Doubt is a killer. You just have to know who you are and what you stand for. – Jennifer Lopez
When I wake up, Klaus knocks on my door and tells me that he and Mark came up with a plan – he’ll take us to the trail and we’ll hike without our gear, just lunch and water, and then he’ll get us at the trailhead near his house and we can spend s second night. I’m feeling better after my crying jag last night and realize this is a fantastic plan. It allows me to rest a big more and for us to see the now famous McCloud River waterfalls. I get to know Laurie a bit better this morning. We are definitely simpatico, just click right in to each other’s wavelength. I needed a little girlfriend time, for sure.
I stuff my rain gear in Olive Oyl just in case, though the warnings are for ‘dry lightning,’ definitely not a welcome forecast in the tinder box of Northern California. Mark sets out coffee and bars to enjoy on their wonderful patio before we set off. This trailhead is a little sketchy as it’s an underpass at Interstate 5. A hiker sleeps in his bag in the bushes and we startle him walking by.
It’s essentially a huge ramp up then a ramp down today. Mark initially suggests we skip it as it’s mostly forest, but we both want to do the whole enchilada and there should be views back to Castle Crags and Shasta. Wow, it’s easy with barely any weight on my back. I pass a section hiker named Pilot heading up, plus a couple of friendly NOBO’s – perhaps the grouchy ones are moving faster and it’s only the laid back ones left? Maybe.
One of my friends wrote me yesterday to share something her grandfather told her – “pray always.” I love this. I suppose it can imply that I might always be asking for something whether attention, guidance or something material, but I think he means to orient myself towards the spiritual, to be in tune with my inner wisdom and better self. I take this with me today as I move up steadily through dense forest of pine, then oak.
Clouds are moving in and the air feels humid. I swallow a gnat so shields are up as I put my bug burka on over the mad hatter hat. I do feel better this morning. The guys made me cry last night, but the reminded me that I am in control of how I react – and sometimes, that’s all I have. I don’t see many hikers, but these few seem settled, happy, friendly. I tend to focus on the bad and downplay the good when I have bern given such an extraordinary gift in a total stranger taking me in and now offering me a chance to slack pack. What a gift! (and also part of the ‘pray always’ thing in being filled with gratitude.) I see that this is my challenge during the hike, to train my focus.
I get water at a spring pouring over the trail in a perfect trajectory to collect. I brought cheese, salami and sourdough to share and we agree to find a place to sit at the top. But once we get there, Pace Maker is already seated and momentum takes over, so we move on and the views disappear. The next place to sit is in a campsite in the woods. But at least we’re headed down as thunder rumbles and a huge, drawn out crack rattles the sky.
It’s only a light rain, but at least there’s some moisture as we pack up and head down to meet Mark. Hiking has a way of allowing me to renew every day. Almost like a do-over, I can try to reach that blissful state, not knowing if and when it will come, that state where my feet walk themselves and I feel totally right exactly where I am. Mark told us yesterday that he died at 22, then was brought back to life. It changed him because he realized at a young age that he’s not invincible and will eventually die and not be able to be revived. I think about this when walking, that I am alive now and fully living by pushing my body to move far and see new things each day. It feels good to be alive.
At the bottom, the trail comes to Squaw Valley creek rushing through layers of rock like stair steps lined with enormous leafed plants. I savor this stream before walking to the road, but when I sit down to wait for Mark, I realize my little sit pad fell out of my pack. I quickly retreat hoping it’s close by and there is Pilot holding it and saying she hoped she’d bump into me. What luck.
Mark arrives right when he promised and pulls out a cooler full of beer and tea, plus a bag of chips he knows I like. It was not a hard day, but hard enough and his thoughtfulness brings squeals of joy from me. We sit for a while enjoying our beers before heading to a special place to see a series of waterfalls – and view the magic door that leads to the underground caves within Shasta where little people live.
I promptly fall asleep in the truck so miss the first falls, but wake to walk to the others, gorgeous cataracts in a deep canyon. People swim below, but there is no one at the upper falls – and a Te Araroa-style trail straight down to its pool. Klaus announces he will swim here and we all follow him down. I find a platform of rock to leave my clothes and shoes before slowly easing into the ice cold water. It’s bracing and I barely make it to the falls before turning back as my body goes numb. I’m no longer sleepy, and feel like I’ve had a deep tissue massage.
We next head to Mount Shasta to buy dinner ingredients. It’s my treat of salmon, rice, broccoli and a huge salad – Klaus grabs two pints of Hagen Dazs and a bottle of what turns out to be Laurie’s favorite wine and adds them to the cart. Before we return to cook, Mark picks up a hitching hiker who turns out to be ‘Just Right,’ a gal I met in the big group ride from Bellingham on day 1. We get her to town, then head to his house for our feast.
It turns out to be just right itself – so much good nutrition I’ve lacked and dinner with Laurie who says she’s also sensitive and understands why I got so upset last night. The guys take it with good nature and we celebrate our different approaches rather than try to change each other – though Laurie does tell me later she pushes back too on these things, then gives me a hug and thanks me for being here.
How do such wonderful things happen in my life? I think wonder surrounds me and I need to be patient, brave and open enough to see it. Like my friend grandfather’s mantra to pray always, perhaps I would be happier if I took a lesson from the Psalms and rejoiced always.
It feels a whole lot better than complaining.