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Posts Tagged ‘Sierra Nevada’

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by Mike Booth

Ever Been Poleaxed by Delight?

For many summers we’ve been driving up to the forest above a neighboring village to gather pine cones for starting fires. They’re ideal for the job, dry and resinous. We need them as the firewood we use—olive, almond and live oak—is hard to light and in wintertime all of our heating and most of our cooking is done on wood fires. Sometimes we take along a picnic. One time we were up there in a sunny clearing enjoying a potato omelette and some red wine while our two little terriers ran around chasing lizards and butterflies. When we finished lunch and rolled over on our backs on the blanket, staring aimlessly skyward, we discovered a pair of golden eagles circling quite a bit lower than usual. They were thinking about lunch, too.

Prohibition

A couple of years ago it occurred to the forestry authority to prohibit collecting anything in the natural park forests. But we still need pine cones, so I came up with a business plan. I would drive up there before dawn on a Sunday morning, while Smokey Bear was still in bed, and load the back of the car with big 100-liter black plastic garbage bags full of pine cones.

It’s a half-hour drive up there from our house and when I left last Sunday at 7:00 a.m. it was 19º down there and a bracing 13º up on the mountain. I turned off on a forestry trail, followed it for a kilometer and parked at the edge of the road. There were enough plump pine cones within a 30-meter radius to fill the four bags that would fit in the back of the car. After scurrying around filling two of them I sat down on a carpet of pine needles for a break. Then it struck me: the silence, the solitude, the pine-scented air… I should come up here more often.

Churros and Glee

Add to that the larcenous glee of stealing the pine cones and you have most of the makings of a perfect Sunday morning. All that was lacking was a double coffee and a plate of the fried batter rings the Spanish call “churros,” and I would see to that at the bar on the way down.

I was headed due south on the dirt trail when I burst out of the woods and found myself on the rim of a great bowl, looking down into a vast valley full of valleys crosslit from the east by the morning sun. Then, as I lifted my gaze I was confronted by one of our old friends, the eagles, soaring low in the distance beneath seven layers of mountain ridges receding into the haze of the upper reaches of Sierra Nevada.

Self Help

I was almost down to the level of the Río Quentar at the bottom of the valley, only half listening to a Spanish self-help guru on Sunday-morning radio discussing the healing effects of nature when a “cabra montesa” (Spanish ibex) appeared in front of me, like a traffic warden, securing the road for her half-grown kid from last spring’s brood, who trotted out of the bushes behind her. Maybe I’ll go back again next Sunday.
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