As I write this I'm sitting solo in the Shanghai Pudong airport, wishing there was wifi but it's broken and no one really wants to help, and I don't really need it except to get the address in India where I will be going. I'll be participating in a month long 300 hour yoga teacher training immersion in Rishikesh. My layover here is 7 hours; It's mildly annoying to be unable to connect but I'm reminding myself to just be present in the moment. I thought about venturing into the city but chose the transfer line instead of the customs line and then when I asked security about going into the city I was told I couldn't leave the airport, and also I'm not feeling too adventurous, even though not too tired.
It is so foreign, so weird, to feel so barely able to communicate here and now. If there weren't English subtitles underneath the written Chinese symbols I would be so lost! Looking outside the window from the airport it looks likes any other big airport with vast flat land, jumbo jets, traffic mixing on overpasses; it is drab and grey outside. This end of the terminal is not busy and I'm thinking about doing some yoga if I can find a nook where I won't look like too much of a freak.
My road trip concluded with a flight in a small little plane over Sequoia national park. An exhilarating end to a perfect adventure. The pilot was a man I had met out in Saline Valley, he and his pilot friends had flown out to Chicken Strip (the name of the backcountry airstrip out there) for the new year and my friends and I had been running all around the airfield, chide toy creating safety hazards. Despite all of that, we made a good impression and I got an invite to fly over all the lands I have explored so extensively on foot. I've gotten a couple of chopper rides in the past but they were always on search and rescue missions, so this opportunity to go wherever my little heart desired was truly awe-inspiring.
[Unfortunately, as I post this internet is dinosaur turtle and I am having trouble posting pics so you'll have to look at my Facebook or insta posts... lame, I know, but I've been struggling to post just this text for 2 hours...!]
We flew from Woodlake up and over to Three Rivers, circling the north fork twice so that I could find my farm and my bus. I didn't realize the orchard next door was so extensive! The first thing I keyed into from the air was the Roping Arena and was able to trace my way around via the rivers and roads from there. Mandy was waving at me from the farm but I couldn't see her. In my photo you can see all the sheep and pigs and Charlie the donkey though!
Then we went up towards and over Shepherds saddle and then up to lodge pole, Moro rock, flew over broccoli sequoia trees and the meadows and en up towards Alta Peak, views towards Valhalla and Hamilton Lakes. Then north towards the tablelands, one of the few places covered in snow...
The Kaweah range is my most favorite in the world, my beloved, so elusive, so majestic. We flew right in front of it, close enough so I could not capture them all in my camera lens, Black Kaweah so astounding, tears to my eyes, this was the closest I've come to its summit. And then around to the north and peer down the Kern, no snow in the entire canyon, as we approach the monsters of mountains along the Sierra Crest: Russell, Tyndall, Langley, Whitney, flying at 15,000 feet in this tiny little plane that held the two of us and not much more. And over Whitney, down amongst the ruggedness on the eastside, overlooking the snow-covered Siberian Outpost, and south to tunnel and monache meadows, as he told me the story of the airstrip there.
We began heading west again and I recognized the forest service land that I've hiked in on the approach to the Kern via Coyote pass, and then suddenly we were. Over the Hockett. First I saw Mitchell Meadow and then recognize Sand Meadow by the circular sand formation I knew from my first backcountry trip in the Sierra. And the Hockett Meadow and the ranger station, barely with any snow cover.
I directed us towards Mineral King and up over Columbine Lake, then down upper Lost Canyon, and up the Big Arroyo towards Kaweah Gap. I think this was when he put on the music, music which would've been cheesy at any other time but in that moment it felt like I was in the most heart-opening part of any movie ever made that touches you. We stopped talking much and I just absorbed how beautiful everything was. Just. Breathe. Just be.
And we began to head back... We circled Dinley this time because I wanted to see the Ranch. Here I didn't realize that the pond next door was so big! She later told me saw me and waved but I didn't see her. And we went on down through the valley haze descending back to Woodlake. Even though my feet were on the ground, I was soaring for the rest of the day.
Looking at my photos later though, the lack of snow really became apparent. Although I noticed it in the sky and we made some comments, it didn't sink in until I was later processing the photos to publish, and compounded by seeing my friends comments about them. Aside from having an amazing experience, it was pretty special to be able to capture in photos showing the state of the drought. This winter is currently the lowest (or pretty close to it) year of recoded precipitation on record.
This was my Groundhogs Day 2018. If there is a day that I get to live and repeat forever, I would love it to be this one.