we departed l.a. at 2 AM, 210 to the 5 and immediate right on the 14
driving all night you get the road to yourself
wind blowing mightily pushing the little car around coming into mojave to gas up
night wind blowing through black railroad tank cars
14 right out of mojave toward the 395 west of ridgecrest and china lake naval station
owens lake empty as a shadow rising from a forgotten dream
sierras all the way on the left in calm brilliant starlight
bare glimpse of the sickle crescent moon
dolores drove a couple hours into bishop
in bishop at 6:30 AM schat’s bakery is open with shelves loaded with fresh baked big loaves of bread, where does it all go?
i got a cinnamon roll and hot tea
(mexican workers in schat’s german “bakkery” like many places throughout the owen’s valley, two round women chatting in spanish surrounded on all sides and above them by shelves of round loaves of bread)
i drove the high, wide open curvy tioga road into the national park
we arrived at 7:50 AM and were second in line at the wilderness backcountry permit office at tuolumne meadows and signed up for a permit to backpack into the “grand canyon of the tuolumne river”
nps rented us one bear canister for $5, we already had one
they make you paranoid about bears with constant warnings, requirements to rent or own bear canisters, etc., but we saw no bear feces nor bears even though one guidebook said that if we camped where we did camp that we’d be guaranteed a nightly visit by local bears, but none came around
anyway we packed all our food into the canisters
they said bear spray was illegal in the national park so we left it behind
both our packs were too heavy especially after a night without sleep but we started hiking around 8:30 AM
six or seven hours later, 8 miles down the tuolumne river, beside california falls, we pitched camp

both really tired of course, packs a bit too heavy (extras we didn’t need)
knees sore from stepping down all day on the stone riprap set on the trail
we hiked along the beautiful emerald winding tuolumne river almost all the way, crossed over it twice via pretty bridges before glen aulin falls, the first of the magnificent waterfalls (by glen aulin high sierra camp, where affluent hikers pay to ride mules into tent cabins provided maid service and meals—there’s also a backpackers’ camp in back along cold creek, with an impressive solar composting toilet where the shit is composted and carried out via mule train)
—we kept going to camp on a semi-exposed granite shoulder just below california falls, exhausted, we fell asleep before sundown around 8 PM and slept twelve hours
(no training, no readiness, outside of packing our packs, we’d literally just walked off our jobs into the backcountry)—
no blisters, no torn muscles or ligaments or sprains or lesions the next day, outside the  sore knees, we took an easy day hike a couple miles (a thousand feet descending into the grand canyon of the tuolumne) past le conte falls, spourting and spouting a couple of “waterwheels” where the water falls into a depression in front of a boulder or stone lip and shoots back upwards in a frothy fountain of white water they call a ‘waterwheel’—meandered out on japanese garden-like landscapes of pretty pools of water, cascades on flat granite benches with fir and pine trees and scattered boulders, with the river rushing by in cascades of roaring white water
and it would collect in placid green stretches where we walked alongside in the forest on sandy trails between ‘quaking’ aspen (the tear drop leaves flicked rapidly back and forth by the wind) or flickering willows or on the soft duff of the shady forest floor, sometimes the wind roared through the tree tops and blew the white pine or sugar pine pollen all over us, my eyeglasses coated with pollen
all about us rising ever higher the great granite domes far denser than concrete, their gray peaks cracked and “jointed” and marked with weeping black oxides and stained everywhere with the black and gray and lime green of lichen (the living stone, the stone alive in every crack and crevice—if you sat down on a stone, weary from miles of walking, mosquitoes bit your arms or neck where you weren’t watching and big and small black ants and gray spiders and black stink bug beetles walked everywhere across the surface of the great granite mountains and beautiful tiny succulent five pointed yellow star-shape flowers and magenta pink trumpets, small but terribly hardy, grew from each crack or crevice)—
and the next day we packed a lunch of sardine cans and bread and nuts i wrapped in my bag i made from one of my shirts and we hiked several miles down into the canyon, descending a couple thousand feet to the bridge over return creek
where there were oaks and manzanita chaparral and the canyon was noticeably hotter
we were again weary after climbing thousands of feet in switchbacks back to camp by the end of the day in hot sunshine and sometimes stiff winds but it was easier on the knees to hike uphill, and easier on the knees to hike without packs, so our knees felt fine by the next day and dolores was treating her bunion with moleskin so she did not get any blisters

