Wednesday, July 6, 2011

July 3, 2011 Oakland to Donner Summit

The camper is packed literally to the gills.  We've emptied our Oakland house in preparation of receiving renters, and all the belongings we'll need for the next 12 month are piled into the truck.  The boxes reach from the floor almost up to our sleeping bunk, with duffles filling the bathroom.  With a bittersweet look over my shoulder I pull out of Grisborne ave and head east  - and as Buzz Lightyear would say "to infinity and beyond".  The holiday crowd has already departed, so we have the highway to ourselves and as we drive past Benicia a large V shaped flock of Snow Geese fly low across the road and honk to us, saying goodbye and safe travels.  I see it as a good omen.  By Auburn one hour later,, the pine scent of the Sierras has started to permeate the vehicle and I feel a euphoric peace, as I leave the burdens and anxiety of our City life behind.  I did not even realize I had this glaze over my awareness until I feel my gaze clarify with the brightening of the mountain air. While traveling, our chores of daily living take on a new pace and enjoyment, and the long list of tasks for house renovation is long forgotten. There are operational chores to take care of as we roam, but their proportion of our waking energy is far reduced from that which we experience at home in Oakland.  

Once in Serene Lakes, we carefully stow all our stuff in one bay of the garage of our new rented house on West Shore Drive, organizing things by how we think the cold concrete floor may effect them over the three month period between now, and when we'll return to actually unpack them into the house above.  The snow piles are still deep between houses, and the phone service has yet to be restored after many of the phone lines were damaged in the early April snow monsoons.  With a far lighter load, we depart, and head to Sugarbowl for one least day of skiing in this remarkable season.

The morning breaks clear, and warm, and the temperature rapidly climbs from the mid-50's to the 70's. A skeleton crew of patrollers gather at our usual meeting time and discuss how we'll prepare the mountain for this last onslaught of skiers before the long overdue summer recess.  With creeks cascading down the middle of some runs, and sink holes opening unexpectently on others, and with some run outs blocked by fallen trees and exposed avalanche debris blocking others, it would be impossible to mark all of the hazards.  Instead, the resort opts to have all skiers sign a waiver before boarding the lift advising them of unmarked hazards and to ski conservatively.    The snow was great, with a ball bearing consistency.  The sun cups were mild on the open slopes, and non-existent on the north facing pitches. The views from the mountaintop were exceptional with newly exposed rock faces present now, where all winter they had been concealed beneath a blanket of snow. As the temperature rose with the sun the snow became sloppier, and by 12:00, the surface was pudding along with the muscles of my legs, unaccustomed to the firm grasp of the rigid boots.  Luckily, this is when the resort shut, and shorts clad patrons, in flip flops carried their equipment back to the lot as a final explosion from some avalanche control ordinance sounded to mark the completion of a ski season that had started at Thanksgiving.    

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