This weekend I took Mom to where the desert meets the mountains. If might think that the decorator never finished because the trees don’t even touch each other and you can see the bare mountain in between. Some mountains don’t even have any trees at all, and are just made of big rocks and the little rocks that fall off of them. But if you thought these mountains weren’t done yet you’d be wrong. It’s called minimalism. Sure, you could throw as many trees and plants and wildflowers onto a mountain all higgledy-pigledy and it would be pretty like a renaissance painting… Lots of mountains in Washington and our side of California do that. But to show that something is really special, you should make it stand all by itself so that there’s nothing else around it to drown it out. Minimalism is what the Sierras on the desert side do with their trees, and rocks, and pointy peaks.
If you thought the desert was hot in the summer, you’ve got it all wrong. Even though the sun had been up for a couple of hours, it still felt like the inside of a refrigerator as we started hiking. Maybe it was the river that was bringing the coldness down from the white dirt that was still on the peaks. When we had only hiked about a mile, we met the river where lurking through the trees. This river wasn’t mad, and we could clearly see the pretty rocks at the bottom of it, so Mom stopped to look at it for a minute. Then she sat down and started taking off her shoes and socks.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
She didn’t answer my question, she just said, “Come on,” and walked into the river.
“Are you crazy?” I barked after her. “Your shorts are getting wet. It’s way too cold for that! Hey! Are you listening to me?” I waded out until I was in up to my knees and Mom was in up to her butt in front of me, and she still didn’t turn around. “Hey! It’s deep there. You’re going to get all wet and…” I said, wading in up to my chest. That was when I noticed that a runner that had passed us a few minutes before was sitting on the opposite side of the river putting on his shoes. Now how do you suppose he got there? I thought. Then it dawned on me. “Hey, wait up!” I barked, and belly flopped slowly and gracefully into the water. Then I sprinted right past Mom to the other side.
It takes us a long time for us to drive to the dry side of the mountains, so Mom and I got a late start and weren’t the first ones on the trail. I’m cool with sharing, but Mom is a solitary beast and prefers not to see other people. Not long after Mom and I had crossed the river, we caught up to the most giant group of humans you’ve ever seen in the wild. Wild humans don’t usually travel in herds like this, so a city must have brought them together and then dumped them all at once on the mountainside. Right before we got swallowed by the crowd, they finished putting things in each other’s packpacks and continued walking ahead of us. Mom was walking slow as a pug, so I decided that I could be of better service to humanity walking ahead with the big group. “Hi, I’m Oscar and everyone loves me,” I grinned to them as I caught up with my ears flopping endearingly. Then Mom would call me back to have a handful of breakfast, because she doesn’t think I should make so many friends. Once I had finished my snack, I’d run back to tell my new fans more about me, since they didn’t seem to understand how cute I was yet. Mom, my new fan club and I continued like that for an hour or so. Every time I thought that my fan club had gone too far ahead for me to hang out with both them and Mom, one of them would stay back to use the dog bathroom, or sit down and have a snack, and I would get to know them a little better. “What’s that you got there?” I asked a lady that sat down on a rock and pulled a snack out of her packpack. “Is that a cheese stick? You may not know this about me, but I’m an expert at eating people food,” I told her, snuggling up close and sitting like a good boy.
“Sorry, buddy. None for you. I’m hungry,” she said even though my head was practically on her shoulder, which I know for a fact is one of my 100 cutest moves.
After many miles of my fan club failing to notice how cute I am, we reached a tall waterfall that tripped and dove down a steep and rocky slope for a hundred feet or more. My fan club stopped so that they could all take the exact same picture of each other smiling in front of the waterfall, and because Mom didn’t want them to all ask to borrow my chicken hat, or feel silly for not being as handsome as me, we continued up the mountain leaving the waterfall behind us. At long last we were mostly alone again and it was peaceful because Mom stopped barking at me every minute or so to come back.
Now that we were near the top, we could see the fangs of the mountain in the near distance sticking straight up out of the meadows. Some mountains you can walk to the top of, but not these ones. They stuck straight up, and not even the rocks that they were made of could hang on to their sides. Between them, the rest of the mountain not all that steep, which was a good thing because we were very high into the sky and even I was feeling a little tired from being so close to the moon.
We climbed through a meadow, and then over some rocks that were the same grey-green as old pennies, and finally we came out at a clear lake with a crown of spikes all around it. Most of the spikes pointed rectangularly up like front teeth, but one was taller than the rest and curved like a tusk, or Mt Crumpit. Mom and I sat on a tall green rock and looked across the lake at the tooth mountains. “I bet we could climb that one,” Mom said. “See how the scree pile isn’t too steep at the bottom, and then there’s that spine of rock that goes up to that saddle. From there you would just have to climb on a couple of rocks around that way and I bet we could get to the top.”
“You can’t be serious,” I said, giving her one of my looks. Then I gave her a kiss on the face to let her know that I loved her even though she’s not very brave.
“Of course I don’t actually want to DO it. But there are people that do. I’m starting to see why,” Mom said. “Someone found all these routes, you know. That’s someone’s job, or hobby. I bet it’s a lot of fun to see something interesting and find your own route to it that no one has ever taken before.”
“Let’s leave that for the dogs that fit in packpacks,” I suggested, remembering not-fondly some of the times that we had climbed rocks where there was no trail.
When we got back to the river crossing, Mom walked into a different part of the river where there was a 1 inch cliff straight down to four or five inches of deep water. I watched her walk into the deep water from the tall cliff, and without any rocks to stand on I couldn’t figure out how to ease my way in heroically after her. I would have had to jump in, and there are certain things that a brave dog just won’t do. So I stood on the bank crying after her, while she stood in water up to her belly button laughing at me, and some people who were already on the sock-putting-on log on the other side joined her laughter. I’m a self-confident guy, but I wasn’t about to let a bunch of boobs that didn’t understand the danger I was in laugh at me. So I fled heroically 15 feet down the bank to where I’d crossed before, and waded in like a sensible dog. When I got to the other side, I introduced myself to the Friends who had been laughing at me, and then I shook the river off my fur and all over them and their big packpacks.
Even though it was not a steep trail, 14 miles with an extra few miles of sprinting between Mom and my fan club is longer than I’m used to hiking and I was really dragging by the time we got to the last half mile before the car kennel. Down here there were more and more people who weren’t used to the wild. “Did that woman straighten her hair this morning?” Mom whispered to me when a couple of fashion models walked by. All the people we walked past wanted to pet me, of course and for once I was too tired to bark. Instead, each time I met a new Friend, I came up and leaned in for a hug instead, and then gave them my butt to scratch. Once their fingers had found my butt, I sat on their shoe in affection so that no one would move, and I got a few moments of sweet rest and recovery before Mom insisted we move on.
Oscar the Superfriend