East to Eden to a Father’s Day memory…

He was dressed in high-laced working boots, khaki trousers, a wool shirt, suspenders, and a felt hat with the brim turned slightly up in front and back.

That was my father, ready to take my middle brother and I on a hiking trip into the Kern Wilderness area of California, just east of the High Sierras.

This was in the early 1960s. I don’t know where he got the idea for that get up, but I suppose it was his idea of how you dressed in the woods. He often told of the summer he spent as a youth working in a logging camp as a smoke chaser, making sure conditions were safe from fires. The loggers at that time, at least where he was, were still using hand-powered cross cut saws and axes.

Dad was already in his late 50s when he took us on this trip. As I recall, I was 12 and going through a pudgy time of my life and not quite in shape for the hike, and that would have made my brother 16 — he was in much better shape.

And my father must have been in fairly good shape, even though he had a rather sedentary job at the time as a newspaper editor.

We spent the first day hiking up a steep mountain side on a switch back trail. This was not a bit easy for me, and I am sure I complained much. My father was patient about this.

We made camp at the end of the day, and after dinner, cooked by dad on an open fire, he hoisted our food supply up into a tree in a canvas bag to keep it safe from bears.

As I recall, the three of us slept in two sleeping bags zipped together on the hard ground.

In the middle of that night I heard a commotion and I heard my dad yell something. But I went back to sleep without knowing what was going on. Come morning I found out that a small bear had got into camp and dad chucked a rock at him.

I‘m not sure that was such a good idea. But we all survived and our food stayed secure.

Next we climbed up an even steeper trail to what is called Franklin Pass. I really had a tough time with this. Dad patiently waited while I rested. My brother went on ahead.

But eventually we were all at the top where there is a notch in the high range, Franklin Pass. Via a camera with a self-timer, dad made a photo of the three of us with a sign in the background. I think it read that we were at 11,000 and some feet above sea level.

We spent the next day or so hiking down the other side and through a semi-dry, but forested Rattlesnake Canyon.

I remember when at one point after we had made camp, nature called. There were no flush toilets and not even outhouses out there. I went some distance from camp to take care of business. With that done I walked the wrong way back. I eventually found myself at a point that looked at lot like the terrain we had been in earlier in the day. I was lost and terrified. In not too long a time I saw my dad standing on a rock yelling back at me. Thanks dad.

Eventually we came to what is a shear drop-off into the Kern River Canyon. Below we saw the magnificent stream lined with a verdant jungle.

Once we made camp down there, dad had us gather the abundant dry leaves and we made a much more comfortable bed for us all.

Each day we got up early and my brother and I would fish in one spot and dad would go off to another and fish by himself.

The water was crystal clear, and you could see the trout swimming around.

I was using salmon eggs for bait, and at one point I saw a good-sized trout, and to get his attention, I let the egg bounce on his head. The fish snapped it up. I caught the biggest fish of the trip. We all caught a lot of fish down there.

Dad cooked fish in a frying pan every night and fixed pancakes every morning.

One day dad was lying down prone at stream side with his hands cupped to drink some cold stream water. I noticed a small rattlesnake slithering next to his leg. I told him. He said, no it was just a lizard. He had seen one before he got down. But he did stay still until it passed. As it turned out it was a rattlesnake after all. I save dad.

We all enjoyed the trip immensely. But toward the end of our time there, my brother and I got lonesome for the comforts of home — to include candy bars and Coca-Cola as I recall, not to mention our own beds.

No offense mom, but dad did not want to leave. He loved it there. I think one of the reasons he liked it so much was that at the time he had a distasteful job, putting out a small weekly newspaper for an ill-tempered publisher.

But another reason was the place with its dense growth of trees and ferns and its beautiful and fish-filled stream was like a Garden of Eden.

I think this was the happiest I ever saw dad in my life.

And I know my brother enjoyed the trip.

As for me, it was difficult at times, but I think it may have been what led me to start trimming down and to be in somewhat better physical shape.

And for my brother and I it is a good Father’s Day memory.

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