Another beautiful little stroll on one of our Reno backyard trails, Huffaker Hills. Reno is surrounded by fun trails of various lengths and difficulty. It’s one of the things we love about this area!
We hope you are are able to get out this weekend and enjoy some trails!
Job’s Sister, the name is enigmatic, the terrain exotic, the form sinuous. At 10,8233 feet elevation, it is the second highest peak in the Lake Tahoe Basin, only sixty feet lower than Freel Peak, its nearest neighbor. It has spectacular views of Lake Tahoe, the desert mountains to the east, and the Sierras to the south. But none of these are the reason why I love the place so much.
The first time I visited her was November 23, 2005. Less than a month earlier we had learned that my father had brain cancer, he had already had surgery to remove the tumor and while he hung on to life, he was a husk now, lost, slipping away quickly into the ether. It was the day before I would go to the ranch for Thanksgiving--the first in my life when I would be there and he wouldn’t—and I had some free time so I decided to explore.
Earlier in the summer, before the news about my dad, I had camped near Markleeville and the Freel/Job’s Sister/Job’s area had caught my eye. I had little idea about it, about the names of the peaks or their elevations or their trails or anything, but something about the white wind-whipped summits called to me. So, on that pre-Thanksgiving day, I set off with Dusty and Coco to explore. I didn’t start early. When I found a dirt road from Luther Pass that seemed to go toward the mountains, I pulled over and stopped. It didn’t look like my Honda Civic would make the first steep rocky grade, so I parked at the turn and started walking up the road toward the mountains. (It turns out the steepest and rockiest part of the road is the very beginning, but I had no way of knowing that then, nor was I sure the Honda would have liked it much anyway.)
My companions were in fine spirits, and it was a beautiful clear late fall morning. We climbed up along the road through pine forest and leafless aspen groves and then left it behind as we cut up past mountainside springs and through steep pine forest. It had snowed that year and there were drifts in places among the trees, but for the most part it was still a dry year and the way was clear. An advantage of walking with no plan and little forethought is that each turn, vista, path, et cetera is a revelation and a leap into the unknown. And the unknown was what I was leaping into: the unknown of helping to care for my father, the greater unknown of what life would be like when he was gone. He had been the rock and the support for everything in my life and it simply had never occurred to me that I might lose him. I, recently back from the East Coast, more or less new to walking alone, more or less tethered in Nevada, more or less employed, seemed much more like a balloon ready to float away than my father who, other than a stint at UNR and the Korean War, had never been away from the ranch for more than two weeks at a time in his life. I couldn’t even begin to imagine losing him. And yet the reality was that I was going to lose him, had in fact already lost him. He was still breathing, but he was gone.
I don’t remember the exact route we followed, it definitely wasn’t a trail, but I know that we climbed, straight up the big ridge toward the treeline and the big rock escarpments jutting from the otherwise coarse ground slope. One step at a time, up, up, up. Climbing becomes hypnotizing in a way, moving a step forward when going up a steep slope becomes the sum total of reality and existence for me, and in the midst of a big climb there is no future or past, no advance or retreat—there is only climbing. So much so that it was almost a surprise when I crested the ridge at what I now know is the crest summit between Freel Peak and Job’s Sister that I call the Dragon Spine, but that doesn’t have a name on any map I know.
Just as suddenly, the world transformed. Light seemed to pour from the granite sand, shining through wind-sculpted drifts pressed against the lines of the mountain and the wind-shaped junipers across the slope. And, from there, looking like nothing so much as a giant ramp, an exorbitant jumping off point into the future was Job’s Sister, pointed east, toward the desert, toward my home. It seemed a place both out of time, and also the launching point for time.
I didn’t climb Job’s Sister that day, I didn’t stand at its summit until the next summer. The day was late, we were tired and we had a long walk all the way back to the highway, but I went down in good spirits, the future seemingly just a little bit more manageable than it had been at the beginning of the day. I have carried Job’s Sister with me since that day when I walked toward it as I walked into the unknown and returned just a little bit more confident in my own ability to handle what was coming, whether I wanted it to or not. That was the beginning of my love affair with Job’s Sister (and with Freel, and with Job’s), an affair that I hope will never end as long as I continue to make my way along the unknowable path that is the course of a life.
This blog is dedicated to stories and ideas from our explorations. We hope you enjoy!
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