At the beginning of August I spent a few days house-, chicken-, and dog-sitting for Chris Iversen and Todd Vogel, who live in Bishop, about 4 hours south of Reno. Mike would join me at the end of the week for a trip up into the Palisades area of the Sierra.
I had a fun few days talking walks with Murphy, their 13-years-young Australian Shepherd, checking for eggs in the backyard coop, watering a few things around the yard, and just generally holding down the fort.
Over the course of several years, Chris has replaced their entire front lawn with native perennials (right). A little creek flows through the front yard, so she can even grow wetland-type plants.
The back garden (left) is really something — tomatoes, tomatillos, corn, greens, peppers, and a huge tumble of blackberries and raspberries. She even has a banana plant, plus peach, pear and cherry trees.
The chickens were low-maintenance — she usually lets them out during the day and they run around the yard, eating insects and expressing their chicken-ness. Here, they make short work of husks from freshly-picked corn (right).
When Chris got back to town, we went on a leisurely, chatty jaunt up to Brown Lake and Green Lake with Murphy (right). This dog has been active all her life so you’d never know she’s 13, except that she gets tired and stiff, and is going a bit deaf. But she’s still smart enough to avoid mosquitoes by hanging in the mud puddle.
Mike came down at the end of the week, and we drove 13 miles south to Big Pine — where, incidentally, great homemade burritos can be had at the Chevron station — and headed up the South Fork of Big Pine Creek towards our objective, a third-class route up Middle Palisade.
We’d packed enough food for a five-day trip, but it ended up as a two-day jaunt — a long day hiking in and a day going up the peak, and then heading out — graduate school responsibilities called to Mike. But we made it up Middle Palisade nonetheless. So it was Good Practice walking with a large pack. The trail (right) was steep in places, but beautiful and well maintained.
Viewed from below, the peak looks like a more serious affair than third-class climbing (scrambling), which is using hands to help with balance on steeper rock. It requires attention and careful stepping, but the consequences of a fall are relatively low, and the climbing is easy. Fourth-class climbing is still easy, but has higher fall consequences, and a rope can be used for protection. Fifth-class is where more technical climbing begins, with rope, belaying, and protecting the route with gear.
The approaches to these peaks can be challenging too, as they are usually off-trail and over talus — fields of rocks ranging in size from basketball- to car-sized, and some of them tippy or loose. When the going got steeper, we donned helmets to protect from any natural or human-caused falling rock.
Anyway, we made it up: A little short of breath at the summmit — we went from camp at 11,360′ to just over 14,000′ — but what a view!