Small things can cause big changes. Getting one summer job did this for me. It was a turning point. Coming back to Stockton finding work was hard. But I found a great job.
The job was at a summer camp in the Sierra Nevadas. It was at 7000 feet. It was amazing. The camp was run by the city of Stockton. It was a great job. I got paid weekly, and had no rent or food bills to pay. I was able to save money.
My job at the camp was working the front desk. But like many other jobs I took on other tasks. It didn’t take long before I was working in the kitchen. And I found helping out at the campfires to be fun. It was someone else’s job but I took it over.
The camp was near Silver Lake. A high country area with lots of good hiking. When not working I spent a lot of time exploring the area. First was Thunder Mountain. The elevation of which is almost 10,000 feet.
Another mountain I hiked was Round Top. An elevation over 10,000 feet. The area has an interesting history related to emigration. Mormons crossed the mountains in wagons going west.
While at camp I discovered and read Ayn Rand. It was Atlas Shrugged. It changed my thoughts a great deal. I recall someone telling me, it is a great book, but it isn’t practical.
I was at the camp for two years. I don’t recall many of the things and what year they occurred. What I remember is in my first year taking a long hike.
Some others left for a short hike. I went along later and passed them on the path. We all stopped at an overlook. They went back and I pushed to go further. Going along the path I found a lake. From the lake I went off the trail a little. I then re-found the path and went onward. I made it to a second lake as it was getting dark. Things were going well.
On the way back it got dark. Normally I can keep a trail even in the dark. I have done it for years. From camping in the woods to being at gatherings. But when I got back to the first lake I couldn’t find the trail. I wondered around for a while. Thought about the fact there could be dangerous animals around. Figured they weren’t because of the population. But made plenty of noise to scare them away.
I also thought about the fact people would notice I was gone. And someone did notice. At some point I just sat down in one place so I wouldn’t fall and hurt myself. The moon was up and it was cold. But it wasn’t dark and it wasn’t freezing.
When the morning came I found the path. I wasn’t too far from it, but it was narrow. Back on the path I headed back to the camp. It was early still. On the trail I saw some people with a dog. They asked who I was, and said they were looking for me. We walked back to the camp, and had some hot chocolate.
The people at the camp were worried about me. But my friends when I told them said, “that sounds fun.” Of course I was telling them of the event afterwards. And the people at the camp were dealing with it as it happened. I took a moment to apologize to everyone for the scare. And to acknowledge I had made a mistake in going forward.
Looking back I know there were things which upset me. But at this point it seems petty. Bringing all those issues up now seems silly. I feel silly to have been upset. I have tried through my life to become unmoved from my center. Allowing fewer and fewer things to disturb me. And I think I have been successful.
My father came and had a great visit. It was great to see him. It has been a couple years since we spent time together.
After the first year I went to visit a friend in New York City. I recall getting to the city just a month after 9/11. One month earlier at the camp, the night before 9/11 I was sure I wanted to die. If I had real sleeping pills instead of melatonin I might have killed myself.
The day of 9/11 was surreal. I woke up and walked by the office. Something made me pause and listen to the radio. Maybe it was the simple fact the radio wasn’t normally played. It didn’t take long to figure out what was going on, this was before the towers fell.
There were two things going through my head. One was a bit of surprise. Someone had finally done it, attacked America. I’m not saying our country deserved the attack. But in a world with so many foes. At some point someone was going to at least try such an attack. In the aftermath so many said, “we never thought this would happen.” And I had wondered about such an attack taking place.
The other thought was a bit of fear. I said to myself: “people I know will go to jail for this.” I didn’t know terrorists. Well, not on the world stage. There were people I knew who stood at the fringe. And our country has a history. It often reacts with fear. And cracks down on the fringe. There was no TV at the camp. The closest was down the road. So I walked down to watch the TV. Some have condemned the TV networks for showing the towers falling over and over. But I watched it over and over. And it just didn’t seem real. I wanted to see it again. A part of my brain didn’t understand. Show it again, it kept saying.
After the first year I planned to come back. During the second year I met a friendly couple. They worked at the camp. They were retired. We were friendly. It was them who told me about Yosemite. They told me how to apply online and I did it when I got home. I think I had known about the website before, but never used it to find a job. Even now I forget about coolworks.com at times.
During my second year I understood the camp’s culture better. There were a number of people who had been going there for years. They knew each other. It was a family tradition. Something I know little about because I hardly had a family. And we had no traditions.
Working at the camp was a settled period in my life. The fact it led me to work in Yosemite changed my life. I was on a different track. And had different ideas after reading Ayn Rand.