Climbing Acorn Mountain

Tuesday, August 29, 1989

As the eastern sky began to lighten, I could see the outline of the ridge of the mountains.
As that outline turned pink, I crawled out of my sleeping bag to go up and sit on the ridge to watch the mountains as the sky lightened.

The big forested valley was filled with a light bluish mist and the rocky tops of the Sierras glowed with the new light.

I watched with anticipation as sunrise over the distant Sierras approached.

When the sun finally broke over the peaks, it was almost instantly warm. I sat there a few minutes, enjoying the sun. Jeff came out to see the sun, and then I joined him with preparations for breakfast.

Jeff and Lai Kit were the designated pair of leaders for the day. Mark crawled out and he and I made the water run. Filling the bottles from the crystal-clear lake, we treated each bottle with five drops of iodine and 10 drops of lemon juice. There was a convenient group of rocks that provided a good place to dip the crystal-clear water into our water bottles. As clear as it was, Peter had gotten our attention with his giardia story, and we were always careful to treat the water before drinking.

This is our kitchen and dining room on the rocky bank of Lower Jackass Lake. Note the little single-burner gas stove, heating water for coffee or tea. Tanya, Ankie, Mark and Bobbi Ann were around the stove.

Breakfast is cold cereal and hot drinks. After breakfast and cleanup was a quiet time and then a group meeting.

This shows part of our sleeping area near the kitchen area.

Today was to be a long hike to the top of a mountain, taking only our daypacks. We were given brief instruction on compass navigation. We had left the trail to the Upper Jackass Lakes when we had hiked in to Lower Jackass Lake and were going to navigate cross-country to pick up that trail rather than backtrack.

Lower Jackass Lake

The lakeside view above is just below our campsite. The lake was caught in a fold of the mountain, with steep rock walls on one side and a sloping tree-lined rocky ridge on the downhill side. I liked the color of the sunlight not the trees early in the morning.

We actually called this spot "bathtub rock" since it was also a good place to get into the water for a bath. But with the water temperature probably in the 50's, we didn't stay in long!

We hiked to the west end of Lower Jackass Lake and took a compass reading of 283 degrees for the east end of Middle Jackass. The maps have true north gridlines and we had to correct the magnetic north 16 deg to 344 deg to align the map for shooting a course.

Tish shot a course up a steep rocky slope to a unique tree and we headed out. We made successive sightings as we ade our way up and over the steep rocky ridge. Lai Kit and I tried our hand at making sightings for comparison. Tish is a very strong hiker and she led the group.

At this point along the trail, Ankie is in the lead and Lai Kit in the rear of the column. Except for me of course - I was always behind taking pictures or looking at something interesting.

Lai Kit and Peter look at the compass with Lower Jackass Lake in the background.

Tish leads the column up the steep rocky slope leading away from Lower Jackass Lake. Behind her are Mark and then Jeff.

Mark carried our daypack since we brought only the one. I carried both cameras and the fanny pack containing the group first aid kit.

After we topped the rocky ridge and went a short distance, we could see Middle Jackass Lake so we walked on to it.

Mark replenishes our water bottles in Middle Jackass Lake. He is adding lemon juice to mask the iodine taste.

Taking the trail around the east end of the lake, we took a sighting on Upper Jackass Lake.

Lai Kit and Jo taking compass readings, Tish and Jeff behind looking at their compasses. Unfortunately, that sighting to Upper Jackass Lake pointed at some unscalable rock cliffs.

It looked like there was an option of skirting the cliffs right or left and we were in a bit of a quandary about which to try. I judged that people who had come before us had found out which was best, so I took the lead and found a distinct trail leading to the right. We went up a rocky slope, and it was surprising that trees this large could just grow out of the rock.

Mark, Jo and Tanya take a break under a rock ledge with a great view of the mountains.

Jeff, Lai Kit and Tish along the trail.

Lai Kit, Tanya, Peter and Tish with the nice mountain view.

I led over a relatively steep ridge and then found a trail marked by rock cairns which led down the hill and brought us to Upper Jackass Lake. Above, Tanya comes along a flat place on the trail followed by Jo and Ankie.

