Monthly Archives: June 2007

Grizzlies ate salmon here

Graphic I cobbled together some years back for an article in the old Faultline.

We went to the Oakland Museum today, to see an exhibit on Yosemite as reflected in art. I’ll have more to say about it soon, but for now: it was a good exhibit, providing a much-needed Hudson River School fix to this Bierstadt and William Keith addict, and it wasn’t just Art Of The Conquerors: native art of Yosemite, baskets and regalia, traditional and Modern, are represented as well.

But it was a different exhibit that’s preoccupied me for the rest of the day.

“Grizzlies Ate Salmon at the Oakland Museum of California” reveals the topological roots of the land now occupied by the museum. In the 1700s salmon swam and bear dined in the San Antonio Creek, the estuary adjacent to the museum and Laney College. The spawning streams have become storm drains, and the estuary’s level is now controlled by a tide-gate pump station at 10th Street.”

Nothing I didn’t really know there. A palimpsest of loss: the griz habitat of the East Bay replaced by small cities and ranchland in the 1860s, the ranchland paved over and replaced with suburbs in the 1890s and onward, the urbanized former suburbs — thriving vibrant neighborhoods — torn down and replaced by freeways in the 1960s.


Becky and I were talking recently about time machines, and what we’d do with them. Of course we thought about showing up at home four years ago while the previous us were at work and taking Zeke out for a hike. The Mid-Hills-to-Hole-in-the-Wall trail would be a nice destination, sometime before 2005 when all the hyphens burned down. Or even just camping at the unburned Mid-Hills one more time. Maybe Buffalo in the 1970s, tolerating it just long enough to give myself some much-needed advice, not that I’ve ever listened to me? (Would I say “don’t listen to the people you’re currently listening to?” Or tell me about the ADD? Or to buy Microsoft stock?)

The Grand Canyon before the smog got bad, or Glen Canyon before the dam? Hetch Hetchy before the dam? Yosemite before the roads? Or hell, the Grand Canyon two million years ago when lava dammed it, making a waterfall 12 times the height of Niagara Falls with twice the Niagara’s flow?

Tonight I’m thinking downtown Oakland, maybe around 1750 or so, before the Spanish brought the benefits of Christianity, cattle, and cholera. Just to show up and look around, to try not to bother the Huchiun too much, to see what my home looked like before.

Maybe I’d make that literal: hike up from Huchiun territory into Karkin turf to to see what grew in my garden two hundred fifty years ago, to see if I could even find this piece of land, to drink from the springs that once bubbled up out of our backyard.

Where would you go? Aside, of course, from the Philips Academy in 1943 to give the young George Herbert Walker Bush a free vasectomy.

Server switch

Things may be a little odd-looking around here for a bit. I’m switching servers. Same goes for Ron’s joint, which will be getting a brand spanking new design and URL out of the deal, assuming I figure out how to use Expression Engine’s Multiple Sites Manager at some point in the next couple days. Great software, sketchy documentation.

Carry on!


The blog world is not a place I want to be right now.

[Embarrassed clarification, after three days: Whoa! I didn’t mean to imply I was ending it all. I said “right now” meaning “for a while.” Not “never again.” Maybe less than a month, maybe more, dunno.

CRN isn’t dead. I’m just taking things too seriously and need to go for more walks. Besides: I’m unemployed and 1) need to make some money, which means less time for writing blog entries and 2) Becky just ended her school year, so it’s an opportunity for uxorial companionship. Which is the perfect antidote to blog world ugliness.

I’ve spent whole hours at a time away from this machine the last few days, and it feels great.

