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The white dirt

For the first time in the whole trip, Mom and I are sleeping in the same place two nights in a row! We’re in a place called Lone Pine, which is famous because it’s part of the Badwater route. It is also right at the bottom of a really big mountain with spikes on top. If we look in one direction we can see the ugly brown mountains that go to what I’m calling Death Valley because Mom tried to kill me there. On the other side are the pretty grey and white Sierras. You would think with so much running and hiking history Mom and I would have so many trails to explore. Which we do. Sort of…

Today we planned to do just one long hike on the rocky, snowy Sierra side of the road. We drove the car-house up and up and up a road that had such sharp turns next to such steep drops that Mom drove the car-house in the middle of the road for safety. We drove until we were back at 9000 ft and the mountain was wearing its white hat. Now that we were close I could see that the white dirt didn’t cover the whole ground, only parts of it. But when it was there it covered EVERYTHING, including the trail. I saw the white dirt yesterday when we were on the other mountain, so I was already an expert, but this was the first time I’d stepped on it. It was…


Just like when we were in the

place where the earth wouldn’t load, it was love at first sniff and I knew that this stuff was something that I wanted to track in my coat for the rest of the trip. I rolled onto my back and kicked my feet in the air while I wriggled and basked in the stuff. Then I felt a severe case of the zoomies coming on and tried to run in it. But running in the white dirt wasn’t like running in sand. It was more like running in water, where your foot sinks in and you have to pick it all the way back out to take your next step. There was no other way to move in the stuff than to leap and dance like I was jumping for joy. “Have you ever seen anything so wonderful in your entire life?!” I asked Mom. “I have, actually. I grew up with snow…” she said. “Is that what this stuff is called? Snow? And you GAVE IT UP?! What’s the matter with you?” “It’s different when it’s sitting on your car and blocking your driveway…” Mom grumbled, like there was some history there.

Despite growing up in it, Mom did not figure out how to move in the white dirt as easily as I did, and she picked her way carefully through it. A few times both of us slipped in it and slid sideways down the slope and off the trail, but only a little bit. The white dirt wasn’t covering everything, though, and when we found the regular ground the hiking was great for both of us. Unfortunately, though, the higher we climbed the deeper the white dirt got. We did see other people and a dog on our hike, but they weren’t dressed like Mom. They wore big, scary masks that turned the whole top half of their faces into mirrors, used poking tools in their hands for walking, and carried long sticks and funny tennis racket shoes strapped to their backpacks. Mom just had on running shorts, a long sleeved shirt, and the little pack-pack with my water in it.

When I was up to my knees in snow after a little more than a mile, Mom suggested we try another trail that we passed on the sunny side of the mountain that had less snow. On this trail we could see a waterfall, and we tried to climb up to it. The trouble was that the trail kept disappearing into the bushes, or under a bunch of rocks someone had spilled there. Finally we reached a point where every time we stepped up the mountain, an equal part of the mountain was falling down behind us and Mom said that it was time to call it a day. Even though we hadn’t gone very far, both of us had gotten a great workout. Climbing mountains is good for your butt, and balancing on slippery white dirt and falling rocks is good for your balance (which is more helpful for old people like Mom).

“There have got to be other trails a little further down the mountain that aren’t covered with snow!” Mom said, pulling out her phone. Incredibly, with mountains all around us, the closest trail was more than an hour away. So we rode the car-house back down the center of the scary road and I fell asleep in the back as Mom drove back in the direction we’d come.

I was jolted awake by the car-house rattling so violently that everything inside was being knocked over and thrown around, including handsome dogs. This usually meant that the trail Mom was looking for was up a dirt road that our car-house couldn’t drive on. But this time the violence continued. I climbed into the front seat to check on Mom. “What are you doing?!” I asked as she pulled through a concrete passageway that was only a couple of inches wider than the car-house to get past a fence with lots of dangerous looking red and white, and yellow and black signs. “I’m so sick of driving for hours just to find that the trail is only accessible to four wheel drive vehicles!” Mom said through her teeth. “But…” “…But this road seems somewhat well maintained and I’m going for it.” “But how far up is the trailhead?!” I asked. “Just five miles.” Mom was driving like a slow motion version of the opening scene in Breaking Bad… and I was the dead guy in the back. I looked at how fast we were going. (I’m an expert on speed and often help Mom drive, so I know how to read the speedometer.) “But you’re going less than 5 miles an hour!” I said as the car-house threw us first to the left, then to the right as we rolled over rocks. “At this rate it will take us hours to get there. We could go faster on foot!” “I had noticed that…” she admitted sheepishly. “But this track isn’t wide enough for me to turn around so… we’re kind of committed.” “What if we get a flat tire or we get stuck in some deep sand and then we’re REALLY committed?!” I asked, alarmed. “Where’s your sense of adventure, Oscar?!” The further up we went, the rougher the ground was getting, and the more violent it was sitting in the car-house. Finally we got to a slightly wider spot in the trail and Mom parked the house. “That’s it. From here we’re proceeding on foot!” When Mom opened the side hatch, I saw that we would have to dismount the car-house right into a prickle bush. This was what my life had come to.

To my dismay, the day had gotten warm and there was very little shade out here. “It’s hot out here. Can we go home?” I asked, flopping down in the shade under the car-house. “It’s not so hot.” She pulled out her phone. “What’s the temperature?” she asked the Lady That Lives in Her Phone. “It’s 61 degrees outside,” said the Lady in the Phone, and I could tell by her voice that she was sticking her tongue out at me. That suck-up witch always takes Mom’s side.

The Lady Inside the Phone had promised that the trailhead was only a mile from where we’d left the house, but when we had walked a mile Mom looked at the trail map and we didn’t seem any closer to the trailhead. Luckily, there was a little shady glade and a stream, and I headed into it to cool off while Mom figured things out with the lady in the phone. But once I got to the cool, wet spot I was surrounded by awful, buzzing flies trying to get into my ears and nose and eyeballs. I snapped my teeth to scare them away, but that only seemed to attract more of them. Mom crouched down and pointed the lady in the phone’s eye at me to take a picture of me acting all crazy, and the flies attacked her too. “Let’s get the heck out of here!” she said.

We continued up the track-trail thing for another half mile, but our blue dot never got any closer to the trailhead on the map. Every time we tried to cool off, we were tormented by a plague of flies. I was hot and walking as slow as I could to discourage Mom from going too far. Finally, after consulting the map for the millionth time, Mom said, “This isn’t even the right dirt road! The lady in the GPS lied to us!” The Lady in the GPS must be part cat, because that seemed like the kind of dirty trick a cat would play. Finally we turned around and headed back to the car-house.

When we got back to civilization Mom bought me Chicken McRotguts to apologize. They were exquisite! And healthy, because they’re white meat. A healthy diet is very important for elite runners like me…

-Oscar the Pooch


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