The Mountains Are Calling
'The Mountains Are Calling And I Must Go.' John Muir
October 1-5 i'm on a hiking & hot springs trip to Mammoth Lakes area. There are many natural hot springs in the eastern sierra Owen's Valley, and my favorite is Wild Willy's/Hilltop. This hot spring is set in the middle of the Owens Valley such that when you are sitting in it you see absolutely no man-made structures 365 degrees around except condensation trails of planes overhead. The valley is wide and flat, flanked on the east by the White Mountains (home to the Bristlecone Pine Forest), and by the Sierra Nevada on the west (very steep on this side). The sky a cliche California blue, magnificence wherever you look. Truly, not colloquially, awesome! The grandeur makes me feel small and relatively unimportant, yet blessed, and gives me inner peace. Soaking in hot water, outdoors ,surrounded by amazing mountains, and a few sheep, does much to sooth my soul and gladden my heart. May you also find beauty and peace and joy this week.
Almost the last day of the trip. Driving to Bridgeport from Mammoth Lakes on hwy 395. Highway 396 runs from Alturas in far northeast California to Bishop in the south. It has mountain ranges on both sides the entire length and goes through steeply forested terrain, past countless lakes, the highest mountain in the lower 48 (Whitney), and ends at the gate to Death Valley. All it's missing is ocean but you don't consider this till you have sobered up from the sheer intoxicating beauty of it all. The area i've been playing in is around Yosemite's Tuolumne Meadows, the town of Mammoth Lakes (John Muir Wilderness and Ansel Adams Wilderness) ,and the lesser known town of Bridgeport. The photo on the top left is a wild hot spring (Hilltop Hot Spring) in the middle of the Owens Valley called Hilltop Hot Spring. The photo to the right top is of a hike in the Ansel Adams Wilderness at 9500 ft elevation with snow flakes flying about and in my hair, it was extremely cold and beautiful and lonesome. The lake at the bottom is Skelton Lake in the Mammoth Lakes Basin, a glaciated mountainous area with countless gem-like blue-green lakes in pristine John Muir Wilderness. Epic brilliant beauty, transcendent in it's intensity.
This trip has set me to musing on the subjective and objective nature of beauty. Why is a stark steep mountain that is mostly rock beautiful? why is desert beautiful? it's easy to understand why wildflowers and grassy meadows are experienced as beautiful, abundance is most likely something humans can perceive as expressed in the lushness of plants around us (perhaps we understand it on a survival level as plenty of food or something like that, a promise of abundance for our belly). Beauty seems to be an experience in the human, projected onto the object of beauty (nature). There is not thing that is beauty that is solid and can be held, it is our synapses responding to our environment and producing the pleasure and serenity we associate with 'beautiful' natural places. This makes me think beauty is not a thing but an experience in the viewer that results from a process of the interaction of the viewer of beauty and the object experienced as beautiful. It must involve you as the experiencee to exist at all. That gets too solipsistic for me, i like to think that existence is by its own design meant to be overwhelmingly beautiful that part of the beauty is its wholeness in that it includes ugliness as well. Intensity exists because polarity and scale exist, there has to be something to compare experience to, a context. I feel wonder and serenity on this hiking trip as i type this to you from a warm bed in a rustic cabin in Bridgeport (Virginia Creek Settlement) and start to segue into preparing for an afternoon hike.