that night was warm with heavy winds (always the astonishing brilliance of the milky way and all the stars overhead when we awoke (having set up the tent without the rainfly, so we could see the sky) (always i awakened to find the big dipper in my face, pointing toward the north star with the two stars of the dipper) and i had to pee in the middle of the night and couldn’t get back to sleep for a long time afterward and later, when i did, on toward early morning i dreamed that we went to santa cruz and we met karen y. in a sunny pretty street in town and i gave her a hug and she was laughing, happily telling me lots of new news (all happy news) with her and her new writing project (book), and i woke feeling full of pleasure as if i had actually spent time with karen, as if we’d actually talked
it was still a chore to hike the 8 miles out of the canyon along the river, a thousand or so feet gain in elevation, back out to the trailhead on tuolumne meadows (where we’d previously seen a sedan with the window smashed out by a bear, but the car was fine) so we took a lazy couple days getting back to l.a., staying at a century old el mono hotel in lee vining at the bottom of the tioga road (laughably old and funky, tired 1960s clock telling the wrong time, no TV etc.) popular with german speaking and french tourists, overlooking mono lake, showering off five days of sunscreen, bug spray, trail dust, dirt and sugar pine pollen, etc.—in the rickety sheet metal shower of the el mono hotel with its hot water that took a long time to start and then you could not control, so it kept trying to to burn you
and of course we ate at lee vining’s famous mobil gas station, “whoa nellie deli” with a live band playing, the cooks in the kitchen and the bus boys of course all mexicanos and some of the white tourists nervous about that, with the mexicanos (dolores said she could tell they were from jalisco) laughing and greeting paisanos in spanish, but the white people and tourists of all kinds kept arriving anyway because the food was so great people came from the park, from hundreds of miles, to eat at picnic tables outside with the live band in the endless unstoppable wind

and the next day we drove dirt roads north of bishop in the heat in the 90s prowling lava rock outcroppings that were marked with petroglyphs thousands of years old, reading what we could into them and from them (and sometimes blasted and wilted by the heat, i was lamenting that the poor ancient inhabitants of this valley were just like we are now and were afflicted by the common social problem of anxious graffiti of aimless youth—i never admitted of course that this type of writing on whatever surface might be available, with stone on stone, could ever have anything to do with poetry or literature, of course)
and we stopped at the new museum i had not seen at the site of manzanar concentration camp, where the old school gym and auditorium which had been used as a vehicle shed and garage by cal trans or l.a. dwp had been converted into a
polished new museum with a retro-forties feel, where the people who had been humiliated, imprisoned and displaced were forced to build their own rows of barracks into a town of 12,000, then when the camp was closed it they were given $25 in an envelope and a bus ticket and told to disperse, and the camp was razed with bulldozers and the buildings and plumbing sold off and sagebrush and tumbleweeds covered the foundations, the japanese gardens, the desiccated farm fields blowing with sand, fruit trees dying, so that only one grave marker stood near the back fence (when i brought my own kids to visit the site in the 1980s) and the camp system and the forces behind it were meant to be forgotten, to imply that such things did not happen, but activists of the sixties made people remember, made pilgrimages back to the camp site, such that it served as one focal point for the redress and reparations movement and the government had to designate the site as an official place of remembrance and mark it with bronze plaques and then rebuild the mess hall and replicas of barracks so that people could—instead of erasing it and forgetting all about it—to try to somehow remember—
the coerced and forced forgetting, the coerced and strangely formalized remembering—

6 miles north in the town of independence, several blocks west on center street in the “museum of eastern california” operated by inyo county, is the first manzanar commemorative exhibit no one knows about, with one gallery of this amazing but overlooked side-street museum (with its magnificent collection of shoshone and piaute basketry) devoted to the outstanding professional prints of photography toyo miyatake (who smuggled a lens and film into the camp and made his own camera to document the experience, even though japanese americans were prohibited by law from possessing cameras), and another gallery of artifacts and a tremendously moving hand-made collage photo-mural of folding panels of “then and now” photographs, with hand-written labels and notes and arrows cut and pasted by hand

and we ate burgers in a cafe run by local women in the ground floor of the towns masonic lodge on highway 395 and drive to l.a. where i checked my email and found an email (not a dream where we were laughing) from karen y. saying that poet jeff tagami had died on saturday of pancreatic cancer, the son of filipino field and cannery workers in watsonville, his book OCTOBER LIGHT the best book i know of about the life of that town and towns like it—