Water Woes

Having grown up in a city surrounded and sometimes buried in water where my water came from was never something I thought much about.

The house I grew up in was nestled between the river, the swamp, and the lake.  It was not uncommon to have to wade through knee high water to move the family cars out of the driveway and onto the green fairway where we used to play football, baseball, and other sweaty summer games during a particularly heavy rainfall.

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I’m pretty sure my dislike of small bugs stems from this annual excursion as I often found something trying to find shelter from the water on my person.  I knew in theory where the water came from, and where the water went after a viscous rain storm, and of course we all know about New Orleans infamous pumping stations that aided and abetted the disaster that was Katrina.


As an adult when I moved to California water seems to be all one hears about.  But the opposite problem.  No water. Drought.  Expensive water rights.  I live on a reservoir in Los Angeles and all I’ve heard about since I’ve moved adjacent to it is the constant struggle of the LADWP to get their fancy new reservoir up and running that doesn’t seem to be working.  Yes, water was a big deal here, or lack of it I should say.


As I’ve mentioned in a previous post when I purchased the cabin the former owner took me on a tour of how the cabin water worked and it was now time to do it in reverse….!

Our water being gravity fed from a creek we weren’t actually tied into the Mammoth Community Water District.  Although we paid them a fee for the use of the sewage we didn’t actually source our water from them as some of the other cabin tracts did.  While this meant that essentially we had free water (which if you’ve done any research on water rights in California you would find this a miracle) we also didn’t have anyone to call to get the water turned on.  It had to be taken care of the old fashioned homesteader way.


Our first attempt was on Memorial Weekend.  My friends were up and Danny graciously agreed to help me try to get the water flowing.  The pipes were still mostly buried under snow and we really weren’t sure if it wasn’t too soon and still frozen.  The previous owner Jack and our other neighbors gave us some handy tips for getting it on.  That should have been my first clue that this wasn’t going to be a no brainer like I had hoped.


I had been warned about people flooding their whole cabins by forgetting to close a valve, pipes that had busted during the winter showing themselves as the first water hit the cabin.  I was ready for some speed bumps and knew some patience was in order.

I had reconnected everything and closed all the valves I had left open the previous fall. Danny came in and tightened everything up on the on demand water heater to make sure we wouldn’t have any leaks.  I for some reason cannot work a wrench to save my life. Unless of course that wrench was being used to beat something with and then I think I would do just fine.


I shoveled out the water valve and hose directly behind the cabin and reconnected the hose that had come loose.  Then Danny and I trudged up the hill with a corkscrew, some pliers, a shovel, and a can do attitude!


We checked the line as best we could on the way up and gave the pipe taps as we went as suggested by our neighbor.  There was still a lot of snow so we canvassed as much of the pipe as we could see checking for any hose or pipe breaks.


We should have probably brought a bottle of wine to go with that corkscrew so that our efforts wouldn’t have been totally wasted.

After a scramble up the dripping ice and snow covered creek since we couldn’t access it from the side like normal, we scooped out the pile of sediment that was blocking the pipe, let it settle, and then popped out the cork.  We felt around in the immediate entrance of the pipe and felt a solid brick wall of sediment.  We couldn’t figure out how this was even possible with a cork blocking the entrance but I guess tiny molecules of dirt that are packed under snow for 7 months will work it’s way into any opening kind of like sand at the beach!


Danny was not to be defeated.  We hiked back down and he grabbed the snake to try snaking the pipe.  After a half hour Danny came back down and admitted defeat.   The compost toilet was still in business till the next trip.

After several weeks of work travel and then going to my friends wedding in France we finally made it back up to have another go at the pipe.  This time however we were able to walk to whole line and assure ourselves that there were no breaks and being that it was almost 100 degrees out completely thawed!

Another round with the snake and a bit of head shaking and we decided to call in a professional.  Luckily based on my friend Jen’s referral we were able to get someone out the very next morning.  After a quick review we found out from the plumber that our mistake was that we needed to snake up the pipe not down and after a quick disconnecting of a lower connector just below the source we heard the sweet rush of fresh water falling…


Dishes were washed, showers were taken, and the compost toilet was retired till winter.  I will admit however I learned a very valuable lesson.  One should clean out the compost toilet while it is still frozen and not a 100 degrees outside…. They should probably have included that in the instruction manual.


Shoulda Bought The Cheap Stuff

The first official cook out at the cabin.  This was momentous.

New grill, new cabin, first summer holiday.  The pressure was on.

I had friends coming up from Los Angeles for Memorial Weekend and I was enthused by the thought of grilling right outside the front door of my cabin.


I could already smell the slightly charred hot dogs, taste the tangy mustard on my mouth.  Yes, summer had finally arrived.  Sort of….