And thanks for the notes, folks. You guys are swell. Feel free to email me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
//’;l[1]=’a’;l[2]=’/’;l[3]=”;l[22]=’\”‘;l[23]=’ 103′;l[24]=’ 114′;l[25]=’ 111′;l[26]=’ 46′;l[27]=’ 101′;l[28]=’ 110′;l[29]=’ 105′;l[30]=’ 108′;l[31]=’ 116′;l[32]=’ 108′;l[33]=’ 117′;l[34]=’ 97′;l[35]=’ 102′;l[36]=’ 64′;l[37]=’ 110′;l[38]=’ 114′;l[39]=’ 99′;l[40]=’:’;l[41]=’o’;l[42]=’t’;l[43]=’l’;l[44]=’i’;l[45]=’a’;l[46]=’m’;l[47]=’\”‘;l[48]=’=’;l[49]=’f’;l[50]=’e’;l[51]=’r’;l[52]=’h’;l[53]=’a ‘;l[54]=’= 0; i=i-1){
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document.getElementById(‘eeEncEmail_NuXjCuVemX’).innerHTML = output;
if you want. Especially if you’d like a tour of Pinole Creek.]

[Also: what the hell. I’ll open comments here: talk among yourselves. Enjoy.]


The Earth is a still, and granite the froth boiled out of its depths. That granite is buoyant. It skitters before the wind, almost, riding the mantle’s currents, bumping up against other flakes of granite and suturing itself together into continents.

The rock of Mount Eddy is heavier stuff. A cubic mile of peridotite, flesh of the mantle welded to the continent when a chain of islands rode up onto the North American Plate to become the Klamath Mountains, Mount Eddy seems top heavy up here above the crustal rocks, an ocean-going anvil on a bamboo raft. I wonder, as I lie shivering in my sleeping bag, what manner of nudge would suffice to flip this whole county upside down.

It has been some time since I have seen this many stars.

That peridotite was cloaked in ice not long ago, a mere 12,000 years or so. The ice flowed down the Deadfall Creek drainage, plucking rocks from the face of the mountain and moving them downhill. Where the glacier ended, rocks accumulated in moraines. It is a topography familiar to Californians: the Deadfall glacier melted back in stages, leaving behind a chain of lakes separated by morainal dams. They are called “paternoster lakes”: a rosary chain of holes carved out by Pleistocene ice, strung together on a meltwater braid. When it laid down the lateral moraine pressing into my back, the Deadfall glacier was downright petite: half a mile long, a quarter across. Perhaps two hundred feet deep.

A snowfield at the head of this little valley shines in starlight. It is June and unmelted snow remains, and shines in starlight. Two weeks ago the pass was blocked by a head-high drift. It had melted back clean to the verge when we drove past it. There is no moon and the sky is black, and yet the stars burn bright enough to bathe the mountainsides in light. Starlight limns the snow under the firs, behind the ridges where the big star cannot yet reach to melt it by day.

There is light enough to walk, and so when I must get up — as well-hydrated hikers often do — I walk in darkness. It is cold and the bag beckons, but I walk when I am done to the edge of our lateral moraine, look down toward the lake. It is bottomless. There is no wind to rake its surface, and stars blaze up from it.

At three the moon rises over the summit ridge. It drives a wind before it and we shiver in our bags.

Day comes and coffee, and we rouse ourselves slowly to the summit. I have known Matthew for 25 years and he has known me just as long, and we divide the tasks of our hikes near-instinctively, without discussion: I complain going uphill, and he complains going down. There is little of that routine here aside from my calling halts to catch my breath. Less than 24 hours at altitude and this trail climbs 2,000 feet in a mile and a half. We take turns carrying the 20-pound daypack. I observe that I don’t feel up to making the summit, and then we make the summit.

We make the summit. It starts to rain and we descend.

We second-guess the sky. We lose. It rains on and off for the rest of the day, a bit of drizzle at a time, and then an hour before sunset the high overcast descends, fills the valley with mist. Darkness gathers and we watch the mist. Red rock walls across the lake, spare groves of sparse trees on them in the dim cold fog, and we in equipoise between the beckoning down and sublime, uncaring murk.

Gone: comments open for members only

Off until Monday. I can’t thus moderate comments, but rather than turning them off in this time of heightened tension and trolling and nastiness I’ve restricted them to people who’ve signed on as members. New memberships will go into moderation until I get back. I apologize for the inconvenience.