Flume Flail

One July about 1999 or 2000, the family got a great deal on a room at Squaw Valley off-season, and we enjoyed exploring around Lake Tahoe for about a week.  After arriving in the wee hours, we set out the next day to tick two items off the list , one for Mom &the boys, one just for me.  I had heard that the 12-mile Flume Trail, on the East side of the lake, was one of the best MTB (Mountain Bike) trails in the world. FLUME TRAIL LINK   The Ponderosa ranch (where the Bonanza TV series was shot) is near the north end of the trail, so while my wife and sons visited the movie set, I rode that trail.  There was a truck road I could use to leave the trail and get down to Incline Village and the Ponderosa, beside Lake Tahoe.  They dropped me at Spooner Lake, near the south end, and drove to the ranch, while I hit the road from the campground to the trail proper.  As I churned along through the loose sand of the jeep road, I passed a few people, and finally mentioned to one pair that I thought the Flume Trail was single-track.  They pointed up the steep mountainside to our right, and said that the trail was up on the ridge, a mile or so above us.

I hadn’t researched this trail enough to be sure, and they seemed rock-solid, so I backtracked to a small trail I’d seen heading from the jeep road up toward that ridge.  It was much too steep to ride the bike, so I threw it over my shoulder and headed up.  Nice little trail, sparsely-traveled, through scrubby pine and fir… and then narrower and narrower… until it was more of a rabbit run.  Still, by the angle of the sun, I knew the ridge must be up there somewhere. I came to a small grassy clearing, and the trail just ended.  Circling the uphill side of the clearing, I found nothing that even resembled a trail, so I gulped down some water and began making my own trail through ankle-deep bark chips, up to the ridge.  The bike kept tangling with the brush I passed, and I was getting pretty exasperated, when I stumbled onto a proper ridge trail, single-track, heading north and south.  Must be the Flume Trail.  I clipped in (pressed my shoes to the pedals so that clips on the soles locked into catches on the pedals) and began to roll along the narrow, beautiful trail. I passed a sign, which faced the north, and turned around to read “Hiking trail only. No horses, motor vehicles or bicycles.” Looking down at the dirt of the trail, I saw no bike tracks. Maybe the part of the trail to the south was foot only, and this part was OK?  As I kept going, and the terrain opened up to grassy slopes, I did see one set of bike tracks, and felt better.  Then I began to feel worse. The smooth, meandering dirt track traced through more and more rocks and small boulders, until it was again hike-a-bike. That was when I met the one other human I saw on that ridge, a gruff gent in alpine gear, who told me I was not supposed to take a bike on that trail.  I said I thought it was the Flume Trail, famous among mountain bikers, and he pointed north. He told me that the Flume Trail was four miles that way, around Marlette Lake.

Flume&RimI had climbed that steep slope and gone several miles out of my way, using a trail I was not supposed to be on, because I had not gotten an actual map and traced my intended route carefully ahead of time.  Today, I’d pull out my cellphone and it would show me where I was, map the trails, and give me an estimated time of arrival. Back at the turn of the century (nice ring to it, eh?) all I had was a couple of “You are here” reader boards, and a couple of verbal descriptions.  I hated that I was on a foot-only trail. I respect that designation, and don’t ever intentionally abrogate it. I wasn’t upset about the extra distance, but I was very concerned about the time.  We had agreed to meet at the Ponderosa, a couple of hours after they dropped me at Spooner Lake. Now the 12-mile ride on an established bike trail had turned into 16 miles, with a lot of extra hill climbing and bike carrying. I was going to be hours late!

I continued north, ate some snow (Yes, in July, at over 8,5oo feet altitude) and finally found an outrageous downhill that got me to Marlette Lake.  There I took up the actual Flume trail, and followed it along the edge of the lake to where I could see Lake Tahoe, 1500 feet below.  The trail leaves Marlette and clings to the western slopes of the mountain, eventually meeting the truck road for a 3-mile downhill to Incline, beside Lake Tahoe. I had to carry the bike again in several spots, but other bikers I met along the way assured me that I was on the right trail. It was beautiful, but I was feeling time pressure.  When I finally got to the truck road, I was ready to bomb a little, to make up what time I could. The truck road was hard and fairly smooth, so I was flying. I came up on a hairpin turn and could see a berm at the kink, which told me it needed special attention.  I set up my approach perfectly, and was carving my line precisely, when I unexpectedly got airborne because of a shelf I couldn’t see from above. That put me a foot left of where I wanted to be, and my front tire caught on a rock I should have missed. I endoed. When the front stops, but the rest keeps going, it means flipping end-over-end, and one mainly hopes to land with some sort of grace, maybe roll, and not get tangled up in the bike. I was able to clip out (disengage my shoes from the pedals) and the bike and I separated nicely. I rolled a few somersaults before stopping.

