Cambrian: Opinion

You can’t tame the mountains, but they do bring residents together

Fire burns. Rain pours. Trees fall. Land slides. Such is life in these Santa Lucia Mountains. As my neighbor and fellow Mountain Musings columnist Marcia Rhoades and I have reported in previous write-ups, this range has taken a beating and so have we. It’s no wonder people ask, “Are you ready to move to town yet?”

Complete with more than 90 inches of rain, peltings of hail, dustings of snow and road closures, this past winter was a challenge. There were no perishable foodstuffs aside from hens’ eggs. The cupboards were bare except for brown rice. The desire for something other than that was discouraged — if not scolded. “There’s no bacon. Get over it. Who’s hungry for rice and poached eggs — again?” Hey, other than more “emissions” than usual, at least the dogs never tired of it.

Then one day, along came a camouflage-clad Santa (aka D.R. “Doc” Miller) on his ATV. Doc and neighbors Judith Grace and Olaf Egeberg made care packages that brimmed with coffee, dairy, bread (warm from the oven), a container of to-die-for homemade soup and chocolate chip cookies. Instantly, this household went from weary to wealthy. I’ll never forget that delivery of extravagant provisions including snacks aplenty, cat food, candles, beer, wine and books.

In addition, people organized a modern day Pony Express of sorts. Mom and Dad (Gayle and Lloyd Oksen) filled a backpack with lightweight dry soup mixes, jerky, mail and such. Neighbor Debby Mix shuttled the pack from town to the mountain where it was picked up by a passerby and so on.

For a while, in order to get supplies, some residents walked across the mudhole dubbed “Big Muddy” using Doc’s handy, albeit makeshift, boardwalk. Slapstick at best, precarious at worst, residents carried sizeable loads that limited our visibility. Still, other than a couple of trip and falls (muddy face-plants) and one flip-flop that was sucked into the abyss, no one’s worse for the wear.

“I now know the true meaning of cowgirl-up,” said one very private and wobbly neighbor who was “humbled and grateful” after our mountain-raised Yaple women, Carrie and Jessie, helped him lug 1,250 pounds of poultry feed while navigating the rickety assortment of boards and plywood — at night!

Thankfully, that boardwalk is history. Clint Winsor and Hounds Construction repaired the quagmire, transforming it into the best section of road for miles. Clint Winsor (owner), Byron Haanen (foreman), Chris Stathem and Mike McAlpine did an expert job with culverts and French drains covered with leach rock then red rock. Chuck Duveneck of Cambria Rock trucked in some of the materials for the project. Well done, men!

Are the challenges over? Not by a long shot. Ongoing and upcoming trials are simply part of life here. As the man from Snowy River said, “I think you might sooner hold back the tide than tame the mountains.”

Michele Oksen writes Mountain Musings for The Cambrian. the second Thursday of each month. Her column is special to The Cambrian. Contact her at