When a chance for a memory-making trip with her daughter goes awry, Marilyn Englander changes plans.
Back in March, my grown-up daughter asked me to take her backpacking. It's not every day that an adult child wants her mother's companionship in travel, so I chucked my other summer plans and made a reservation for late August in Desolation Wilderness, southwest of Lake Tahoe, a location guaranteed to delight a beginner.
All spring I excitedly pawed through gear, refreshed my memory about purifying water, gingerly test-started the tiny gas stove, planned great meals. I day-hiked with a pack loaded with weights to get in shape. I was in heaven.
Now, though, the fires. First, the Dixie Fire worried me. Then, the Caldor Fire struck. My heart sank. The wilds of California that I love, that inspire and restore me, are in grave danger. I mourned for the lands. And I lamented that our trip was doomed.
Every morning as I monitor air quality in the Sierra, the situation degrades. This is drought; these are our times. Yet, though I can’t rescue the wilderness from fire, I recognized that I could salvage the joy of a few days solo with my daughter. I needed to pivot and be flexible.