These days isolation and slow internet is the name of the game. This is bad for this space but good for my heart, so a real update will have to wait until I get to town again in a couple of weeks and can upload all the decent photos from my gorgeous new camera. For now, shoddy photography and bad lighting will have to tide us along. Sorry about that.
But to start, the sierra is here! Its now! We left tehachapi and the last hundred miles or so of desert with a bang. Dropped off by a snake- loving truck- driving construction worker that was kind enough to give us a ride very late in the day, we began night hiking after a quiet week off exploring the fog and sea animals of big sur. Leaving the trail always feels wrong, but I was ahead of schedule, my tendon was squeaky and screaming, and forward progress was blocked by a fire ahead on trail. So i was particularly happy to get back on trail. And what a start to the last section of hot dusty desert! We left the safety of town and easy access to water and wove straight up among the wind farms into a gale warning. As the sun set pink the wind took off: we climbed higher and higher on dark ridges and the wind barreled forcing us to take each switchback corner on our knees. I felt like such a wild thing in the dark and screaming brush yet couldn’t stop hollering and laughing at the hilarity of it all. A life lived choosing to walk treeless hillside in starlight in winds that would normally urge one to batten down the hatches and go to bed.
After this, nothing in the next section could get us down. Not 40 mile water carries, not foot pain, not sharp prickly desert plants and exceptional mid-day heat. Every step pushed us closer to the mountains and away from the desert! Towards new plant life, new climbs, new ways of approaching landscape. Away from the beginning and the wondering if we were going to be among the lucky few who would make it this far. Away from worry and fear that hiking was a crazy choice, and towards the calm (and sometimes boredom) of a long expedition with its own particular set of life chores. The desert that, while stunning and beautiful, felt by the end like a high school relationship that went on too long- quaint, adorable, but something it was far time to move past. I was done with the first time and ready to go to college. And college is now. The magical sierra. Its everything I ever hoped for and more- I wish I could accurately describe the feeling of walking into a mountain range of light and granite when you started in the dust of near Mexico, but its amazing. Nothing else quite tops this. I will never take the presence of shade trees or water for granted again.
Our bags are weighted with bear canisters and extra food and the passes and elevation makes us loopy, lightheaded and high, but the last five weeks of walking have made us strong and fast. We move quick past day hikers with their perfume and boom boxes, and i feel lucky to be part of the secret tribe of PCT walkers living in the forest moving forward 20 miles or so day after day.
This said, the contradiction of travel Ive struggled with on earlier sojourns across the globe is apparent everywhere these days. Walking from town to town, we clearly feel the deep effect of the california drought, of the recession, of the rural poverty of this part of America. Small towns are suffering and each hitch we get tells a story of struggle and hard times. Talking to folks who pick us up I don’t empathize, but have begun to understand why people want to vote for nationalistic and sensationalist candidates like trump. The promise of an easier life, of a “great” america would be so tempting amongst all the prickles and hard living of this desert life. All this poverty and poor sanitation makes me extra grateful for being here; for the luck of moving past injuries to my current pain- free state, for new hiker pals and for the chance and privilege of economic chance and upbringing that I don’t have to work for awhile and instead find deep peace from swimming naked in alpine lakes, in glissading off steep passes at 12,7000 feet to iceburg lakes below. For the gift to have my biggest life worries turn into those focused on basic needs of food and cleanliness and human connection. Its a privilege we have in these rare times of life with space to walk and think about contradictions and my own ease of current life when its hard for so many. For simply being grateful for mountains and water, just because they are there.