Thursday, September 20, 2012

This is how it begins

It was hard to believe that our trip was over. I had dreamed of hiking the John Muir Trail for half my life. Now that it was done, how would I slip back into my normal life?

I wasn't ready.

So I went hiking.

Back home it hasn't rained in over two months. With each step, puffs of dust enveloped me as I hiked towards Glacier Lake. Though fall was supposedly coming, it was still summer at 8,000 feet.

The skies were hazy with wildfire smoke as I paused on Glacier Pass. After weeks of climbing Sierra passes, this one was easy.

I had big plans for peak-climbing but once I got to Horseshoe Lake on Day 2, I stopped and swam and read a whole book. I never take the time to do that. Maybe the Sierras have taught me something after all. You don't need to rush through life all the time to get someplace. 

At four in the morning a windstorm blew in. A bank of clouds lurked on the horizon. There was the muffled thunder of trees falling in the forest. Across the lake, I saw headlamps wink on as people struggled with their tents.

This is what I learned from nineteen days in the wilderness: We pretty much are the people we are. This trip didn't magically turn me into a more patient, better person. I still like hiking solo but camping with others. I still don't get why people are afraid of things in the outdoors over which they have no control. I still want to hike fast all day but stop when I want to stop. Some things don't change. 

It only took me a few minutes to pack up. There were a lot of reasons to stay and wait out the storm. Maybe it would blow by. I could hike to the off-trail lake I had seen on the map for years but never been to. I could stay out and absorb more wilderness before I had to face the computer.

This is the edge of Horseshoe Lake. There's a rock shelf and a deep, deep drop-off.
In the end, there were more reasons to go. I love the wilderness but I can't live there all the time. 

Next year I'd like to hike the North Cascades/Goat Rocks part of the PCT. It will be very different. Resupplies will be a challenge. The country is not as forgiving. I look forward to it.

I hiked down the trail in darkness, on my way home.

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