For the first time in 7 months I was able to drive up to the cabin door.  The sheer pleasure of being able to pull up to my own door was overwhelming with delight.  I know it doesn’t seem like much, but after months of hauling heavy supplies in on a sled and my back while trudging along in snowshoes my pleasure in being able to just walk a few feet caused me to break into giggles.  The term “It’s the little things” should never be underestimated.



As a trial run that evening I decided to assemble the grill and try my hand at a little seasoning of the pit.  I enthusiastically pulled out my fancy natural wood charcoal, some lighter fluid, and an unfailing attitude of   “I can do this.”

I’ve always been happy to leave BBQ pits to the men folk.  I was only ever interested in starting a real fire and had zero interest in getting involved in lighting little organized cubes of fire and besides the boys do seem to enjoy it so…..


I however knew the ritual of lighting the grill very well.  I got my bricks stacked up, doused them with fluid, flicked the match, and watched them explode into a symphony of summer.  Piece of cake.


Until it immediately died, and then again, and again.  After a half hour of this I decided to open a bottle of wine.  After an hour I decided that the cast iron skillet in the kitchen could cook that steak just as well as the grill.


It is a credit to my interest in observation that I didn’t kick that black, shiny, box of frustration over and start a forest fire.  I calmly made sure it was all the way out, closed it up, then had the realization that….I shoulda bought the cheap stuff.  The old match light grocery store variety with built in lighter fluid that ignites in a sure to be bad for you to ingest chemical fire.

My friends arrived late that evening and I explained to the one male in the group my dilemma.  He was confident he could get it going the next day and he lived up to his confidence.  Only took him about an hour to get it cooking!  He did mention as well that “I shoulda bought the cheap stuff!”


Success!  Hot dogs were eaten, toasts were made, and a little hiking expedition was in order.




We set off up Lake Mary Road to do one of my favorite lake hikes but alas, winter was not quite done with us.


Every single hike we went to explore was buried in snow.  As I had officially retired my snowshoes for the season I was determined to find us a walk that didn’t involve an ice pick and crampons.

After a vain review of all the forest trails and a few dead end drives down snow covered roads we decided a trip to the visitor center was in order to have a chat with my friend Julie.


She confirmed that all the upper lake trails were still buried in snow.  So much for winter being over!  She mentioned that this was what a Memorial Weekend looked like after a NORMAL snowfall year.  We had been so long in drought that I had forgotten what early summer in the mountains was normally like!


Julie assured us the Sherwin Lakes Trail which I had never done was open for business. And boy was it in business.  It seemed like every holiday weekender was there since it was one of the only trails free of snow, but still it was incredible.


We sauntered past huge families from toddler to grandmas.  Were constantly greeted by energetic dogs entranced by one smell after the next.  It was one of those moments you could feel the holiday around you and the America of it all.



There were loads of foreign tourists as well.  My favorite were two gentlemen with a Whole Foods bag, fishing poles, and a grill rack.  While I liked their style I wasn’t about to tell them I didn’t think open fires were permitted!

After the endless switchbacks to the top we crossed into a stunning mountain valley vista that made you sigh.  I know Memorial Day is about remembering and honoring people who died defending our country and I couldn’t think of a better way to honor them than appreciating what they had sacrificed for.  This.  This boundless beauty.  This wild paradise.  This land of the free in so many ways.


I felt free.  Free spirited.  Free thinking.  Free from hate and prejudice.  Free to just breathe it all in, that perfection of nature.


I like to think that that freedom is contagious.   I looked at many different people from many different walks of life, different countries, different races, millennials, and baby boomers. In the insanity of this political race, the violence in our country and the world it feels good to step outside of that and just be with the people of the race of HUMAN.



Being on the victim end of several rounds of violent crime, having had a handgun shoved into my stomach, three guys with multiple guns grab me, while these crimes were committed in different states by different races I never once lumped these criminals into their specific race group.  They weren’t African America, Caucasian, Asian, or Hispanic they were criminals.  I never once associated the gang members that I thought were going to drag me into their car and kill me on a dark night in Los Feliz with the sweet Hispanic man at the Trader Joe’s down the street who always told me in his wonderful accent some version of  “Have a nice day”   while always using a slightly wrong word which I found adorable and charming.  The Hispanic population of Los Angeles didn’t attack me, some criminals did.

If only we could see past all the name calling and separation.  The need to constantly call someone something else to put them beneath you.

I think life has gotten too easy for this world of ours that we spend so much time coming up with better ways to spread hate instead of embracing the differences that made this country so DIFFERENT.  Special.


As we arrived at the lake the sun was shining down on this gorgeous piece of America.  The people were shining at each other as well.  Nature is healing.  If we could only all remember what unity we feel when at a peaceful lake in the high country maybe there wouldn’t be new people added to the list to remember come the next Memorial Day…..