We live neither here nor there, but between two mountain zones. Not at 2,000 feet elevation, among the arid Sierra foothills, its bouldery bones plastered with dried, golden grass, and not at 7,000 feet in the upper montane zone, spiked with lodgepole and ponderosa pine. We live off the four-lane that starts in the foothills – rocketing you up a winding 2,500 feet in seven minutes – at the snow line, just shy of 5,000 feet.
When it snows, it doesn’t stay for long; when the heat comes, it remains temperate. Crowds of Monarch butterflies flitter on purple pollinator bushes, the bittersweet scent of sagebrush is sharp, and hawks coast on thermals that rise up late in the day. We are at a crossroads of Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Parks, in a meteorological sweet spot of “seeing” for astronomy nerds.
Joe, the Swiss man in his mid-80s who handbuilt our log home, lives the next ridge over. When my husband and I go back for a second look at the house, Joe speeds up the dirt driveway, snow-white hair flying, spitting up yellow dust with his ATV. A wide smile etched into his tanned skin, this master sheet metal worker leaps off his bike and gives us an hour-long tour of the house, explaining it from the inside out. “We help each other here,” he says.
A white-planked General Store with a bright tin roof is just around the corner – originally a stop for California miners over 100 years ago – and it feeds us for the first two weeks after we move here. It’s stocked with necessities for neighbors and campers: bierocks; salsa; briquettes. But their local baked goods are the real draw, with a pie made famous when a visiting New York restaurateur remarked: “Now that’s a pie.”
Seems we’re not anywhere – according to man’s cartography, or perhaps Gertrude Stein. But for these two outliers, we’re more ‘there’ than we’ve ever been.