Most hobbies involve the doing or making of something, usually with the expenditure of a lot of money. Such hobbies can be done anytime and don’t have much bearing upon the season.
Also, hobbies supposedly are meant to revitalize the spirit and rest the body in order for us to continue our daily pursuits more productively. Sometimes, these hobbies create even more stress and unintended obligations.
My autumn hobby requires no special props unless I want to include trekking poles, a camera, journal, or art supplies. In fact, my autmun hobby is not really about doing or making anything. Instead, it’s all about being.
At the end of September, when the vegetable gardens have been put to bed and all the harvest has been prepared for winter, my husband and I take advantage of the crisp days of autumn to travel the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada.
While this sceneic stretch of Highway 395 attracts visitors through most of the warm weather months, we like to explore where the autumn colors flow down canyon drainages like golden waterfalls.
There are several places where a short hike will take us to a waterfall or a meadow of wildflowers. Warrens of backroads lead us in our Jeep Wrangler to surprises that will never be experienced by those who whiz through on the highway from L.A. to Reno.
Autumn is perfect timing for many reasons. The kids are back in school, so tourist crowds have changed, if not waned, from tired whining children to retirees trying out their skills at photography, plein-air painting, hiking, fishing, and camping.
While nights are brisk, the day’s are still warm and sunny. Campgrounds are nearly empty and most tourist attractions are settling into a slower pace. People are more prone to chat and pass the time. Some intriguing tales can be heard.
This is the back of beyond here. The Sierra Nevada provides a long, high barrier to the frantic energy of California’s urban culture. World events disappear in the autumn haze as visitors explore hundred-year-old mining towns or the geographic wonders of volcanism and glaciation that created this jagged mountain range..
People lose track of time and current events while camping in the folds of the Sierra Nevada. Wild flowers still bedeck alpine trails. Fish still tempt the erstwhile fisherman in crystal lakes. And curvy roads call to motorcyclists.
It’s a good time to ascend Mt. Whitney, join the star party at Death Valley, or gaze at a different kind of star at Lone Pine’s annual film festival.
When people visit this margin between snowdrift and desert, political forays, wars, and stock market crashes lose their sting. The aroma of sage cleanses the soul. The heart rate slows and one is tempted to just sit and look at beauty.
Lots of motels can accommodate visitors are various rates, but there’s also plenty of BLM land where campers can boondock for free as long as they bring their own water and follow low-impact camping rules.
Several hot springs dot the route, offering an invigorating way to wash off the dust, whether it’s from Burning Man or urban smog.
Both summer and winter seasons bring their chores and obligations. While it’s fun and exciting to plant those vegie starts into freshly turned soil, the care and eventual harvest takes its toll.
In fact, daily responsibilities in anyone’s life, whether around the office or home, requires a break away to fully recharge one’s energies. Sometimes vacations can become arduous in their own way and fail to provide the true rest that modern people need. The eastern Sierra Nevada offers many places to meditate, slow down, and remind oneself of the benefits of Silence.
That’s why I am always drawn to the eastern Sierra Nevada when the days begin to shorten and the sunlight casts a golden glow through the haze.