We made it to Upper Jackass Lake and continued to press on up the slope.

We moved over some fallen logs on the shore of Upper Jackass Lake. Peter had told us that logs could lie for over a hundred years in this high altitude and dry region. There were no termites to eat them. This is one of the reasons why we didn't bring paper products - they could blow around for a hundred years.

We took a break on the shore of Upper Jackass Lake and then headed up the rocky slope above it.

Our next break time up on the rocky slope.

Peter and Mark on the slope overlooking Upper Jackass Lake.

Mark a little higher over Upper Jackass Lake.

Rod with one of the interesting trees at this high altitude.

Jo, Ankie, Mark and Rod by tiny Burro Lake above the Jackass Lakes.

By a similar compass procedure the group had found this higher small lake and stopped for lunch. We had crackers and cheese and tinned meats. We also had some "gorp", which is what folks out here call trail mix. We replenished our water bottles at the lake.

Peter had started reading to us a small book called "The Acorn People" about a group of handicapped children at a camp. The beginnings of a sense of community and worth for these children had come in the making and wearing of acorn necklaces and the forming of an Acorn Society. He read a couple of chapters of this touching story while we were sitting on the rocks overlooking the lake after lunch. This part of the story described the two counselors taking the five handicapped children in their care up a mountain. It was very appropriate on our day of climb.

I didn't eat much and pretty well stuck to carbohydrates since I was having little waves of nausea and had gotten a bit light-headed a couple of times. They assured me that these were the symptoms of altitude sickness. A couple of the others, Lai Kit and Yo, were having similar problems. Mark had a headache plus a little light-headedness. We were then at about 9000 ft. Fortunately the symptoms stayed rather mild and didn't interfere with the day's activities.

Leaving this small upper lake, we climbed up a mountain of jagged, fractured slabs of rock to a ridge from which we could see Madera Peak, our intended goal at 10,200 ft. We could also see another unnamed mountain at 9800 ft and the wide forested expanse leading to the highest Sierra peaks. Our view included three other lakes down in the valley.

At this point we were given the option of climbing on to the top of Madera or the top of the unnamed peak. Bobbi Ann whetted our interest in the second peak by telling us that the first climbers of an unnamed peak got to name it. With that encouragement, plus the fact that it would be a shorter distance back to camp, we chose the second peak. Madiera Peak was just and extension of the ridge we were on, with no vegetation and looking like a huge rock pile - it was very uninteresting.

This was the view from our decision point. This vast valley had three visible lakes. The two clearly visible lakes are Lady Lake and Madera Lake.

Rod with a view of the unnamed peak that we had decided to climb.

This mountain slope also had a lot of jumbled rocks, but it had a surprising variety of plants as well. It had asters, Indian paintbrush, and a lot of plants strange to me. There was a thorny bush with berries, and we tromped over plants that gave us a strong smell of mint.

We headed back down to the point where we could bridge across to the other peak. Peter took the lead since we were going into unknown territory.

Having crossed the rock bridge, we are making our way up through the rough jumbled rocks toward the peak.

When we reached the top we rested while Peter explored around the jumble of large rocks. On the side opposite our climb was about a 1000 ft drop, so we steered clear of that side.

There was a viewpoint close to the edge where Peter went, and that became an additional challenge for those who wanted that additional stretch - there was one step on the way to it that took you over a crack to the sheer dropoff. Tish was the first to go - she craves a challenge and pushes herself physically. I felt no interest in going - I felt I had seen all I was going to see and felt no compulsion toward an additional physical challenge. Mark of course jumped at the chance. Yo, Ankie and Lai Kit went over.

We gathered in a hollow in the jumble of stones at the peak and Peter finished reading the touching story of the Acorn People. By now it was a foregone conclusion that "Acorn Mountain" would be the name we would submit for our newly conquered mountain.

Lai Kit and Tanya with Peter.

A remarkable old Juniper tree was on our path back toward camp.

The trip back to camp was mostly downhill and fairly fast traveling.

Jo, Ankie, and Mark on the way back down the mountain.