I stood up to survey the damage, and the bike seemed intact, though twisted a little. Then I noticed that my left shoulder was bumping my chin. It was not supposed to be able to do that. I didn’t see much blood, so I was not worried, but I couldn’t ride the bike that way.  I pushed at the shoulder, but it hurt, and didn’t move much. I grabbed a branch of a small pine tree next to the trail and leaned away from it, but my hand reflexively let go. I tried it again, but could not hold onto the branch when I yanked against it.  I was able to wedge my wrist into a fork, and leaned hard away from it, pressing at my shoulder with my right hand, and that did it. I heard a squishing sound, fell flat on my back and saw a whole galaxy of stars, but my shoulder was now closer to where it belonged.  I straightened the handlebars of the bike, checked over what I could, and clipped back into the pedals. I rode the last couple of miles down to the Ponderosa’s parking lot, and met the family there.CollarboneCurveOrtho

We went to the emergency room, and they marked my crash on a map there. It was a hundred feet above the hairpin turn they call “Collarbone Curve.” Apparently, riders come down that road too fast for that curve, lose it and go over the berm, breaking a lot of collar bones.  I was special, though. I broke mine before even getting to the actual hairpin.  They said that my makeshift setting of the bone had already aligned it as well as they could.  They put on a figure-eight wrap and told me to sleep on my back with a rolled-up towel between my shoulder blades. One thing that seemed to bring the ER nurse extra pleasure was scrubbing out my abrasions.  Everywhere blood and mud was sealing up the ground-down parts, he went after the mess with hydrogen peroxide and abrasive sponges, and a cheerful grin. After that came gooey gauze and mummy wrappings. No lollipop, but at least I got one really cool x-ray of my shoulder to take home.


I enjoyed the rest of the vacation far more with the wife and boys, hiking rocky streams, enjoying the lake, and taking the tram up to the summit.



WayneSL 1990

My breath smokes out past eyes that roll toward your scent
mixing with the steam that rises from my flanks,
the blanket off.

My nostrils flare to catch your musk,
my haunches twitch
and I await your mounting.

Grip firm the horn to gain your seat,
leg high and heave
to settle in my saddle.

Ride me as a well-bred dame her stallion does:
shoulders open, back erect and arching,
posting high and hard.

Let me gallop to start and to work up a lather,
and stand in the stirrups awhile and then
taking a fist full of reins and mane

clamp your thighs and force me to a rolling  canter,
holding back the trembling tension
eager for the sprint,
and then we

take the hurdles as one creature,
flow and surge through turn and straight,
strain and ache together ‘til we
catch sight of the final gate.

Now in furious headlong flight
we hurtle down the homeward stretch.

Bend low to taste my salty mane.
Hear the roaring of my breath.

The pounding thrusting gallop throws us forward to the precipice
until with one last lunge we leap the river
and for one eternal moment
float outside of time and space.

My flanks and your legs
brushing bushes and tall grass
sweat and dewdrops mingle

heaving chest and pounding pulse
settle to a glowing bond.

Thunder echoes
deep vibrations
shiver, crest and tingle:
wind-blown ripples on the pond.


