I choose to make the rest of my life the best of my life. – Louise Hay
What a perfect place to wake up as the sky turns pink, then orange. Huge fallen logs circle my spot; I use one as my seat for breakfast. Packing is routine now and I’m off. A few tents are still up where the guys camp, but I know they’ll catch me as I saunter in this perfect space.
The granite mountains with snow I saw last night stay on my right all in pink at the moment as I follow a very gentle trail on a balcony with little up or down. The sky is absolutely cloud-free, the air scented with pine – a special California odor I associate with my childhood. It’s dry, and I know it will eventually get hot, but it feels perfect right now.
I see a gray haired man stopped ahead. I pass him and later he passes me back and tells me in a Scottish accent, “Call me Daddy.” Huh? Oh, that’s your name! I met this hiker carrying hot dog buns just outside of Cascade Locks. He flipped up north, touched the border then flipped back down here and is only doing this tiny section of the Trinity Alps he missed on one of his flips.
Too complicated for me, but he has a lovely personality and a fast pace, racing ahead as I poke along. I like my alone time to think and realize suddenly that I am very afraid to come home. I love my husband, friends, neighbors, my house, but I don’t know if I can come face-to-face with utter sorrow again. How does a person wring out all the dirty feeling of rejection? It just clings to my esteem like a sticky mess of hot yoga sweat I can’t wash off.
I come over a rise and see a range of jagged peaks, dark and forbidding yet stunningly beautiful surrounded by sweeping valleys of pine, Shasta on high. I wonder if I wasn’t political enough, or nice and accommodating enough – the way a girl ‘should’ behave. That always gets me. Even now, women get into trouble showing ambition and asking for what they deserve. If a man speaks up, he’s professional. When a woman does, she’s being difficult.
I love how I see mountains from a distance and then walk right into them. Monstrous ones are a faded blue far off and I wonder if they’re next on my walk. Call me Daddy stops for water as I pass, then flies past me as I reach a series of valleys filled with lakes and cowbells. Absolutely magical.
Two movies I love to watch over and over are “She Devil” and “First Wives Club.” In both, the women get back at their husbands only to discover revenge isn’t enough. What they need is to reclaim themselves then help others do so as well. They may be kind of dumb movies, but the message is transformative. I can’t just scrape off the reject goo while still reliving the trauma. I need to transform myself, perhaps into someone who can say, “Their loss!” and feel it in her bones.
My walk today is deliciously beautiful on this grand balcony and mostly flat. I finally come to an area where I see parked cars and pass a shirtless guy with an enormous stomach. I giggle inside at his lack of pretense and walk on right past my last spring for nearly six miles. I’m not exerting so much, I think, so I move on, going down switchbacks to a road – then back up switchbacks exposed to the sun.
That was really dumb. I start thinking maybe a trail angel should appear about now to get me out of this jam of a need to quench my thirst. Just as I get to the road, I see a huge group of people organizing for a week-long camping trip. No one has a soda, but a gal fills up my bottle with water and I suck it all down before the climb. Call me Daddy hitches a ride to Burney from that lot, and I think that’s the last I’ll see of him. He made me smile today.
Up I go on very low gear in the hot sun, but I don’t mind since it feels a bit like hot yoga – without the worst of the sweat. I tune into my breathing and quickly reach the top, turning into the forest shade to find a stream. I meet Good Luck and we sit with our backs against our packs, packs against a tree. I offer him sweets and he offers me cheese and bread. We decide to make a site next to a spring our destination, but I am not certain the spring is flowing. A NOBO arriving right now would be quite helpful to ask.
I am not a huge believer in ‘manifesting’ but I must say the trail provided as three hikers show up that exact moment. They tell me the water is very hard to collect, there are cow pies everywhere and saw no camping. Sadly, these three hikers are crabby with headphones jammed in and nothing to say, but they gave us the information we needed.
We fill our bottles here for a four mile climb to what may be a non-existent site, then head off. Good Luck is in his 60’s but faster than me, but he crawls up the huge bowl slowly and I follow without panting as we talk about our lives. He is on the verge of retiring with young children and a chance to hike this now, though his family is a bit skeptical and not entirely supportive. He is loving the hike and feels strong.
We come to a junction and I check the map, amazed we came so far. That’s what happens when talking with someone interesting. We go another bit up and find the spring actually flowing quite well and three tent sites on the ridge. Maybe I shouldn’t trust crabby hikers?
Just then, another hiker named Moses shows up and says he’s going higher. We spy a rattler in the bushes, so maybe there’s a better place to camp with bigger views. The sun is still bright and I feel good, so I follow him up just to ‘check it out.’ The trail weaves around and around, going higher as the sun begins to sink. I come to a spot I think is the saddle, but the trail twists around another bowl and ramps up one more notch.
The top does not disappoint – it’s a view of a lake with Shasta looming on one side and the full range with sunset on the other. I find a spot and set the alicoop just as Good Luck arrives. I’m so glad he goes for it. Moses goes down further to be alone and is soon replaced by Chef. We all find spots, even if one tent is directly in the trail.
The sunset is superlative, dinner conversation divine, the stars are bright and an owl is hooting as I shut my eyes. What a perfect day. A few more of these and I will be just fine coming home because I will be totally rejuvenated.