Our time on the relatively barren mountain tops made me appreciate these three distinct bands of lush vegetation alongside Upper Jackass Lake as we passed it.

This is a satellite view of our hiking area.

We made a rapid downhill trip back to Lower Jackass Lake and our campsite. We had burritos for supper. I still felt a little uncertain in the stomach - like a mild case of motion sickness, but I decided to risk eating a big supper and came out OK.

After supper Bobbi Ann wanted us to move out on a big flat rock for our sharing time. Since we had had all our other sharing sessions around the meal location, this was indicative of a deeper session.

Bobbi Ann started by reading a scripture passage on the groans of the wounded - the souls of the wounded cry out. She read a few pages of a commentary by Chuck Swindoll on that passage and invited members of the group to share times when they had been wounded and how the healing process had taken place.

Jo was the first to respond. He had told us of the loss of a job, but now shared with us that he had lost his wife last fall. That had been followed closely by being laid off from a job where he had worked over twenty years so he had had to deal with the double blow of grief. It was a difficult and emotional thing for Jo, but I'm sure he felt the warmth of response of the group.

But no, Jo was not the first to share - Mark was. When Bobbi had asked for a sharing of the times when we had been wounded, Mark responded by telling of the hurt he had felt by being betrayed by a friend he had trusted. He spoke of having shared things in confidence with that friend, only to have that confidence betrayed. I wasn't sure who he was talking about, but sympathetic comments from Jo and Tanya drew him further out. Bobbi Ann asked him if he felt like sharing more particulars and then he laid it out as having shown M.W. my coin collection and the subsequent burglary. Jo in particular was very empathetic, asking if Mark had been able to forgive him - Jo is very impressive in this regard. It was after that that Jo was able to share some of his grief about the loss of his wife.

Others shared but there were enough deeply felt personal items that it is inappropriate to share those here.

Bobbi Ann then asked me to share and I was somewhat in a dilemma - I really didn't have much in the way of wounds. Brenda had arranged this trip for Mark and I in the hope of a deepening of the relationship between us, and I felt that was happening, but I didn't want to undermine Mark with any comments I made and hinder any of that. The group's response to Mark and his response to the group has been thrilling. He has been so thoughtful, and hardworking and helpful, that all of them have really taken to him. I have been touched by their response to him and their comments to me about him.

Most of the other sharing was too personal to recount here, but it was a deeply moving time of community. I think it is ok to share that Ankie and Jo, her father, had the deep shared grief of the loss of his wife and her mother on a trip to southeast asia where she contracted food poison and died from it. Ankie and Jo were able to share some with each other and the group and were all probably in tears by that time.

We were able to share about the development of a "family" in our communities of faith, and I made some comments about the "just and intimate community" idea . We started wrapping things up with some sharing about our growing sense of community together.

Jeff said "What about you, Bobbi Ann?" "Oh, you want me to share?" Jeff said "You and Peter ,you're a part of our community!" Bobbi Ann said that she had never lost anyone close to her, but as she had grown up as sort of a loner she had become very close to her dog. While she was gone and her dog was in the care of her brother, the dog died. This was about six months before she had become a Christian and the loss had devastated her. She shared the feeling that the Lord had given her the dog when she really needed it and something even deeper when she had come to know the Lord. She talked about her brother's compassion and help when she was going through the grief process.

Peter shared that he had felt that he had felt that he had an ideal relationship with his father and mother but that when he had become a Christian 3 years ago (he's 25) it had hurt his mother a lot. She is Catholic and has been unable to deal with his profession of faith outside Catholicism. Tanya is Catholic, and you could sense his careful choice of words so as not to offend her. She was the most responsive to his sharing and expressed the hope that his love for his Mother would heal the wound and knock down the barriers.

Bobbi Ann asked me to close the session in prayer and I again expressed gratitude for the opportunity for community and sharing. We ended the session with a group hug.

Mark had not said a word after his sharing but came over to me at my sleeping bag afterward and sat down beside me. "Boy, that was really something out there wasn't it?" I responded affirmatively and made some comments about that being the nature of Christian community. We hugged each other and crawled into our warm sleeping bags.

I had a much better night's sleep this time.

August 30
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