Being invited to go on a California Juniper collecting trip with the legendary Harry Hirao is a once in a lifetime adventure.
The morning started for me at 2 a.m. when I backed my truck out of my dark driveway in Fresno and headed south toward Bakersfield over a 130 miles distant.
I was supposed to meet Harry and the other collectors at 6 a.m. at the Denny's in Mojave, and I certainly did not want to be late.
I reached Bakersfield a couple of hours later and turned my truck onto Highway 58 and headed east toward the mountains. Although it was still pitch black outside, I could sense the Tehachapi mountains growing nearer as the road began a gradual incline.
A half hour later I began in earnest the steep, twisting climb into the mountains. I took a quick look over my shoulder one last time at the twinkling lights of Bakersfield far below in the distance, and I smiled, wondering if I would be lucky in my search for just the right juniper.