Tag Archives: camping

Respite in Yosemite

El Capitan. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

El Capitan. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Last week I was “kidnapped” by my lovely partner and held hostage in a Yurt for three days right outside the entrance to Yosemite National Park. It was a much-needed respite in nature as my surgery dates approach.

The Yurt. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

The Yurt. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

I grew up near Yosemite on the Eastern side of the Sierras so I have been there many times. I never get tired of the beauty and majesty that this park bestows. I am always in awe and am often brought to tears by its magnificence.

A very dry Mirror Lake. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

A very dry Mirror Lake. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Our days were spent hiking and taking photos. I felt completely energized and renewed while there and wanted to continue hiking and climbing even when I was at my most depleted state due to the higher elevation and lack of oxygen.

It was a wonderful escape from reality as well as an opportunity to reflect on the beauty in life.

The view of Half Dome and Yosemite Valley from on top of Glacier Point. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

The view of Half Dome and Yosemite Valley from on top of Glacier Point. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

This morning I am feeling tense again so I decided to look through my photos in order to go back to my “happy place” and ground myself a bit. That is a big part of photography for me. The ability to relive those moments captured in perpetuity. When I view them I can feel the wind on my face, the smell of the pines, the warmth of the sun (protected by SPF 50 of course), and am embraced once again by a feeling of reverence and an overwhelming silence.

"The Fallen." - Jeffrey Pine on top of Sentinel Dome with a view of El Capitan and Cathedral Spires in the background. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“The Fallen.” – Jeffrey Pine on top of Sentinel Dome with a view of El Capitan and Cathedral Spires in the background. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Tomorrow it all begins with my back surgery followed 10 days later with the Mohs surgery on my face. I expect tomorrow to be pretty straight forward with an excision and stitches followed by the waiting game for the pathology report. The Mohs surgery on the 8th is a different story. Too many unknowns for my taste. But I will try to stay focused on the beauty of nature and look forward to more trips to Yosemite in the future.

A Mule Deer in the forest. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

A Mule Deer in the forest. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

The majestic face of El Capitan. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

The majestic face of El Capitan. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Bridge over the Tuolumne River. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Bridge over the Tuolumne River. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Granite and trees near lower Yosemite Falls. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Granite and trees near lower Yosemite Falls. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.


A multitude of rock cairns below Half Dome near Mirror Lake. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

A multitude of rock cairns below Half Dome near Mirror Lake. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Sentinel Dome from below. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Sentinel Dome from below. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Hiking down from the top of Sentinel Dome with Half Dome as the backdrop. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Hiking down from the top of Sentinel Dome with Half Dome as the backdrop. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Yep, that's a selfie on top of Sentinel Dome. Yosemite National Park.

Yep, that’s a selfie on top of Sentinel Dome. Yosemite National Park.


Healing in Nature – Independence Lake

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“On the Mend” – Independence Lake, Tahoe National Forest, CA

I am still on the mend from this not so fun illness.  The mysterious polka dots still remains in smaller patches on my legs and arms but are fading daily.  The only symptoms that persist besides the rash is fatigue and a few achy joints.  I felt well enough this past weekend to escape to the Tahoe National Forest for a night of camping in “Lucy,” our vintage 1956 canned ham trailer.

We decided to check out Independence Lake, a pristine alpine lake that sits at around 7,200 feet in elevation.  The lake and surrounding acreage was purchased several years ago by the Nature Conservancy and is cooperatively managed by a number of agencies with the goal of preserving the area and protecting one of the last populations of native Lahontan Cutthroat Trout that live in the lake.

Our vintage 1956 Canned Ham trailer.

“Lucy”- our vintage 1956 Canned Ham trailer.

There is currently no camping adjacent to the lake so we chose the Little Lower Truckee River campground located off of Hwy 89 and within 10 miles of Independence Lake.

The five miles of road that lead to Independence is a rough and rocky ride that requires a high clearance vehicle.  The surrounding scenery was absolutely stunning with thick forests of pine that would occasionally open up into wildflower spotted alpine meadows and groves of aspen.

Here’s a very condensed version of the trip up to the lake:

In order to protect the lake from invasive species, no outside boats are allowed.  The Nature Conservancy provides the free use of a fleet of kayaks, fly fishing pontoons, and motor boats for anyone who would rather spend time out on the water than along the shore.

Following are a few of the photos I took while there.  I am experimenting once again with a variety of apps so each one is a bit different in look and feel.

Several of the free-for-use kayaks line the shore of Independence Lake.

Several of the free-for-use kayaks line the shore of Independence Lake.

"The Paddler" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“The Paddler” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

"Just Fishin'" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Just Fishin'” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“The Shoreline” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

It was so nice to spend some time outside of the house and out in nature again.  I look forward to our next trip to Independence Lake when I am feeling myself again and will definitely grab one of the kayaks and paddle around the lake and take a lot of photos!

