It was my grandfather who, before he took his life, instilled in me a love of adventure and an appreciation for wilderness survival skills. I reflected on those gifts one morning as I climbed the canyon above Unionville while my husband garnered some needed sleep. I had never ascended the canyon before and did not know the area much above the hamlet clumped on the otherwise isolated east end of the West Humboldt Range. My husband and I were camped behind a ridge above that hamlet. We would have bedded further up the canyon but a slender bent alder blocked our Land Rover’s passage.
As I prepared to depart camp that morning, my husband admonished me in a groggy voice to take a walkie-talkie, so I grabbed one along with my camera. I inhaled deeply the air chilled by night. Dawn’s gold light seeped over the canyon walls. Ahead of me our two hounds traversed the trail.
When the dogs and I passed a tall juniper with plump ghostly-gray berries, it roused a memory of my grandfather. Juniper berries, he had taught me, indicating the wizened ones we had in Maine where I grew up, could be boiled into a tea which aids digestion. But at the age of nine I had a cast iron stomach so I wasn’t motivated to put that knowledge to the test.
A small stream bisected our dusty trail, its moisture supporting a patch of spring green grass and a long leafy arbor. I regretted that my husband was missing so much beauty but was grateful that I felt comfortable hiking solo. Continue reading