A lot of people who came up the mountain for the first time didn’t know what to expect.
What’s the weather going to do? people asked me.
I wanted to say, If I could predict the weather accurately, I would be a millionaire, and I wouldn’t have to work here.
Instead, I would say brightly, It’s the mountains! Anything could happen! That was pretty much the truth too.
Sometimes people asked me if we were going to get rain.
If we’re lucky! I’d say with a big smile on my face. California was a dry place during the four seasons I worked there. We were lucky if it rained. However, people on camping trips usually fail to feel fortunate when they are rained on.
In late June of my fourth season on the mountain, a man and a woman walked into the Mercantile where I was working. They appeared to be in their early 40s. I think they were on a day trip, checking out the area with the thought of maybe coming back to camp at some later date. They ended up buying two walking sticks, and the guy treated himself to what the tag described as a “twill safari hat.”
Does it get cold up here at night? the fellow asked me.
I paused before I spoke and considered my answer. It does get cold there in the winter, but I figured this guy was probably asking about summer temperatures. I wondered what he considered cold. I wondered if what I consider cold is the same as what he considers cold.
After several silent seconds, I said, What do you mean by cold?
He said, 60, 65 degrees.
I almost burst out laughing. Really? Sixty-five degrees is cold?
I realize I like my nighttime temperatures lower than many people do. I like my nighttime lows in the 30s so I can sleep snuggled under my down comforter, but I realize most people (especially most people from Southern California) don’t necessarily feel that way. If this guy had defined cold as 30 degrees or 48 or even 55, I would have understood where he was coming from even if I didn’t personally agree. Sixty-five though—maybe that’s cool, but cold? Isn’t 65 degree what most people consider the perfect temperature?
If this man defined 65 degrees as cold, there was only one answer to give: Yes, it gets cold up here at night. It’s not unusual for the temperature to drop to 60 or 65 degrees overnight.
The guy seemed immensely disappointed. I guess I’d dashed his hopes for a comfortable night’s sleep on the mountain.
I wish I had thought to ask how hot was too hot for him. Maybe he was one of those people who just really dig the heat.