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Tuesday, September 29, 2009


The Seasons: Early Autumn 2009


October * Onitsura * Basho

Almost seamlessly or, one can say, without losing a stride we moved from summer into autumn. October is around the corner. Two days back the day-time temp. was in the 90's (31 deg. C). Today it is in the 70's. Hopefully, the rains will come soon. We need them.

"Early autumn:
Tree leaves flutter, and autumn begins."
-- Uejima Onitsura (1631-1738)
Translated by Hiroaki Sato and Burton Watson, From the Country of Eight Islands

Don't mention others' shortcomings,
Don't dwell on your virtues.
Speak, and your lips feel cold in the autumn wind."
--Matsuo Basho, 1692
Translated by Hiroaki Sato and Burton Watson, From the Country of Eight Islands

It is the time of the year when I think of hot soups, roasted root vegetables, and foraging for wild mushrooms. Last season was disappointing. I have a feeling that this year the chanterelles would be back in force.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Mt. Whitney and A Grand Cru Classé Pauillac


A daunting, brute of a Mountain

There are scads of items - reports about ascending Mt. Whitney to be found on the Internet. Neil Modie of Seattle Post Intelligencer climbed the mountain three years ago, in August 2006, and this is what he wrote:

We had decided not to try a "day hike" -- from Whitney Portal to the summit and back -- in one day, a distance of more than 21 miles.

We carried our packs to the Trail Camp on the afternoon of Sept.19th and set up tents. Our plan was to start for the summit on Sunday morning, break camp after descending and hike back to Whitney Portal.

Howard Higley began suffering from altitude sickness on the way to Trail Camp. On Sunday morning, he felt that he was not in a condition to ascend the summit and would return to Whitney Portal to wait for us. It was the right decision. Howard had wanted to do this for a long time and it was he who won a place in the permit lottery.

Johnny and I left camp at 8:00 AM. Sunday, Sept.20th. Johnny reached the peak long before me; I got there at 12:46 PM. Some climbers do it in less time, others take longer. Met an 87 year old man who was descending after celebrating his birthday by hiking up to the summit!

We had the usual pictures taken, signed the register in front of the Smithsonian hut, Then it was time to descend to the camp site. Our original plan was to break camp and head for Whitney Portal 4.7 miles away. But I suffered injuries in a fall during descent and decided to wait until next morning to hike back to Whitney Portal. Negotiating thousands of stone steps at night with a pack on my back would have been fraught with risks in the shape I was in.

On Monday, Johnny transferred some of my stuff into his backpack. We left Trail Camp soon after 7:00 AM and reached Whitney Portal at 12:40 PM. What a pleasure it was to see our friend Howard Higley!

We had taken a bottle of Pauillac '04 to celebrate, or to drown our sorrows if we failed. We were famished. Ordered burgers and requested permission of the manager to open our bottlle of wine. She graciously said it was OK. There were no crystal stemware to drink from but the only thing wrong with the paper cups was that they did not show the lovely, plum color of the wine. We finished the bottle and headed home.

Saturday morning,Johnny getting ready for the hike to Trail Camp © Rana Sircar

Our packs in front of the the Whitney Portal Store © Rana Sircar

With Howard Higley at trailhead adjacent to Portal Store - © John Lazar,Jr.

@ Rana Sircar

Looking down on Owens Valley @ Rana Sircar

Johnny slogging up to Trail Camp @ Rana Sircar

Nice, but soon it became rocks and more rocks @ Rana Sircar

Above tree-line, past Mirror Lake @ John Lazar,Jr.
Up the trail to Outpost Camp
@ John Lazar,Jr.

A bristlecone pine above Mirror Lake @ John Lazar,Jr.

Distant view - Mt. Whitney at far right @ Rana Sircar
Consultation Lake, 11,680 ft - near trail camp
@ John Lazar,Jr.

Trail camp area, right of the lake @ John Lazar,Jr.

Johnny's tent at camp site @ John Lazar,Jr.

Sept.20th -Climbers using wire rope railing in a steep, icy area @ Rana Sircar

Looking down at Consultation Lake from top of the switchbacks @ John Lazar,Jr.

Getting closer to the summit, Smithsonian Hut visible - @ John Lazar,Jr.

On the ridge at 13,650 ft. The trail is at right of the marker
@ John Lazar,Jr.

Sign post at the intersection of the John Muir and Whitney Portal Trails @ John Lazar,Jr.

Getting close to summit. Tough hiking; poles essential @ John Lazar,Jr.

The summit at last. Smithsonian Hut, built 1909 @ John Lazar,Jr.

The register at the Smithsonian Hut. Nos.31 and 34 were us @ Rana Sircar

National Park Service Plaque @ John Lazar,Jr.

Looking south towards Keeler Needle and the top of the switchbacks @ John Lazar,Jr.

How sweet it was! At the top of the 48 states - A friendly climber took this picture

Climbers on top. The weather couldn't have been better - @ Rana Sircar

Descending. Johnny at Trail Crest @ Rana Sircar

Monday morning returning to Portal, Mirror Lake was a welcome sight @ Rana Sircar

I did a lot of groaning, Johnny (with a 46 lb. pack) never sweated @ Rana Sircar

At Portal. Took 5 hrs from Trail Camp because of my slow pace @ Howard Higley

Johnny and Howard enjoying the '04 Pauillac - @Rana Sircar

"Adventure is not outside man; it is within."
--David Grayson


Saturday, September 12, 2009


In the "Melting Pot" - Thoughts of an Immigrant


America, America

No longer dominated by whites, our country is truly becoming a melting pot to the dismay of some politicians and groups of conservatives who resent the eroding of their power. And that is good.

As I begin my 41st year in America, I rejoice that those who claim that America is a Judeo-Christian nation are going to be a spent force. I hope for a truly Jeffersonian America in which the wall between church and state will remain inviolate.

There is much to celebrate. The victory of Barack Obama was a clear sign of the sea changes taking place. Paraphrasing an ad for cigarettes "We have come a long way". According to signs (my personal interpretation) President Obama's administration would not be vastly different from others before him but that is how our political system works.....far from an ideal good government. The government that President Lincoln envisaged in his Gettysburg Address:".......and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." never took shape, and remains unattainable.

Government and politicians aside, it is a great country. The diversity, the incredible energy, the natural splendor are overwhelming. Not always proud of it but I love my adopted country. As the NY Times blogger Maira Kalman wrote "Happy to be here". I am, I certainly am.


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