Author shares his love of the mountains
Describing himself as a “recovered romantic,” author Brent Harold shares his love affair with the mountains in his book, “Owning the Sierra Nevada, the short history of a long infatuation.”
Now the author is making his first visit back to Truckee in four years for a book signing at Bookshelf at Hooligan Rocks on Tuesday night.
Love was in the air in 1968 when a group of 10 free-spirited friends, including Harold, decided to purchase 20 acres of property not far from Donner Pass at the end of Coldstream Canyon. The purchase price 38 years ago? About $20,000, which was a lot of money for the land at that time, he said.
Even though Harold made his home on the East Coast, where he currently lives with his wife and teenage son near Cape Cod in Mass., he was the one out of the group to trek to the property most frequently.
He writes about self-discovery and his love for the wilderness on his trips as a twenty-something.
“What stands out when I think of that trip is the sexiness simply of being in the high Sierra: smooth, clean rock, pure water, eternal snow, and the huge bowl of dark blue sky… Dropped out of key human relationships in my life, I felt in the mountains more connected to life in general.”
Harold said the Sierra Nevada’s have remained extremely important to him, “beautiful, wonderful, and also problematic,” like a romantic relationship can be at times. “A woman gets under your skin and it ruins you,” he said.
Being in the peaceful, rural surroundings of the mountains got under his skin in the same way, he said.
For years his camping routine was simple, “You stop short, load yourself up, and schlep to the camp,” Harold said of the 3/4 mile distance he hiked from where he parked his car to his favored camp site.
Recreational camping was the intended use for the property.
Harold writes, “…our business has been more or less the same as Thoreau at Walden or Hemingway in the good place of Big Hearted River. The idea, as always with pilgrimages, is simply getting oneself to the special place, partaking of its virtues and paying homage.”
But as time went by and people started developing nearby properties, the environment started to evolve.
“The meaning of it had all changed,” he said. “Very few people go through there unless you had a cabin there.”
As an aging baby-boomer, he said he toyed with the idea of building a cabin on the land, however, the location of the property wasn’t easily accessible for construction.
“I’m finally giving up the idea of the cabin and living on both coasts,” he said. “It’s painful. I have mixed feelings.”
In the winter of 2005 the ten friends reunited and came to a consensus to sell the 20 acres of land they had each owned a portion of for over three decades. Harold said many of them didn’t have much invested in the property at that point.
“I was the one who knew the most about the conditions,” he said. “They didn’t know what had happened to the prices.”
The property sold for $310,000 to a private owner, 15.5 times more than what the ten of them paid back in the ’60s.
While visiting this week, Harold said he’s preparing himself for the shock of the development he might see while passing the property on the hike to Tinkers Knob, a trail he’s hiked many times before.
– Brent Harold, author of “Owning the Sierra Nevada, a short history of a long infatuation” will be at Bookshelf at Hooligan Rocks, next to Safeway, in the Gateway shopping center on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.
– He will talk about his book, answer questions, and sign copies. Refreshments will also be available, said Lydia Sparksworthy, book store manager.
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