In Marble Halls

WayneSL 2013
a vision shared

You float through the room,
majestic in your steady flow
yet fluid in each sensuous step.
Your sheer gown loves the glass-smooth marble floor
a wave in the wake of your tender toes.
My gaze is captured by the gentle curve of your thigh
rising to a graceful half moon.
Yet full, being double.
Through the gauze I see the dimple
come and go as you move.
Your geisha hair frames a solemn-seeming face
yet thereon lies a hint of smile
which does not lie
is not painted on
is born within
borne by thoughts and feelings forged in fire
to beckon me into your wake
and so I swim behind this lovely vision
to the chamber of love.
Therein you take seven months to slip the shroud
from one soft shoulder to your breast
and I can scarcely breathe
to see the next and the next and your collar bone so fine
the gentle rise of your smooth, spare belly
and your navel and still other signs of your humanity.
Your nipples loved the slipping misty cloth
and stand erect to crave another touch.
I caress them with my eyes
until it’s time for more.
As the shroud falls farther past the fertile hips
and valleys hiding streams within their depths
I tremble just to leap into your river, yet
I dare not still to draw my ready sword
in reverence for your gentle revelation.
Onward and off the shroud more quickly falls
your lovely legs the pillars of a temple
where ardently I soon shall give my all.
The pool of silk around your feet lies spent
the treasure it had guarded now revealed
and I cannot stand longer but must kneel
and beg your leave to enter with my steel.

Mountain Wave

Night Sky from Kenwood Court

The Calming of the Day

Waynesl 2013

From the roof I can see farther
and feel the restless night breeze
searching my limbs and hair.
No sign of the fires to westward
to windward
A wayward lock across my eyes soon gone
A few stars and the moon halfway to the hills
ignore the smoke dissipating.
This air has cooled and yet
continues rushing here and there exploring
catlike sniffing all my intimate simplicity
and I don’t mind.
It means no harm and I have naught to hide.
Tomorrow has a sun and a wind of different temper
but now I feel the roof on my feet
the gust in my hair and peace run through me like rivers
the standing wave pausing at my side.



Photo of Bristlecone pines, by WayneSL - 1987

Bristlecone pines, by WayneSL – 1986

Bristlecone  (don’t count syllables- be here now) Waynesl 1987

 Needles hiss in wind

woodlife winding lightning still

branch enfolding branch supporting

part of side of hill

1986–WayneSl White mountains, California

Eighty Degrees at Dawn

The last few neighbors find beds
quail under mom
skink on a rock
Sun through Joshua spikes lights fruit.
This is a jubilee year.
Dew on Desert Rose
drips past thorns and leaves
to moist roots locked in Caliche.
Mist made taller by the mirage
gently, slowly fades
’til petals apart reveal a melting heart.

Damn the wind

Damn the wind

WayneSL 2013

Damn the wind that scatters this land.

Damn the dusty silken webs
that lull my sodden slumber

floating here in this dry-baked cemetery

shell-shocked numb from gusty buffets

squeezing eyes shut against the blast of sand

and tasting the Hanta virus and the Greasewood.

Stinking Cheesebrush clings to shifting waves of sand

and Juniper barely holds in the higher spots

Buckwheat does not nourish
nor Hop Sage fill my parched longing.

I dream of the ocean

and the Redwoods

and lush meadows of irrepressible wild grass

while hunkering down against the angry blast

next to a Kangaroo rat and a blinking tortoise

conserving what energy and moisture we have

saving it for the dash when the Mojave Green arrives.

What Is A Dog

My wife thought she wanted a dog.
She wanted what she thought a dog was.
She envisioned a kind of animated plush toy
that would play or cuddle or go for a walk by her schedule
and then it would hibernate while she was at work
or busy with chores or friends
or just not feeling like fooling with a dog.
It took actually having a dog for her to understand
that a dog has a lot of needs
a lot of characteristics and habits
some which need changing
and some which cannot change and must be accommodated.
After a trial period of caring for the sweet young animal
she realized that she was not able to spend
the time and energy required
to afford that real dog a good life
and that making our home a good home for a dog
would also be impractical.
She knew intellectually that dogs pee and poo
and need to be trained where and when to do it.
She knew that even when trained
a dog has a biological clock that may override her plans
and that accidents are almost guaranteed.
She knew about feeding and watering and medical and grooming concerns
but it was vague head knowledge
not the pitiful whining and yelping in the night
the tired rising to the smell of urine and feces
or coming home
to barricades toppled and possessions shredded
by a bored, too-intelligent pet left alone too much.

I had insisted that we were not ready
to outright adopt the beautiful, intelligent and sweet-natured young bitch
so we kept her for a month, until someone who knew dogs well did adopt her.
When my wife realized what a dog really was
It became plain to her that she did not want a dog
but her former inaccurate idea of a dog.

This pattern can apply to
a child, a car, a house or a lover.