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Author: Stone Roshell

Surviving the Sierras

Stone Roshell, Starshine’s son

Dragged Backpacking with Outdoorsy Old Men

By Guest Columnist Stone Roshell

The trees disappear above 11,000 feet. The bugs stop buzzing, birds stop chirping, and the day hikers — those normal folks out for a nice stroll, jean-clad and accompanied by a toddler or dog — vanish. All I hear is the wind blowing, stirring the rough gravel that replaces dirt at that elevation. That, and the deafening sound of the voice in my head: Why, Stone? Just … why?

This was my experience backpacking through the Sierras with my relentlessly outdoorsy grandpa, my dad, and their friends. They’ve been backpacking annually for four decades, but this was my first time venturing into the wilderness with only my sleeping bag, tent, and however much trail mix I could stuff in my pockets.

This backpacking brigade certainly had a few characters. First: my grandpa. A stark traditionalist and the second coming of John Muir, he loves the outdoors almost as much as he loves eating wheat bran for breakfast and talking stocks. Next: my father. He had just dyed his hair purple for one of his band’s rock shows and looked like he was climbing up the mountain to sell someone crack. Then there was Bill. A 75-year-old backpacking cyborg, Bill would only stop to eat a cashew or two before returning to his blistering pace.

Now, I’m an active person. I coach group classes at Innate Fitness and spend hours weekly at the gym lifting weights and challenging myself. But as I quickly learned, bench pressing and squatting does just about jack all to prepare for a six-hour trek up a mountain at 12,000 ft. These old dudes were right on my tail the whole way. My heart rate spiking, my breath panting, I would look back, expecting to see them either dead or way behind. Instead, Iron Man Bill would race past me.

Fishing itself is great: the excitement of feeling the bite and reeling it in. What people skip over when they gush about fishing, though, is sticking pliers down the poor trout’s throat and ripping the hook out before it suffocates. Once, we took too long, and after we threw the thing back, it lay there in the water on its side, thinking about if it really wanted to continue being a fish. As I scratched the dozens of mosquito bites covering every inch of my exposed skin, I related to that little guy.

Wrapped up in my enjoyment of catching the little swimmers, I forgot about cleaning them. I saw a side of my grandpa I didn’t know existed: the bloodthirsty, savage side. He calmly demonstrated sawing off the head, ripping out the innards, and scraping out the poop tract — blood and excrement coating his hands — before offering me the next trout and his dull pocketknife. I barely managed to do one before he agreed to handle the gut-cleaning if I did all the poop-scraping. You know it’s bad when poop-scraping sounds like the better job.

On the hike out, I was a man with a purpose. Every step was one foot closer to a shower and a bed twice as big as the tent my dad and I had shared. When I finally made it back to the comfort of civilization, I knew for sure: Backpacking isn’t for me.

But a few days later, to my surprise, I began to remember some parts of the trip fondly: the vastness of the starry sky at night, the satisfaction of carrying everything I truly needed on my back and drinking out of clear snowmelt streams. Even though backpacking will never be my go-to activity, I think I finally get it. After the initial relief of hitting the down pillow of my clean queen bed, I couldn’t deny that I was different than before I went: more adventuring grandpa, and less floundering fish.

Lessons Learned from the Pit


It was the second night of the school play. The show was called Crazy for You, a collection of jazzy Gershwin tunes, and I was on drums. I was ready. There was only one problem: I felt sick.

Somewhere in the acidic underbelly of my fleshy bits, my BBQ ribs from lunch churned a little. I excused it as nothing and strode over to my flashy drum set in the orchestra pit as the lights dimmed for the beginning of the show. I sat down and felt a little wave of nausea again.

I turned to my orchestra buddy and whispered, “Bro, I feel kinda sick.” He whispered back, “You’d better not throw up on me, man,” and the show began.

Stone Starts Driving

stone-drivingMy son Stone, 15, wrote my column again this week. Hey again. It’s me, Stone. You may remember me from last summer, when I ranted about parental oppression. Well, I’m back, with something else I need to get off my chest. When I passed the driver’s test and got my permit back in April, the training taught me to be a very nice, friendly, rule-abiding driver (always walk around the car and inspect it before driving, signal 100 feet before the turn, etc.). But when I backed out of my driveway and entered into the real world of driving, I was like a small, fluffy bunny in a pit of angry, rabid Rottweilers. The polite world of driver’s ed was ripped away to reveal a world of people cutting off other people and not using their turn signals — and full of, ahem, parental help: “STONE, ACCELERATE, YOU NEED TO ACCELERATE!” Of course, I haven’t let all this affect my driving. I still drive slowly and carefully, and the incessant honking around me from those Porsche SUVs driven by soccer moms who need to get to their jewelry-making class is drowned out by the song “Let It Go,” which is on indefinite repeat (Yes, I am the only male on the planet who insanely loves Frozen). I am determined not to stoop to the level of other Santa Barbara drivers. As Queen Elsa says, “Don’t let them in, don’t let them see. Be the good girl you always have to be.”

Teenage Summer Views

I asked my 14-year-old son to write my column this week because he was “bored” and couldn’t think of anything to do with his summer besides parking himself in front of back-to-back episodes of Ancient Aliens on The History Channel. Yes, it’s really him, and not me pretending to be him. Kid has a sarcastic side; not sure where he gets it.

Hi. Judging by my one-word lead, you probably know that this is not Starshine. My name is Stone, and I am Ms. Roshell’s oldest son. This column will not, for a change, make fun of Christians, vegans, or any other thing my mom is not.

If that’s what you’re into, you’d best stop reading now and check back a couple of weeks when my mom will probably write a column that straddles the line between raunchy humor and uncomfortableness, as usual. This column, however, will discuss a few things my mom doesn’t talk about and will not mention vaginas or flossing. Or vagina flossing, for that matter.

You may be wondering, “Why is Starshine making her son do her work for her?” Well, I’m not sure either, but the reason I accepted her offer was because she told me the only way I could get a glimpse at a TV before 8 p.m. was to bang out a column for her. And of course, desperate times call for desperate measures.

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