing and muttering to himself that there was no such thing as a ghost. If Mrs. Smith heard him, the jig might be up, but he was starting to hear whispers behind him and didn’t care anymore what she thought. He just wanted them to go away.

Actually, he cared enough to want to finish the job and get paid. The greedy part of his mind wondered if he could milk this one for a second visit. The rest of him was fast abandoning his lack of belief in ghosts and just wanted to get out.

He compromised, taking one last sweep around the upstairs hall, then turning to the stairs.

“I do particularly feel them on the stairs, dearie,” Mrs. Smith called from below. “Be sure you do a thorough job there.” She emerged from the kitchen to peer up at him as he made a great show of sweeping each step, peering into the dials and adjusting the knobs.

Jason was on the third step down from the top when he felt the hands in the middle of his back. He had time while he fell to reflect that there wasn’t anyone upstairs.

His neck broke when he hit the landing. The last thing he heard before he died was Mrs. Smith’s voice.

“You were warned not to mock the spirits. They don’t like it. Not one little bit.”

He believed her.

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2018
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Middle Grade Monday: The Shadow of the Minotaur


The Shadow of the Minotaur (Shadows from the Past #2)
Author: Wendy Leighton-Porter
Publisher: Mauve Square Publishing, 2012. 234 pages.
Source: Purchased from Amazon

Publisher's Blurb:

Ten-year-old twins Joe and Jemima Lancelot continue the search for their missing parents who are trapped somewhere in the past. Together with their friend, Charlie, and their unusual talking cat, Max, they are whisked back in time to ancient Crete and the palace of Knossos, where the fearsome Minotaur resides in its labyrinth, feeding on human flesh. Can they help Prince Theseus of Athens overcome the terrifying monster before it devours them all? And will the children survive the terrible storm which threatens to wreck their ship as they attempt to flee the island?

My Review: 
This is such a great series! The adventure ramps up right from the start, and doesn't quit. It helps that this time, the kids know what's happening, and what to expect (they learned fast from their first adventure!).  There's no time lost in trying to figure out what's happening. It's also nice that Max can communicate. I love his outsized ego and decidedly cat-like personality. Max may be one of the great cats of literature.

The author does an amazing job of balancing the scary aspects of the story--there are real threats to the children--with a level of humor that keeps it "safe" for younger readers (Max is a big help here). Leighton-Porter also makes good use of the myths that are out there for the reading, not changing "history," but filling in some of the, er, shadows around them. In particular, she gives personality to the mythical characters [minor spoilers!], so that we find that Theseus is a bit of a jerk, and Ariadne, to my delight, is shocked out of her infatuation with a little help from Jemima, and her ending may not be quite what the more ancient sources thought. Nice to introduce a little feminism to the early civilizations!

I greatly enjoyed the first book in the series, and I think this one might be even better. I have #3 queued up and look forward to continuing the series--I think there are 8 books, and since this is one of my choices for the GMGR "Finish the Series" challenge, I have a lot of reading to do!

Note: Wendy Leighton-Porter has a story in the BookElves Anthology, as do I. This association may have influenced my decision to start reading the series, but it did not influence my review, and the decision to continue with the series is purely the result of a great reading experience.

My Recommendation:
This is a great series for readers 8-12. A bit of exposure to mythology, in the wrapping of an exciting adventure with a touch of humor. What more could you want?

FTC Disclosure: I purchased The Shadow of the Minotaur, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."