I have struggled to make sense of it all these past few weeks. In the last 10 days, I’ve had some very serious conversations with people around suicide, police brutality, religious beliefs and war. Weren’t we told it’s not polite to talk about politics, sex or religion in public? Well, I get the feeling that people don’t give a hoot about politeness anymore. That said, I’ve never been so clear in my understanding that talking doesn’t change people’s opinions much. So at some point during the week I gave up talking, and headed into the wilderness.
Weeks before, high off of reading Wild (yes, I am that person), I decided to at least attempt an overnight backpacking trip. Of course, my first response to the exhilaration of this memoir was to want to go out and buy a new pair of hiking boots, and get on the trail immediately. I didn’t. After my euphoria quelled, I settled into my more pragmatic self, which was this: I wanted to see if I liked it and if it would be something that I would want to pursue more of (translation: buy stuff).
Of course, by the time the trip rolled around several weeks later, I was exhausted from all the fun I’d packed into a very short summer (Oregon, 2 back to back camping trips) that I almost called it off. I coyly posed an alternative plan to Laurel (hot springs? Doesn’t that sound wonderful? My treat! ), but she wasn’t having any of that. Her text response was “If we’re set for Tahoe I say we do it!” Dammit. Ok, I guess we were going on a walkabout.
The 24 hour trip, plus maybe an hour or two, was just what I needed. Desolation Wilderness was gorgeous, and it felt pretty sweet to know that we could only get to our destination by trekking in. The weather was perfect, the trail was rigorous but doable, and I even felt like all those gym classes were being put to use. It was even a full moon.
It also gave me some clarity around the importance of navigation. With Laurel as my trusty guide, I wasn’t scared. With Laurel as my guide, I felt like I could do it. With Laurel by my side, I kept going. She taught me about the trail, showed me how to filter water, use a camp stove, and set up the backpacking tent. She did it in such a manner that was knowledgeable and supportive so I didn’t feel stupid or incapable. It really was a remarkable feeling. It was comparable to the “I did this!” feeling I had when I was with the scouts a few weeks ago.
My guide also, who was quite educated about hiking on the trails (including the Pacific Crest), taught me a few things about the trail system. For example, for most of the trip I just thought it was adorable that someone had taken the time to pile rocks along the trail. Was this a thing? Well, yes, but not in the way I was thinking. They were trail markers. Duh.
Isn’t that what we all need sometimes? A trusty guide?
One time a long time ago, I met with this woman who I shared with that I was concerned about my relationship with my eldest son. She said simply, “he wants you to walk with him.” Not ahead, not behind, but shoulder to shoulder. When parenting got rough sometimes, I would remember this and try to slow down and be with him in his endeavors. This has also helped me in my work with young people at the school site – particularly with things like college and career exploration – and even when I am engaging with my co-workers with a new project that I feel more comfortable with. There are systems that some people are more educated about, and I am grateful when the navigational skills come out to assist.
As for the backpacking, I’m looking forward to planning another trip. This time, I will have a few more skills under my belt. Plus, along with someone more experienced, I think I’ll bring along someone who is a little less skilled so I can practice. Maybe I can be the trusty guide next time.