I discovered the truth of this first hand yesterday along with a lesson in human nature. I had been waiting and waiting for the fall colors to arrive in Mammoth Lakes, California, and I decided that yesterday was to be the long awaited day. I ventured out by myself for the drive up Rock Creek Road intending to take a most beautiful hike in Little Lakes Valley at the end of the road in "Mosquito Flats". At an elevation of 10,255 feet, this is the highest trailhead in the Sierras, accessible by car.
I had driven up that way a week earlier and though there was some evidence of fall, it was patchy at best. Yesterday the drive up did not disappoint.
The golds and oranges (and occasional reds) were in full blaze. Happily I arrived at the trailhead and after a struggle finding a place to park set out on my journey. I was well equipped with my wallet, car key, kleenex, Iphone and earbuds and of course a bottle of water. Not wishing to be burdened with a backpack, I carefully packed all of my belongings into my pockets with the exception of the water. Having been first a daughter and later a mother, I of course followed the inviolable rule of stopping in the bathroom (a glorified Andy Gump) at the trailhead before beginning my trek.
After that I pressed "play" on Jackson Browne's "Running on Empty" album, and off I went. The beginning part of the hike runs along a river that is flowing downhill from a lake above. I was halfway through the ascent to the first lake (of many) when I realized I had left my water in the bathroom. What to do?!! Even though it is mid October, it was a warm day (70's) and I knew that hiking without water was not a great idea, but I also knew that I didn't want to repeat this portion of the hike (which is actually the most difficult part) and so I made the decision to carry on without.
As I said, this hike is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen as the trail follows a chain of lakes and crosses meadows and streams in the process, flanked by mountains some of which have snow on their peaks all year round. There was "water water" everywhere (even in this time of drought) except in my possession. I thought about other people I saw on the trail, imagining their water bottles languishing in their backpacks, but I tried to put that out of my head and instead focus on the scenery, the exertion and Jackson Browne, followed by the Eagles' "Hell Freezes Over" and U2"s Joshua Tree albums.
At long last I descended to the trailhead totally parched. Just as a lark, I decided to check the bathroom to see if my fellow travelers had taken the high road and left the water for the unfortunate fellow hiker who had left it. It seems that these days, generally, people are up to no good. They are shooting each other for no good reason, bombing people and places, and generally behaving in a most malevolent, intolerant and self interested fashion. Needless to say my expectation of finding my water was close to zero. I chuckled to myself as I opened the door to the bathroom waiting to validate my low opinion of my fellow humans when the reflected gleam of the water bottle shot toward me. Gleefully happy to be proved wrong, grabbed it, downed most of it in one go, and started back to my car with a renewed hope for mankind (or at least for those who hike).
The question is why is this in a food blog? Well first, water is an essential element in most cooking and baking, so that is my sneaky way of working this into the blog. But to make this more legitimate, I will include a food tip to those who are not in the "know". On the road up to the trailhead, you will come across Rock Creek Resort. This consists of a group of cabins, and a tackle shop/grill called "The Pie in the Sky" restaurant. Anyone who knows anything about this area knows to show up there at about 11 a.m. to purchase some the most delicious slices of (secret recipe) homemade pie anywhere.
Unfortunately, the word is out and the "pickins" become very slim in a short period of time so it is always with great trepidation that I enter the grill and quickly glance at the whiteboard with the list of pies both available and crossed out. In addition to the pies, they manage to turn out delicious burgers and sandwiches on their tiny grill, so if I am disappointed that my favorite (boysenberry pie) has already vanished, I can console myself with a Rock Creek Special (basically a grilled cheese with Ortega chiles, Jack cheese and sliced tomatoes on sourdough-see recipe below), and any other pie that is still for sale . They also serve breakfast. This is a family operation that has been going strong since 1979 when Sue and Jim King purchased it. Sadly they are only open from Memorial Day until the end of October after which the road is impassable, but maybe that is a good thing because while there can never be too much of a good thing, the pies taste all the sweeter in May after months of a "pie drought".
Unfortunately, yesterday when I returned from my hike it was too late to partake of the Pie in the Sky delights, but for me, even without the pie, my day had already been made sweeter by my experience with "the kindness of strangers". Maybe the pie would have been overkill.