Notice: Halloween Cancelled

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Boris creeps up, his four legs on each side moving in a rhythmic waviness, practicing a menacing stare with his thirteen eyes, but his pincers are hidden behind a cloth mask with a black web imprinted upon it. I can tell by his eagerness that he doesn’t know. I have to break the bad news to him.

“What? Halloween is cancelled? Are you serious?” Most of his eyes stare at me intently to ascertain the truth of my statement.

“Yep. That’s what the boss told me.”

“Well, fly shit! They can’t do that. It’s the biggest day of the year. I get more on Halloween than all the other days of the year combined.” His head and thirteen eyes droop to the floor before he regains some semblance of composure. “Did he say why? Is it because of COVID?”

“Ostensibly, yes.”

“Ostensibly, yes? What in the hell does that mean? We all take precautions. We are evil distancing.”

“Some say that’s the problem. I mean, how scary is it when a vampire or a werewolf wears a mask? Half the scare is in the teeth. The boss says it’s a question of artistic integrity. Don’t you feel your scare loses its impact when you wear your mask?”

Boris squints his eyes and moves his gazes about the room trying to impress me. He flares his legs to make himself look bigger. It doesn’t work.

Boris says, “Okay. Okay. You win. I don’t like it, either. It’s not as scary with the mask. but if they can play sports with a cardboard crowd and sound-tracked crowd noises, and baseball can play seven-inning games and best-of-three playoff rounds, we can make a few concessions too. Don’t we owe it to our victims? Professionalism dictates that we get there and terrorize the populace. We owe it to the people!” He slams down his front four legs.

Ghosts flit about the room with the energy of his determination. Ghouls lift their heads and their eyes shine red in our direction.

“I admire your enthusiasm, but I think the problem is really much deeper than that. This year has scared the shit out of so many people already, and with a presidential election just a few days later, well…”

“So what are you saying?” Boris asks. “You think the real problem is scare fatigue?”




“How could it be worse? You don’t mean…” Now Boris looks like he is shaking.

“Yes. Irrelevance.”

“Noooo.” I can hear Boris’s knees knocking back and forth in fear like Newton’s cradle.

“No one is terrorized anymore. I read a blog from one guy that said he would love to transfigure himself into a werewolf and rip the guts out of some people.”

“Oooh,” Boris retracts timidly covering his eyes with his pedipalps.

“And another that says living forever with sex slave vampresses doesn’t seem so bad.”

Boris’s spinnerets fall to the ground and his fovea flattens to the floor, the lift leaving his eight legs. Or is it ten? Or twelve? He has lots of appendages.

“No one is safe. Not even me,” I say. “Do you know I looked up goblin? It says I am and I quote, ‘A mischievous, and usually very unpleasant, vengeful, and greedy creature whose primary purpose is to cause trouble to humankind.’ That doesn’t narrow it down much when you think about it. I have to compete against politicians, lawyers, CEOs, stock analysts, and customer support people. Seriously. All I have going for me is green skin and bad dentition. It’s the same for all of us. We have to be more scary and evil than all of a black and orange Halloween decade that has scared the crap of anyone paying any attention at all more than we ever have. They are stealing our business.”

“So now what? There must be something we can do?”

“Yes. I think so,” I agree. “First, take some time off. Enjoy some gourmet fly carcass.

“And then,” I proclaim loudly, “we have to regroup.”

Ogres and ghouls and gargoyles straighten and stand from their sitting hump-backed positions.

“We have to become more scary than pandemics!”

Witches on brooms and ghosts circle over head dancing like electrons about a nucleus.

“We have to become more fearsome than global disasters and Greek-lettered hurricanes and state-wide firestorms!”

Jackalopes leap in bounds between Boris and myself with their evil antlers.

“We have to out-terrorize a population on the verge of a civil war!”

Werewolfs bay at the full moon. Bats echolocate at unhearable frequencies. Salamanders up their level of slime.

In the middle of my fantastic, albeit empty rant, the cheap elastic band snaps and my mask pops off. A collective gasp of cold evilness runs through the crowd and it disperses as fast as a viral news story.

“Next year,” I conclude under my breath and under my mask as I try to hold it back to my face.

All thirteen eyes on Boris’s hairy face are coated with the moisture of sadness. We each turn and go our separate ways.