**All photos shot and edited with an iPhone 5**


Nature’s Raw Honesty

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2010.

Photo:  Moss covered pines in Plumas National Forest, CA.

There is no hypocrisy in nature.  All that exists within it is raw and honest, primal and instinctual.  Everything there has a purpose, a reason for being.  It is the great circle where one lives and one gives for the other.  An intertwining balance of life and death.  Survival of the fittest, sacrifice by the weakest.  Uncomplicated.  It simply is what it is.  We as humans complicate nature when we interfere with and attempt to control and tame its wildness.  If we could refrain for a bit from our greedy rape of its resources and just sit and listen, we would surely find many valuable lessons in the silence.  Lessons that have to do with our survival as a species.  Lessons that teach us how fragile, precarious, dependent and intertwined we are with the natural environment that surrounds us.

The one positive thing that came out of my caustic childhood was the opportunity to grow up in a small town surrounded by the beautiful granite peaks of the Sierras, pristine glacial fed lakes and endless open space.  I believe strongly that nature is what kept me grounded and provided me the strength to endure the Hell I faced on a daily basis.  I still turn to it often to this day as a sanity check and pressure valve release from the noise and ugliness that I find in the City and at times in humankind.  It brings me back to the basics, the important intricacies and realities of our existence here on earth.  It balances my need for silence, fresh air and contemplation of soul.  Without the ability to be held on occasion within its embrace, I fear I may end up as one of those vacant old women who pushes a shopping cart stuffed full with my belongings down an alleyway with no particular destination in mind.  Another human lost to this polluted cesspool we call civilization.  Though necessary for one’s financial security, there are times I would much rather flee the insanity and live with my dog and my hand axe in a little cabin in the woods.

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2010.

We recently took a week-long camping trip into the Plumas National Forest.  The place we camp is considered a “rough camp” with just 5 sites, no water or electricity hook-ups or other man-made amenities with the exception of a small outhouse.  It is a beautiful, raw area where few people choose to journey.  We own a small tent trailer that provides us with a bit of comfort one step up from sleeping in a tent on the ground.  It has a small kitchen area that runs on propane and we use a small solar panel to recharge the 12 volt battery that provides us with light.  Days there are filled with visual magnificence.  Everywhere you turn are wildflowers, evergreens that reach towards the heavens and a brilliant blue sky full of clean, breathable air.

Sunset brings with it a tangible transition.  The air begins to chill, the birds and chipmunks hurry about to get in their last meal before dark and the shadows from the trees become long and mixed in with the last bit of filtered sunlight.  When the sun begins its descent all sounds become strangely amplified.  A branch broken by a grazing deer echoes through the forest in decibel of 10.  A slight breeze blowing through the treetops sounds often like a hurricane.  Small movements in the shadows loom larger than life.  The smell of a campfire wafts on the breeze from somewhere high up on the mountain.  In this place without noise pollution the senses are on alert and suddenly alive.  There are no noisy cars, loud music, clattering trains, screaming people, or wailing sirens to drown out that which is.  Suddenly displaced from the noise of the world that

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2010.

masks even the beating of one’s own heart, we come face to face with our own raw truth.  We can actually begin to hear the thoughts inside our minds.

As the sky turns to black, the heavens above become dotted with millions of stars which reveal how small we truly are in comparison to the rest of our vast universe.  Darkness begins its chill and we turn into our tent trailer for the night.  Thin canvas walls and zero degree sleeping bags are the only things that separate us from the impending cold and creatures that will prowl the night.  Curled snugly into our bags we begin our descent into sleep.  And then it happens.  Nature’s chorus of reality penetrates the air.  The sound of that great circle of life breaks the dark silence; the distressed cries of one animal being sacrificed so that the other might live.  It’s pain-filled cry speaks at first of terror then gives way to a defeated whimper and secedes back into peaceful silence.

The first few nights those cries stir in us a strange sadness and place a bit of fear into our hearts.  By the third we begin to relax into acceptance and understanding and transition into a marginal space of peace.  Nature has revealed itself to us in a pure sense, without hypocrisy.  We have been given the gift of nature’s raw honesty.  The tables have been turned.  We do not control that which surrounds us.  We are merely guests in her presence, mere plebes at her mercy.  If she wanted to she could in an instant chew us up and spit us out into unrecognizable pieces of our former human shells.  For this we gain a deep respect.  She has once again leveled the playing field and reminded us that our city selves, lost in the noisy sea of self-centered humanity, are but a ploy.  Our true selves, the souls that stand in amazement at the natural wonders of our world, have the power to stand up and preserve her beauty for our children to enjoy.

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2010.

On our last day we leave her presence as if we leave a new-found lover.  We are renewed yet we long for more.  Saddened to point our car down the mountain towards the crowded streets of our reality we are left with one certainty.  We will soon return to her embrace, to breathe her clean air, bask in her silence, listen to the beating of our own hearts and stay alert as eager students for the lessons she has yet to teach us.