It’s been a wee three days since I got back from the great outdoors and the effects of wilderness withdrawals are still weighing me down. I have been turning a blind eye to the returner burners and been wearing my summer shorts in defiance of the brisk San Francisco days, all to retain the internal heat of my epic backpacking adventure. Five glorious days of trekking on the John Muir Trail has changed my life perspective in a way I never would have imagined. Daily I honey-dipped in at least two different bodies of water with a peak day in which I dove au natural into six different glacial lakes!
Two-thousand foot climbs up to the edge of six-hundred year old glaciers, flash hail storms, fresh mountain spring water and moons so bright you fought off sleep to bask in their wild light. After day one I was wary I wouldn’t last five, but after day two I conceded that I could stay out there for months. Leading up to this trip I was concerned I might be a poor hiker or that I would be a black bear target or that I would be too a-scared to sleep outdoors without a tent, but I proved myself wrong on all accounts and found my true self: Momma Long Legs, a trail blazing mountain woman with an innate attraction to icy water.
It was 2010 that marked the first time I had ever gone camping, last summer was my first time to Big Sur, and it was only four months ago that I had my first visit with the mighty Yuba River. Hard to believe that within a two year span I went from being terrified of touching bottom with my bare feet to a lady who runs to the great outdoors religiously. Blessed are the times in my life now that I have traversed into nature, and healed are my urban wounds from the magical powers this water baby now possess.
This week of High Sierra Summer Camp can credit a defined click of clarity for my future. One that not only involves more and more hiking but one that also involves wilderness stewardship. This opportunity was afforded to me by the impassioned and genuine wilderness lovers who form the wildcrafting project that is Juniper Ridge. The trip was not a marketing campaign or a way to bring big clients in, nor was it a trip to gather and collect plant matter for production; it was solely for the appreciation, inspiration and experience of the wild and a way to build long lasting friendships. (We all have friendship bracelets to prove it!)
A writer, a fire starter, a mother, a lover, a poet, a viber, a mountaineer, an artist, a care-er and share-er, and a comic all came together with their packs, their pants and their bear canisters and created a clan. We ten formed a fast alliance that took care of each other like kin.
Hall and Obi gladly stopped to identify and teach us of the wildlife and plants along the trail and Ali was a patient and gracious caretaker of all of the water, nourishment, emotional and smiling needs of the crew. Tanya (or “Tain-ya” after a few drinks) was a rock of strength and pace inspiration, Ken was a pop-culture mind-blower, Chris the most sultry-voiced Flannery O’Connor reader-around-the-campfire, Noel brought with her the mindful, poetic and soothing spirit of Big Sur as well as Fletcher with his heartwarming Bobcat impressions and hearth building skills and then there was Jeffrey with his inspiring intellect, short shorts and tan skin!
Poems were written, pictures were drawn, stories were shared, John Muir’s vegan zombie ghost appeared and many-a-belly laughs were heaved. I’ll omit the sloppy fun-having that was had post hike at the lodge near Tom’s Place, but I will tell you that I might want to move to Bishop for the love of a local, man and region. Also I would like to tell you that I am REALLY tan now!
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is necessity; that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”
― John Muir