Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Happy out here

 I trudged toward Aneroid Lake, a destination chosen due to the trailhead proximity to my house (I name it here because it is well known and there are durable campsites). This would be another leave-work-early-get-up-early trip, less than 24 hours in the wilderness, but better than nothing. Because it was a weekday, nobody was coming with me. That was fine: I planned to hike as fast as I could, so that I could get there in time to visit another, higher lake. 

A few dejected hunters passed me going down, but I saw nobody on the entire trail. I had the campsites to myself, so of course I picked the best one: up in the rocks, with a view of the lake. Camp chores done, I bolted for the higher lake. This one is off trail, but only a few miles away. Once, I saw a wolf there.

As I trekked through the basin before the second climb, a hiker came from the other direction. He paused to ask me if the trail he had seen up above would pose a problem for his friend, who was coming down without a map. I reassured him that it was a dead end trail to a sign, and it would be easy to figure out. After twelve years of running around in these mountains, I know them pretty well.

We fell into a conversation. He was from Poland, and had retired eight years ago. "The best eight years of my life!" he boomed.  "I just live simply and don't buy anything."

Good advice, I said. I really don't buy much anyway. 

Then he said:  "I'm really only happy out here. Being home is all right, but..." 

I can relate. It's not that I'm unhappy at home. I'm content. But being out in the wilderness for days on end, not just for a little bit, is where I am the happiest. We parted, saying we would see each other at the lake, and I headed for my destination.

The small lake was windswept and cold. It wasn't a place to linger. I went back down to Aneroid to see if my friend who is a caretaker of the private cabins was around. The cabin was all shuttered up. It was time to admit: winter was here.

It's been a hard summer, but a good one for wilderness. I've re-learned what I've always known: do it all while you can. For me, that doesn't mean leaving my job security to live in a van, but it does mean to wander my beloved mountains as long as I can still do it. 

The Polish hiker and friend were nowhere to be seen, and the next morning I got up in the frost to quickly pack up and return to society. I rolled in to a meeting still in my hiking clothes (luckily on videoconference, it's harder to tell). I had thought this was the last overnight trip: it was October, after all. But I found myself checking the weather. Maybe it would hold out. Maybe I could still escape while I still could.

do you talk to people on the trail? What kind of wisdom have people imparted?

(probably the weirdest encounter was with a man carrying two duffel bags. He said they were full of Clif Bars, and he wanted to make sure he got an arm workout while he was backpacking.)


  1. A wonderful escape and images. Had to laugh re the Clif Bar man. I followed a blog a few years ago, of a man who hiked the PCT in a wedding dress. It may have even been that there was a series of donated wedding dresses.

    1. I remember that guy! It was a series of dresses!

  2. My medical experience this summer has reinforced the need to enjoy every minute and do stuff while you can. It can be taken away in the blink of an eye. Wonderful that you can squeeze in overnights between work commitments.

    1. You've done a lot regardless. Glad you are recovered.


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