Writing 101, Day Two: A Room with a View (Or Just a View)
We’re all drawn to certain places. If you had the power to get somewhere — anywhere — where would you go right now? For your twist, focus on building a setting description.
the morning we packed up was a sunday and the forest all around us was abuzz with activity. the small orange-brown squirrels were active in a way that made it seem they each just had a coke and snickers bar for breakfast. i laid there for 30-minutes just listening to the sounds of their play while wiggling each finger and toe to get my blood flowing. it was 19 degrees fahrenheit and nearly all my water was frozen solid; i laid there trying to determine if i were too. my sleeping bag had already lied to me the night before. it’s supposed to be rated to 10 degrees but the guy who made mine must have been absent on down-stuffing-day.
inside my bag, and dressed like i was going outside to play in the snow, i was still colder than any time i can remember since winter training in the military. i remember thinking, just another few minutes and i’ll get up. others were awake. i could hear the same swishing sound of frictional movement on nylon from the direction of nolan’s tent; he must have been rubbing his hands and legs together also. like rubbing two sticks, at the rate we were going we could have started our own fire. our fire! that thought excited me, but it was brief and fleeting; as a general practice, no one starts a fire on the morning they pack out. there were several things that morning i didn’t want to do. i didn’t want to unzip my bag, didn’t want to exit my tent, and definitely didn’t want to leave ‘little yo’.
we had hiked up friday from the valley floor, 4.5 miles from where i parked the jeep, and we had all done it with 50lb packs: david, greg, nolan, and i. nolan had just turned 18 and it was a father/son + crazy friends excursion of epic proportion. we had actually been planning a different hike entirely but fire restrictions in the ventana caused us to execute plan b. i’m glad we did. little yosemite valley is a glacier-carved stretch some 2000 feet above the floor of the park. the merced river flows there before dumping over two spectacular falls that tourists clamor to see, sometimes foolishly. deaths from getting too close and being swept over are not rare.
the beauty is indescribable in spite of my best attempts. as i lay in my tent that sunday morning, the day before was still replaying in my mind. saturday was easier because we did build a fire (ah warmth!) and with few campsite chores, we rallied faster. the air was clean and the sky was clear. the family of squirrels – this was clearly their playground – were scattering pine cones this way and that as they played. we filled our containers and drinking bladders with cold, clear merced river water.
scrambling out 8-9 feet to sit atop a granite boulder, i had let my filter-pump’s hose drop straight into the clearest pool i’d ever seen; working the pump, i just took it all in. extended shadows of trees shrinking with the rising sun… the gentle mist from the temperature inversion hovering over the still river upstream… the melody of the water’s ripple slightly downstream where the pace picked up… and turning around, the backside of half dome ablaze with the morning sunlight. that same wall of granite was illuminated the night before by the full moon so brightly you could have read a fine-print book.
that’s where i would go right now.