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There are angels in the Sierra Nevada

Deep in the steaming hot cauldron of Grasshopper Soup I see faint glimpses of Frank Aldridge lost in the sound of his own footsteps somewhere along the Pacific Crest Trail immersed in creation. When you are in the wilderness for as long as he has been, your awareness takes on a timeless, well grounded dimension that is understandably distrustful and suspicious of any appearance of civilization.

When Frank finally re-enters this world, be patient with him. Don’t concern him too soon with news of Truckee or Reno or fixing roofs or other mundane chores. Seek from him the call of the wild. Explore the great silence with him. Then make sure he doesn’t sit on his well-traveled behind for too long.

If we’re lucky, the wilderness experience will stay with him for the rest of his life and rub off on the rest of us. I think it may be more real than the city life we all indulge in.



I think Sierra Nevada is Spanish for cigarette butts and bottle caps.

Hopefully Frank is not seeing too many of those. There are places around here where you can find them in such large quantities it is entirely feasible that these spectacular mountains could be named after them. They are discarded by people unaware of their place in the universe.




Frank was north of Tuolomne two weeks ago. He isn’t dating his letters. That’s a good sign that he is in the right frame of mind. He still seems to be finding beer somehow up there, but most of the people he meets are heading south. Sounds like Frank is going against the grain by heading north. I know he can handle that but I can’t help thinking it must be driving him a little nuts. At least he has the trail all to himself for the most part. Going solo is a tradeoff. He set his altimeter watch to add vertical feet when he started. Two weeks ago, it showed a total of 22,000 feet of climbing in the first nine days. By now, Frank has climbed Mt. Everest, and then some.

Frank says he encountered a lady on a horse leading a pack mule who quit her job and sold her house in San Diego in order to make the trip on the Pacific Crest Trail. Her name is Angel. I am hoping Angel stops in Truckee so I can meet her. I need to make sure Frank isn’t hallucinating under the stress of 22,000 vertical feet.

Frank better get home soon or he is going to miss two very real angels from the Slovak Republic, Petra Skokanova and Eva Ovcarikova. They have been working for Mountain Air Sports, as bussers at Swiss Lakewood Restaurant and in the deli at the Tahoe City Safeway, and are heading home at the end of the month.

At first glance these two enchanting blondes look like regular California girls. Within moments of meeting them it is obvious they are not your everyday, ordinary girls. They are witty, intelligent and funny. I had the distinct pleasure of working very closely with Eva and Petra this summer and they worked circles around their American counterparts, including most of the guys. They went about picking up litter along the Truckee River with more pride and thoroughness than anyone else, as if it were their own country they were taking care of. They treated their customers with the utmost care and kindness, protecting little children from wandering into the path of approaching raft busses with a firm but gentle hand and winning the admiration of relieved parents.

Eva and Petra are from the little town of Poprad, near the High Tatras, a mountain range that rivals our Sierra. They are business management students at Poprad’s Catholic University. The University and the Slovak Republic should be very proud of them.

They say they will return to Tahoe next year. Let’s hope they do. Somebody has to pick up all the cigarette butts and bottle caps.


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