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Just Upstream from Rainbow Pool

Poem by Travis Knight

A spooling day,

of spinning wheels.

From west to slightly east,

to south and then to stop.

Up north a bit,

then east again for a while.

Bright yellow and brilliant purple,

puffs stroll by as clouds of colors,

and are interrupted,

with small pools of sharp white,

satin pedals.

So many wildflowers,

so many shades and tints and sheens,

looking like passing ponds

still on the Spring green hillsides.

The hood of my truck,

guzzling up long stretches of asphalt,

just to go somewhere

where going can’t be.

Damned rules,

and closed roads,

and you must have a permit,

which is free,

but unattainable.

Because like the roads,

—those wandering avenues of adventure—

the permit place, too,

is closed.

I turn around again.


     Now I’m way out where nowhere lives,

     and another storm-beaten road,

     slams it door in my face.

     I suppose I’ll head to Merced River,

     to sneak out into the wilderness,

     but am stopped,

     by a Yosemite toll house,

     demanding $35 to pass.

     All is not lost, though,

     as the Ranger woman tells me,

     that all the camping is back behind,

     dispersed nearly everywhere,

     but mostly somewhere,

     speckled back there,

     throughout the miles in my wake.

     I turn around again.


          I find a day-use area,

          Rainbow Pool is the name worn,

          and where the bridge crosses,

          the active

          South Fork Tuolumne River,

          I head upstream into thick foliage,

          bramble arms open and inviting,

          hoping for a nice,


          spot to support,

          my makeshift home.

          To my dismay,

          across the river,

          which is not crossable,

          a glowing oasis,

          the perfect spot,

          a sandy beach,

          or possibly a stone shore,

          but flat, nonetheless.

          And I am relieved,

          and am solaced to find shelter,

          before the sun hunkers down

          behind snowcapped peaks,

          as the solar clock strikes dusk.

          I turn around again.


               Now on the other side,

               of the South Fork Tuolumne.

               It’s galloping rapids,

               of snowmelt and springtime rains,

               eases my soul,

               and I am alive again,

               cleansed of

               all that metropolitan grime,

               from traffic jams,

               and wits whittled down,

               jamming me up,

               with sludge and oil slicks,

               all of that

               is now wiped clean.

               But the bushwhacking is thick,

               and the sheer stone slants

               suggest all fours

               —extremities all put to use—

               as the weight of a pack

               tangos with gravity,

               luring me toward injury.

               But then it arrives.

               And my truck is just up there,

               across the 120,

               and I am down here,

               alone with the river,

               while the high country,

               sheathed in snow,

               churns somewhere off that way,

               over there,

               Just upstream

               from Rainbow Pool.


                    Camp is set,

                    fire pit built,

                    driftwood gathered,

                    cooking space solidified,

                    polyester place of residence,

                    is set standing,

                    and a rope slung over a branch,

                    southeast of camp,

                    with a rock tied to one side,

                    a scent-filled bag on the other,

                    assuring that I am not robbed,

                    by a midnight critter.

                    There I sit in silence,

                    tucked between the Sierras’ toes.

                    An Osprey flashes by,

                    pulling at the strings of my sight,

                    soaring low with, perhaps,

                    a meal on its mind,

                    streaming southeast

                    just upstream

                    from Rainbow Pool.

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