I woke up at 5:49 am, seeing light but no sun. The mosquitoes were humming so loud, I could hear them through my earplugs. Anticipating a swarm, I suited up in full bug gear to go get water.
Once I got outside, I realized that it wasn’t mosquitoes after all. I’d been sleeping next to some kind of hive on the ground. Wasps, perhaps?
They were super loud, having an intense morning meeting I suppose.
The girls got up after me, but of course, they were ready to go first. Bella and her people were also up early to beat the heat and said goodbye before heading out. Fish Nugget and Squarepants left soon after.
While packing to leave at 7:00 am, a big group of obnoxious day hikers came down the trail, whooping and hollering at the top of their lungs. Did they even stop to think that people might be out here, trying to sleep?
The first item on today’s agenda was a 600-foot ascent, thankfully mostly shaded. I tried to stay behind the herd of hooligans, still whooping their way up the trail, unsure about what kind of people they might be.
As I got closer, I saw that they had an elderly lady with them, so they probably weren’t as sinister as I’d originally thought. And despite my initial annoyance, a part of me had to admire their enthusiasm for the trail. Still, I felt wary.
They stopped to rest at the end of a switchback.
One of them had some kind of tripod thingy pointed right at me. Of course, it wasn’t a gun, but were they filming me? I did not want to be in some random person’s video, so I kept my head down and turned, using my hat rim as a shield.
Coming upon them, I realized that the tripod was Grandma’s fancy cane, and they turned out to be a family of really nice people. They were doing a 16-mile day hike from Barker Pass to Tahoe City. Jeez, I’m paranoid.
Leaving Grandma’s Gang behind, I marched steadily toward the top where the air was cool and breezy. Today’s trail menu offered up a stunning ridge walk past Blackwood and Ward Canyons and along the backside of Alpine Meadows. I took a ton of pictures.
The miles ticked by as I tried to catch up to the girls for lunch.
Approaching Alpine Meadows, it occurred to me to check for cell coverage. Success! I sat down on a rock and texted The Hubby a message and a picture. He must have been busy, though, because I didn’t hear back, so I pressed on.
I finally caught up with the girls, resting in a shady patch, just past Alpine. I spread out the Z rest, so happy to be off my aching feet for a while.
On the trail, standards of decorum are relaxed to non-existent.
There are things we don’t talk about—the belching, the farting, the digging of crusty bits out of the nose. Sometimes you’ve just gotta scratch the crotch, so you do. Dropping food on the ground, picking it up, and eating it anyway—these things just happen. I debated bringing this up, but it’s a fact of life on the trail.
After a long ridge walk, we had big descent down to the Five Lakes trail junction. It was hot but still breezy, though we lost the wind bit by bit as we neared the bottom.
I found Squarepants resting in a shady spot by the junction and sat down to join her. We exchanged pleasantries, but she seemed to need peace. Knowing that she sometimes struggles with anxiety, I let her be.
It’s actually nice knowing someone well enough to be comfortable in silence together. When you don’t know them so well, you feel this obsessive need for constant chatter, but once you know them on a deeper level, it’s unnecessary.
I remember when I was young and saw old couples in restaurants who hardly spoke to each other at the dinner table. I thought, who could sit there and not talk like that when there’s so much to learn? But after years of knowing someone, now I understand, and it’s okay. It’s comfortable.
What’s not comfortable is when my dinner companion launches into a tirade, badgering me to be more than I am. I’m sure certain people mean well, but this is my life. I have one life to live, that’s it, and I don’t want to waste it chasing somebody else’s dream.
So what if I don’t have big dreams? Who cares? I have my dreams, they were given to me, and they matter. Other people are free to follow their own dreams.
On the trail for almost a month, it’s been incredible getting away. It’s given me the space to think, separate from the issues, dramas and expectations of everyday living.
I’m almost 50, my kids are out of the house, and I don’t have a lot of time left on this planet. I need to do what I want to do, others in my life need to do what they want to do, and we all need to either accept each other or move on.
Like the trail, nothing worth doing is easy.
We just keep going to see where it leads. But if you choose a path true to your heart, your inner compass, that still, small voice that lives within will always take you to your best possible choice.
That’s how to live a life with no ragrets—not even one.
After a bit of rest, I decided to keep going. I slogged onward, glad our miles for the day were almost finished. Heat radiating off the granite rocks all around me, I drank tons of water and worried about running out.
Around 2:30, I caught up with Fish Nugget, who was waiting by a creek at the 11-mile mark. She wanted to do more miles, saying it wasn’t that hot, WTF? Squarepants soon joined us, and they discussed what to do.
I ambled ahead to check out some nearby campsites.
Up the trail, I found a big one surrounded by redwoods, shady and cool. I dropped my pack, pulled out the Z rest and laid on the ground with my feet up on a rock.
It felt amazing to be out of the sun and off my feet, with blood flowing back into my legs again. I was done for the day. The girls came over and decided to stay, thank god.
We set up camp, rested, ate and talked. I found my way through the weeds to nearby Whiskey Creek to wash my feet, hands, face and socks, reveling in the crisp, cold water.
That evening, Fish Nugget entertained us with what can only be described as pants antics. Then she imitated Zoolander from start to finish. We laughed a lot.
Only two days left on this incredible journey, I’m going to miss these girls.