I arose with Yosemite’s dawn and made my leisurely way through morning camp chores – mostly drinking coffee and watching dawn’s fingertips stroke Glacier Point. I finally tidied up breakfast and made ready to set off on my hike – a jaunt up the Snow Creek Trail. My pack was packed except for a few munchies – two Ziplock bags filled respectively with dried fruit and peanuts – which I removed from the steel bear box and set on the picnic table. I stepped to the open rear of my van to retrieve my pack and heard a commotion behind me.

I whirled, but my bags of goodies were already headed for the deep woods in the clutches of two large ravens. I dropped my pack and gave chase. Some distance into the trees, I realized – Holy EXPLETIVE! I’m sprinting! It’s been a decade or two since I did that and I decided it was best to quit, especially since the ravens, even burdened, were widening the gap between us. Uttering raucous, mocking caws, they soon disappeared.

I returned to camp and sat pondering my losses with a third cup of coffee. After a few minutes, up flapped Mr. Raven. He settled on a high branch, cocked his head to one side and peered down at me, seemingly hoping that I’d offer him a second course of breakfast. I addressed him in a conversational tone and told him that he closely resembled the southern-most orifice of the human body. I added that his ancestry was more than suspect. He listened attentively until I finished. When he was sure I had no more to say, he flew away.

A few minutes later, he swooped down and dropped my stolen baggie of peanuts at the edge of camp.

I’m open to explanations here!

Sunrise in Tuolumne Meadows

Tuolumne River

Breeze off morning rapids
Is a greeting –
Trailing scents of pine, of lupine,
Of sweet wood-smoke –
But its first touch
Is a blue blade
Pulled by dawn
From its sheath of

By Robert Walton

Tuolumne River and Mountains

Robert Walton is a retired teacher, a lifelong mountaineer and rock climber with many ascents in the Sierras and Pinnacles National Monument, his home crags. His writing about climbing has appeared in the Sierra Club’s Ascent. His novel Dawn Drums won the 2014 New Mexico Book Awards Tony Hillerman Prize for best fiction, first place in the 2014 Arizona Authors competition and first place in the historical fiction category of the 2017 Readers Choice Awards. Most recently, his short story “Uriah” was published in Assisi, a literary journal associated with St. Francis College in Brooklyn.

Please visit his website, Chaos Gate, for more information.

If you’re interested in Dawn Drums, an excerpt from the novel was broadcast on KVPR, an NPR station, and is available at this link:

Photos of Yosemite by Jon Walton