Backed Out in the Outback

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Okay. I have to come clean. I read the weather report of rain followed by overnight temps in the teens. Although I could hear the call of nature, it was the anticipation of the call of nature four times in the middle of the night in subfreezing weather that told me to wait until next time to take spectacular sun-on-the-peak in the reflection-of-the-lake pictures. A man has got to know his limitations, run his own race, stay within himself, ride his own ride, hike his own hike. I still went on the trip but elected to do day hikes instead. I hiked in with the group I intended to backpack with but turned around about six miles into the trip and hiked out by myself. I spent the next day doing hikes in the Bristlecone Pine forest.

The world is opening up again but there are still many concessions to COVID. If you travel, make sure you bring your mask or you won’t be allowed in. To anything. I’m sure in a pinch, you could wrap a bandana or scarf or something around your face, but if you anticipate needing any service or any interaction with anyone indoors, bring your mask. If you are worried about the disease itself, bring hand sanitizer. Some places have it and some places don’t. I will let you know in a week or so if I managed to escape.

The biggest concession on the hike was the closure of the road to vehicles. We had to walk 3.5 miles just to get to the trailhead. And then I had to walk the 3.5 miles out. For me, that meant over half of my hike was walking the road from the parking lot to the trailhead. More on that later though. All the visitor centers are closed. So don’t expect any support. I imagine this will change in the next week or two.

The other big concern was conditioning, or more accurately, lack of it. Today, walking is painful, my calves are completely worked. Judging by when it hurts the most, I think it’s the downhill more than the uphill that worked them the most. Surprisingly, my wind and my heart rate felt pretty good even on the eleven thousand foot hikes in the Bristlecone Forest. My feet held up and my back was fine, despite problems during my few training hikes (Daley Ranch, Daley Ranch 2 , and Daley Ranch 3 I think basketball must have been sufficient training in the past because I didn’t have this problem on previous hikes but not playing is another concession to COVID.

On the first day, I hiked Shadow Creek about halfway before turning back. I did the easy half, descending from 9250 ft elevation at the parking lot, to about 8400 feet along the river, with my friends. But then I had to come back. So I did about twelve miles total and close to a thousand-foot elevation gain, though most of it was on the road. The road back by myself on this hike compared to the trip I took two years ago is a study in contrasts. Two years ago, I stood on a packed bus that weaved in and out of heavy traffic for the slow ride to the trailhead. Instead of squeaking brakes and exhaust, I had the road entirely to myself. I could hear birds chirping, water running, wind whistling through the trees, and smell perfumed plants. Several times, I stopped on the road to take pictures of the Minarets in the distance. A couple of scooters scooted by. Two guys on electric bicycles went flying past. Their batteries died on the uphill and I ended up catching up to them pushing their bikes complaining about technology. But that was it.

On the second day, I drove to Bristlecone Forest. The Bristlecone Forest is on the other side of Owen Valley. It’s about an hour’s drive from Bishop to the visitor center at Schulman Grove. The gates were open but the visitor center was closed. I did the four-mile loop trail through the grove. It’s well-marked with mile markers, has strategically placed benches, and a self-guided tour but no brochures or maps stocked to tell you what they want you to see.

Trees dot the distant hills seemingly spaced like a planned forest without any undergrowth. The wildflowers that do grow are all miniaturized. In addition to their incredible longevity, Bristlecones have an amazing range of deep colors from tan to red to brown, twisted wood particularly as they age, and haunting shapes.

I drove the eleven miles of unpaved road to Patriarch Grove over the eleven thousand foot mark. There are a couple of steep grades, at least from the point of view of a Prius C. The road is well-graded with only the occasional washboard. The last mile is a single-vehicle rough but not uneven road. I had to slow down to the five to ten mph range to get through that stretch without rattling pieces of the car off onto the road.

There are two short loop trails. One through the grove about a quarter-mile long and the other to an overlook, about a half-mile. Given the time of year and lack of atmosphere at that altitude, you might be worried about sunburn. But with temperatures in the mid-forties and gusty wind, I didn’t have any skin exposed to burn. The grove is right at the tree line. At eleven thousand feet, there is not much growing. It’s easy to see why the bald mountain is called White Mountain.

The views from the White Mountains are incredible. To the west, you can see hundreds of miles of the Eastern Sierras. To the east, the entire Great Basin unfolds out as far as you can see, including views of salt flats and sand dunes in Death Valley. It’s a big sky country that a camera can only begin to catch. That’s my way of telling you, you should go see it for yourself.

Here are the pics, hope you enjoy.