Today I am headed off to California for a backpacking trip in the Eastern Sierras.
When I moved to California, I had never climbed a mountain. I've loved the outdoors my whole life, but Minnesota is lacking in areas of major elevation gain, so most of the outside activities I had participated in consisted of rivers and fields and lakes. You know, flat activities. Fun activities, to be sure, but flat nonetheless.
Then I went west.
There is something about the wildness of the mountains that cannot be replicated anywhere else. The experience is not one that can be contained neatly in one description, because it's an ever-changing thing with many fluid parts; the smell of pine needles baking in the sun, the wind whooshing through the treetops so loudly that it sounds like freeway traffic, the mysterious animal noises that you simultaneously want to explore and run away from. It's an abstraction, that mountain feeling. There's a sanity, a clarity, that only the wilderness can provide - the mountains, the desert, the ocean all make me feel, as my friend Shawnté so beautifully put it, "elementally at peace".
My proximity to this kind of wilderness is something I miss every day. So I'm going back.
The photos in the post are from snow camp weekend for the Wilderness Travel Course I took this past winter, through the Sierra Club (an experience I highly recommend to anyone living in the Los Angeles area). It was the final trip we took as a class, and it was bittersweet for me, because I had finally met a group of people who shared my desire to hike all over the place, but I was leaving California only a week or so after the trip ended. It's hard to reconcile real life, money, circumstances, etc., with the kind of mad wanderfrenzy I feel on a daily basis; the urge to climb and explore and learn and experience the world in a real and tactile way. I don't want it to just be a hobby - I want it to be my life. I'm in the process of figuring out a way to make that happen.
This particular trip was a culmination of all of our classwork and training. We carried our (ridiculously, in my case) heavy packs up the mountain to Rock Creek Lake, and pitched our tents on snow. The weather was beautiful, and the company was even better, with good conversation and tasty camping food being shared all around. The scenery was pretty snazzy too.
The second day of the trip was spent snowshoeing around the lakes in the area, with the goal of navigating through snow and learning how to carve our own path through the forest. We took turns being leaders and even got a mini (unplanned) lesson in avalanches.
And now I'm returning to these same mountains, with a few of the same people. This time we'll be hiking to Thousand Island Lake, and if the weather is warm enough I might be inclined to jump in the water (one can dream...maybe I'll pack my wetsuit). If you don't hear from me, it means I stayed in the wild and I'm never coming back - tell my mom I love her and I'll send her a postcard via carrier pigeon, or an eagle or something.
Catch ya on the other side of the mountain!