It’s funny how I can get comfortable living without something until I get a tiny little taste of it. Suddenly, I realize how much that thing fills my heart and body with joy and life. My hubby and I have been hiking in the Sierra together for fifteen years now and it is so much a part of who we are. We have had some pretty amazing adventures over the years as we have discovered and grown our mountain skills together. Last season’s Sierra outings were frustratingly few and far between and we have been anxiously awaiting a new season and new adventure! Well, to be honest, we don’t even need a big adventure. At this point we would settle for a nice, simple, life-giving trek on a trail.
I remember the days when we were working full-time jobs, taking college courses at night, navigating those awful daily big city commutes. I would stay up weeknights, forgoing sleep to finish mid-term projects, prepare backcountry grub and pack those unbelievably hefty backpacks. And when Friday night came we would rush home from work, throw the gear in the car and venture out with thousands of others trying to escape the crazy, hazy stress of city life. We would drive for hours in alternating bumper-to-bumper traffic and open road, arriving at the trailhead in the middle of the night only to get a few hours of semi-sleep scrunched up in the back of the car. We would rise with the sun and hit the trail. Amazing what an over-nighter in the backcountry, can do for the soul! Hiking in the rain, eating lunch under cover in a thunderstorm, sleeping under the stars, watching new life emerge, facing your fears, discovering yourself and the world…boy, do we love the Sierra Nevada!
These days, we feel extremely fortunate to live so close and have easy access to these majestic mountains. But life gets busy and takes us away from this love of ours for periods of time.
Yesterday, we drove up to Onion Valley to hike up to…somewhere. No set destination, just a good hike. It was an absolutely gorgeous day! Clear blue sky, big, white, fluffy clouds and a bit of fresh snow dusting the granite peaks and ridgelines. Close your eyes and just breathe it in…mmm…perfect. We stopped at the little cottonwood grove where the Lupine always blooms to admire the view for a minute and take a few photos.
The trailhead was quiet, being early in the season. We decided to head up the Golden Trout Lakes trail and see where we ended up. Despite a recent snowfall and being so early in the season, there was very little snow to navigate and signs of life were slowly beginning to turn the brown landscape green. The moment we hit the trail, we were surrounded by the activity of nature’s workers bringing about springtime in the Sierra. Manzanita bushes alive with the buzz of busy bees and full of tiny bell-shaped blossoms just on the verge of bursting open. Water rushing down steep granite slopes, wetting the land and fueling the tiny green seedlings sprouting beneath our feet. The chickadees welcoming us back with their taunting call, “Cheese-burg-er. Cheese-burg-er.” (Our little reminder of the reward awaiting in the valley after a long day in the great outdoors!). And that ever-mysterious, thump, thump, thumping sound we have yet to figure out. No matter how busy life gets, or how difficult the challenges that we have to overcome to get here, it’s hard not to feel completely content in the midst of all this.
It felt so good hiking up the slopes, through the little brown meadow, across the soft snow patches and up to the still frozen Dragon Lakes. Pausing briefly to enjoy the view at the lower lake, we continued on to the upper Dragon Lake where we took a long and very leisurely lunch break.
We just sat and relaxed for nearly two hours, munching on supersnacks, chatting about this and that, listening to rockfall and birdcalls and breathing it all in. In the old days, we rarely stopped for leisurely lunches for there were grand peaks to climb and never enough time. Our pace may have slowed a bit, but I, for one, am so grateful to be able to experience the sacred solace of these mountains.
We are lucky, indeed.