*1-16: [In Death Valley] I felt crotchety with age and ill-humor this morning when I left to hike. But I left and climbed steadily my favorite near-by mountain, which at about 500 feet is sufficiently strenuous to ascend and rewards the effort with a splendid view of the Valley. As I walked I began remembering with sadness all the places I’d been, the hikes I’d taken, the pleasures of Nature and of Annie my dog, and was well prepared to lament that they’re mostly out of reach now and feel sorry for myself. But then I switched into recollecting the satisfactions and memories and felt glad and grateful that they were there and helped shape me, nostalgia of the highest caliber. If I wore out my legs in the process, then so be it. What better use did I have for them? I somehow feel that it was then, in 1988, when I left the agency, loaded my new camper with books and gear, and came west to Yosemite that my “true” life began. Not to depreciate what came before, but the memories and the sense of what I still feel fully connected to begin when I arrived in Tuolumne Meadows. Or maybe a little earlier as I prepared to write the dissertation and spent so much time with Muir and Dillard, Krutch and Abbey, and all the rest. My being as a person had found home in the Sierra Nevada, my sense of the essential sacredness and spirituality of existence gestated, hatched, and took form: in Nature, first, and its western expression a close second. Unconsciously, I think I became a merger of Muir and Thoreau—a poor version but cast in the shadow of their ways. (Thoreau never got further west than Minnesota and that briefly and was content around Concord, but it doesn’t matter to my identification with him as he walked the land and was fulfilled by it.)

Photo by Isaac Garcia on Unsplash

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