My plan was to spend a week in Mammoth Lakes getting organized, doing training hikes and acclimating to the altitude. I knew seven days was nowhere near enough time to get in shape for a 250 mile hike all the way to Truckee through the Sierra Nevada with 30 pounds on my back, but it’s all I could do on short notice.
Meanwhile, Wildchild got sucked right into the parent vortex.
After losing track of her hiking buddy, my poor baby had spent 20 days hiking alone in some of the hardest terrain of the entire Pacific Crest Trail. The altitude had slowed her down more than expected, forcing her to ration food. She ended up making an impromptu exit at Bishop Pass, a grueling 12.5 mile detour over steep, rocky terrain.
Once she arrived at our cushy condo with its running water, flush toilets and fridge full of food, she decided to take a week off and chill. She’d been hiking the PCT for two months, with only two zeros. She needed a break. We’d wait for her friend Squarepants to arrive, host them both for two more days and then hike on together.
Back in civilization, it took her awhile to adjust.
The lights at night, the noise around her, electricity on demand, all these things we take for granted elicited awe and amazement. Sleeping on a soft couch, instead of the hard ground, seemed awkward for her. She had grown accustomed to life in her little tent.
Wildchild joined me on a couple of my training hikes and shared stories from the trail: who she met, how she managed, what it was like, the heat, the cold, the pain, the joy. She told me things that would scare the shit out of most moms, me included, about sleeping under freeway passes and getting rides from strangers. But she also described random acts of kindness she experienced almost every day. I guess the trail provides.
Hiking is cathartic on so many levels.
She said it was weird walking down the trail without her pack. She felt off balance. She told me she couldn’t stand being in the car with us, her adoring parents, because we bicker too much. It makes her anxious. I said we’d try to be good. She made it clear she needs her space. I gulped and said okay. I guess this is all part of the letting-go process as your kids turn into young adults.
Sometimes we hiked together. Sometimes we hiked apart. Frankly I had a hard time catching up. When I finally did, I told her about my fears, that I was afraid I might not survive this epic hike due to old age and lack of preparation. She cheered me on.
“You can do it, Momma, I know you can. There’s lots of people older than you doing it. You’ll make so many friends.”
Ah, the unbridled enthusiasm of youth. If only they knew what it means to us.
I guess we’ll see how this adventure unfolds. Whatever happens, I’m just grateful to be here, having a shot at living my dream of walking the Pacific Crest Trail in the beautiful Sierra Nevada for as long as I last. With my baby girl as my guide. How crazy is that?