The drive up to Pinecrest was long, hot, and the Sierras at your right tease you with their distance. The 99 goes through a lot of farmland, so the scenery is relatively unchanging, and being parallel to the mountains makes one antsy.
I drove mostly in silence, saving the battery of my ipod (it was on the “important to-bring” request list). Entering the Stanislaus National Forest, I stopped at the Summit Ranger Station for detailed directions, but the ones I received were pretty terrible. Just downright wrong, actually, so I became very familiar with all of the service and forest roads in the area surrounding Bell Meadow before finally getting on the right track. I came up on a large camp, and I knew immediately I had arrived. A few forest service trucks, water containers, a kitchen, canvas storage tents, and little personal tents spotted around. I had made it!
Nervous, I got out of my thrashed rental car… I had gone through streams and been offroading in this poor Toyota Matrix… Not sure which direction to look, suddenly a loud voice behind me proclaims, “WELL, there you are, you MADE it! You have FINALLY arrived.” It was Lance, this huge tall ripped guy with an enormous voice and… pigtails. I follow him toward camp, and then I see him. His figure appears slowly from behind the trucks… he is… dirty. So dirty. His face is covered in dirt and mud, as are his disheveled work clothes. His boots are torn, his hands solid brown and weathered, his hair wild. His beard isn’t too long, but definitely present. Some unidentifiable food sits in one hand at his side. Walking slowly, unsure of me, but smiling.
I will never forget one of the first things he said to me… “You smell… different… you smell like… you’re not from here…” haha!
After our little episode of LOST passed, and we were beginning to be more acclimated to each other, we walked over to the main camp area. Devin told me that I was the first person “from the outside” to really visit, and camp with them, and that people would probably be staring. There were a few funny interactions and questions, and jokes about Devin smelling me.
The camp is very much a work commune. Everything is hand built, there is a sump for dirty water, a hand washing area, a dish washing setup, a water filter with spigot, community kitchen, and a latrine dug out away from camp. They also have portapotties at this location, but won’t at their backcountry camp… there is just too much snow to move further up and out yet, but in a week or so they will be relocating.
That evening was low key. I met the handful of crew members who stayed for the weekend, either to hike with us the next day or who were KP. Everyone else was out backpacking- they are encouraged to do so all weekend.
Saturday we went on a day hike to Bear Lake, which was ~7 miles each direction. These kids hike fast, especially without 40lbs of tools on their backs. The scenery is breathtaking, but somewhat harder to take in fully at the pace we were going, haha. I’m in great biking shape…believe me…and my muscles and lungs felt strong and happy… but my hips and knees took a major beating. And I wasn’t carrying anything compared to what they carry every day.
At Bear Lake, we met other Cs who were camping for the weekend. They were surprised we were going to hike back the same day. We stayed for awhile. They had built a raft out of a few HUGE fallen trees, so we made makeshift paddles out of branches, sandals, shovels, etc. and all 8 or 9 of us got on and rowed around the lake! Lance has great video of us out on the water. It was constantly threatening to tip over into the frigid water, and it was painfully slow moving, but it was so much fun.
Oh, and I got to watch the infamous “Ass-boarding” video, among other good ones. Lance is doing a great job at documenting their adventures.
Upon returning that evening, we had a great quinoa/bean dish dinner. We took showers with hot water from the fire, standing on a rock surrounded by a little tarp shelter, pouring cups of water on each other one at a time. Before bedtime, we shared a special treat… I’d been asked to bring an ipod, so, the 6 of us at camp (Devin, Lance, Takeo, Denny, Amanda, and me) piled into my car and listened to music for an hour at least. It had been 3 months without the availability of that luxury, and it was an emotional event all around. Devin played all our favorite songs. Everyone agreed that it felt like high school - too many people squeezed into a dark, parked car, listening to music and wanting nothing more than each other’s company in that moment.
Sunday was work day. Devin, Takeo, and Lance chopped lotsa wood (I got great video of this), Amanda and Denny were KPs and did their thing, and I resewed all of Devin’s patches onto his work shirts. Later that day, the crew appeared a few at a time, ready to eat and get ready for the work week.
Devin and I retired early, to spend time together before my departure the next morning. Devin, of course, has the most incredible, impressive tent location of the whole camp. After scaling a rock side, crawling through some trees, up another large boulder (at this point a fair distance from main camp), you look down over a ledge and there rests his little green tent. Views for miles. Silent, isolated, perfect. Peaceful and secluded… We talked about the camp dynamics, fall adventures, future plans and ideas. We dreamed about future bike rides and movie nights. We listened to the new Bon Iver album on shared headphones.
Up early Monday, and a much faster pace ensued. “Fast pace” is pretty much a good descriptor of how everything is done. Walk fast, hike fast, eat fast, wash fast, cook fast, pack fast, go go go. Chores, coffee, and more coffee.
I left before PT. I jumped in my car, yelling “Bye everyone!” And Devin jumped in the passenger seat, yelling the same thing, haha.
Devin is thriving out there, but the work is much harder than he lets off to be. The free time is pretty much nonexistent, including weekends and after work (bc that means there is time for more work), and these kids have muscles like they do for a reason. Devin’s amazing ability to not let small (or big) things get him down is truly what is allowing him to immerse himself in the program, and to remember why he joined it, and what he wants to get out of it.
Photos and video from our weekend in the Stanislaus are on picasa **these photos will only be available to the public briefly before I make the album private, due to some safety hazards caught on film. If you want access to the album, email me and I’ll send the invite from meg.knobel at gmail.com **
november or december, last year, when we first met!
devin’s dad posted an adorable earth day hippie picture of us… found here on his blog.