September 12, 2017
Raging Creek Camp – Crabtree Meadow/Whitney Creek Camp
11 1/2hrs/22 miles
A wonderful camp. A bear box for food storage. A deer sleeping in the meadow and a hawk soaring above. I could have kept walking but why? Forester Pass was nice as always in the early morning. Even nicer was the walk after. Beautiful trail meeting up with the forest of Foxtail Pine. My favourite Sierra tree. Like walking through an open air museum with dead trees seemingly full of life glowing red like my hair in the shining sun. I break my rules and listen to one song: All I See Is Sk by my good friend Séan McCann. I am so happy. Happy to walk. Happy to be off the John Muir Trail as beautiful as it is, full of people. Already there are less people with only one other guy where I set this camp. Yes, I could have walked far further, but chose to stop and enjoy. Grateful I did.
September 13, 2017
Crabtree Meadow Camp – Cottonwood Pass/Horseshoe Meadow/Lone Pine Hitch in a convertible kinda day
20 miles/7hrs 40′
I walk all morning and somewhere along the way I realize I can do whatever the fuck I want. I can keep walking I can stop I can stay on trail or go off trail. It is up to me. I don’t have to be anywhere and this is MY HIKE and I will DO WHAT I WANT. Oh yes. That’s right. I realize this and decide I will head off trail at Cottonwood Pass and hitch down to Lone Pine. I still have to go back up to Chester where I began this walk, retrieve our truck and trailer from the Nelson’s house which our friend Kathleen is moving out from after retirement, drive both back down to Bishop and leave at the (same) Nelson’s normal home just out of town. Then get back to Lone Pine, get back up to Horseshoe Meadows, hike back up to the PCT via Cottonwood Pass, turn left and continue on my SOBO way. No problem, right? Right.
I feel liberated knowing it’s my decision to make. For years…let’s just say decades, actually, I have (for the most part) been at the mercy of a gruelling competition and training schedule, which morphed into a work schedule with public speaking and the myriad and wonderful things I cared to do in terms of volunteering. Around the world. But now, yes, now, this time is mine, from the decision I made to pull the plug on all these great things. To live a little in a different kind of way. To slow things down. To step out of the light and find out who I am, here, now. To connect and engage at a human to human level, not from a stage, but eye to eye. It’s been an incredible journey and this walk has effectively allowed for transition into who I am. Learning about this person I feel I hardly know. Meeting others as nothing more than a hiker. Not an athlete. Nor an advocate. It’s been good. Oh so good.
I sit under a Foxtail Pine at Chicken Spring Lake filtering water. Four plump grouse peck at the ground nearby. I’m sitting and smiling and thinking when a handsome young couple approach. They have big smiles and clear eyes so when they ask to join me, I say yes, please, do. They beam openness and ask many questions about the trail, about gear, food, etc. They ask and they actually, which is so rare, listen. They are day hikers who I thought were only parked at the trailhead I am hoping to hitch from. I ask if I can get a ride down to town and immediately, they oblige. I learn later they are actually camped out at the trailhead, and out of incredible kindness, agree to drive me down and then come back up. Had I known I would not have asked. But I did and when I backpedal, my new friends say ‘too bad, we already agreed, it’s set.’ I am so lucky.’
I meet many, many NOBO hikers. Some thru hikers (again, Class of 2017 bouncing all over the trail because of snow, fire and ice), some random route seekers, some weekenders, some Whitney-bound’ers, and some walking zombies looking like they need to end their thru-hikes, months ago, yet are still walking. I meet ‘Rocky’ and ‘Colleen’ who comment enthusiastically on my pink dress and the fact that I am smiling after walking so far. Far, I ask? I’ve only come from Chester, some 450 miles north of here. They don’t care and think it’s awesome I am out there alone. Their goodness buoys my spirit. I love these girls.
I arrive at Horseshoe Meadow and wait for my new friends Leslie and Andrew. We decided back at the Foxtail Pine tree that Andrew should be named ‘Fresh Socks’ because he likes to have a clean pair EVERY day on the trail. I name Leslie ‘Princess Bride’ because she is beautiful and smart and strong and I think people underestimate her. I sit and boil up some water for some food when a mountain bluebird lands in a branch in a tree nearby. Ootskoipiksakkii, I say. This means Blue Bird Woman in Blackfoot which happens to be my Blackfoot name given to me by an elder from Kainai in Southern Alberta. We watch each other for minutes and I feel so loved by this bird. By my new friends. By my friends back home. By the wonderful Blackfoot communities of KaiNai and Siksika I am so lucky to be connected to and receive this beautiful name from.
My new friends arrive. Andrew cracks open a luscious yellow watermelon. We share stories. I teach them some knots. We get into their car and cruise down into Lone Pine in this CONVERTIBLE with the top down. I feel like I am in a movie on a set with the incredible Sierra backdrop. Leslie and I talk about Thich Nhat Hahn and Joseph Campbell. We connect through mindfulness and love. Love of humanity and nature. I know this is not the only time I will see these beautiful souls. It’s just how it goes on the trail. When you meet people on trail, your lives just somehow keep intersecting. They just do.
I step into the fanciest restaurant in town where a birthday dinner is happening with four of the best humans I know. I am the dirtiest person in the whole place but nobody seems to care. My friend Jeff brings my pack to his car and soon I’m drinking wine and eating a filet mignon with blue cheese sauce within the love of my circle of friends. My other friends offer me a ride up to Chester because they are driving to Oregon in a few days time. I spend a day in Lone Pine and visit Manzanar with my friend Cheryl, seeing this national historic site which tells the experience of thousands of Japanese Americans who were put into these internment camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbour. The wisdom and insight from the now elders who lived for years in these conditions against their will (despite what they were told at the time) rings true in the here and now of American and world politics. Their wisdom is warning this can happen again. This is happening again. I cry as I look at all of this. It’s so clear we are horrible as humans and fail to learn. Yet we can be so good. I bring it back to the privilege of being white, however, and wonder what kind of hell on earth I could and would and still can experience had my skin been a different shade. We have a long, long way to go as humans. We really do. All I can bring is awareness into all that I do. Not pretend to know or understand other’s struggles; but instead listen with compassion and never forget.
Thus, a week off trail commences. I have to get the truck and trailer, etc., get back down south, get back up to the trail. The goodness of my network of friends makes this happen and within seven days I am back walking. Grateful to have the time to experience the upcoming desert sections I look forward to more than anything. The stark solitude I hope they will bring.
I feel this rapture of being alive. So very alive. That movement has provided me with the medicine I need. That this break from the trail is what it is. Nothing can be rushed. What has to be done must be done and all that I want will happen in good time. There is no stress. That it will unfold. That I am. That all is.
Soon I will walk, walk, walk. Up, up, up. Down, down, down. All I can do is walk and oh how grateful am I that I can.