{rights of passage} Mammoth Lakes, CA August 2013

A rare and beautiful creature, the 13 year old boy, deserves to celebrate his passage from adolescents to teen-hood.  Cultures across the world perform elaborate rights from scarification to the man-boy being sent on solo survival expeditions, mental and physical survival equaling passage!  Thankfully our man-boy wasn’t required to endure rigors greater than a peaceful hiking and fishing trip to Mammoth Lakes in celebration of his 13th birthday accompanied by his best friend!

The road to Mammoth for many months of the year is sublime.  The flora and fauna change from a Joshua Tree impregnated stark desert framed with barren mountains, to stunning volcanic rocky hills and cattle grazing in vast valleys.  Ghost towns and endless rows of power towers dot and grid the landscape along the freeway.  And a peak toward snowy Mt. Whitney graces the western ridge of mountains an hour out from Mammoth City.  Once can surely feel the vastness and possibilities in equal measure that early settlers must have felt.  I certainly did….



Our first adventure was up to Lake Mary for early morning chilly fishing on a pontoon boat.  Sadly the fish weren’t biting.  I do believe the girls’ incessant talking and giggling drove them off.  No worries, we enjoyed attempting to fish anyway.  Arjuna (my black Lab) decided to leap off the back of the boat at one point.  Whining all morning to jump in….eventually he broke away….running, climbing over seats and the gate, LEAPING, SSPPLLAASSHH!! And then shock set in as the freezing snow-melt-cum-lake-water freaked him out!  He paddled in a frenzy back toward the boat, Rook’s dad dragging him out by his collar.  Of course what immediately followed was the notorious “wet dog shake out and get everyone wet” along with screaming and grabbing of towels from the rest of us.  Bliss!




Rook and Patrick were born 10 or so hours apart in the same hospital, yet didn’t meet until their 9th year in 4th grade.  Like magnets, they would click together at the shoulder and move as a unit, the edges of the top of their heads almost touching as they talked.  I can only assume that they’d “known” each other since their birth, or perhaps from another lifetime.  To observe them is to observe 2 moons orbiting the same unseen planet that only they are aware of.  No one knows Rook so completely or cares about him like Patrick, and vice versa.  It’s pretty magical sometimes.



A Bald Eagle, a priceless siting.  It was sitting atop this tree beyond our boat.  I would never have noticed it were it not for Patrick–a committed Boy Scout who is the most patriotic kid I know–spying it up there.  Thanks Patrick!




Little Sisters have been best friends almost as long as their brothers.  Giggles and snorts and a secret language that I have yet to decipher frame their being-ness.  There is such a soulfulness to them….  I guess this “right of passage” trip wasn’t just for the 13 year old boys.  The girls had a lovely journey of their own this week.  I have never met a more loving and tender friendship than the one owned by  Cora and Raven.  They never stop supporting and encouraging each other, rising to challenges they may not rise to on their own, like the gondola ride to the tippy top of Mammoth near the end of the week.   Both were stricken with terror as we left the ground.  Fairly quickly they were encouraging each other to breath, wrapping their arms around each other.


heart abound

These girls.  I took them on a scenic hike around one of the more quaint lakes.  They began spotting heart-shaped rocks along our journey.  We counted near 30 heart rocks, chronicalling the best of the bunch as we hiked.  They even found hearts in tree bark and pine cones.  🙂  Just love these girls so much, especially mine, the red haired freckly one.


I’ve studied my own face at the age of 13-15, it looks just like this, half Heaven, half Earth, but all man-boy as he finds his way.  He is a much better human being than I was at his age.  Sure I was empathetic, respectful to traditions and family, and full of wonder like him.  But he has away of letting life roll off his back in ways I couldn’t, never letting much get to him…accept for his little sister….and finding his inner compass with a grace and ease of a 1,000 year old soul.  I am so proud of the man he is becoming.  Sigh…..


hiker photog


This trip was a journey for me as well.  Being my first time in Mammoth,  I decided to take advantage of every moment, using the trip as a meditation as well as a constant photo-op!   Mammoth was breathtakingly scenic and the air so pure.  Hiking around the lakes was a constant reminder of how many reasons there are to feel fortunate for where we live, in one of the most diverse countries and states in the world.  Mammoth in and of itself is a work of art, painted with the keenest details!  I can only imagine its beauty in the spring when all the wild flowers begin to bloom.  While I was there I took a solo 2 mile run around the golf course near the house and felt so alive and comforted with everything around me.  Deer watched me as I ran, the flowers bobbing in the breeze as I passed.  And of course I stopped once to twice to capture them, yep!


running in mammoth


golf view flora

The kids’ dad and I have been divorced for a few years, but we are a rare duo that truly co-parents in all aspects of the kids’ lives.  We even travel together with them from time to time.  And the kid’s love it.   This trip was planned to honor Rook and Patrick, but I do believe we ALL enjoyed a personal journey this week!


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  • January 28, 2014 - 7:11 am

    Billy Knox - Some of your best work all year. Love your use of vignettes. Awesome trip!!ReplyCancel

    • May 3, 2014 - 3:39 am

      photogjenn@me.com - Thank you so much!



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