Many years ago, I started making a yearly trek to Mount Whitney around the time of my birthday for a day hike. The ideal hiking months at Whitney are August and September because the snow has melted, and the signs of the next winter have yet to make their song.
Over the years the goal of the hike has chameleoned from one color to another. At first, it was social gathering with many friends, there were pre-hike pasta dinners, post-hike rounds of beer, and shared happiness from angry muscles and hearty laughter.
During a crappy relationship, the hike became something I did alone. A way of telling a dork ex-boyfriend that I did not need him. A way of telling the world, I don't need anyone for that matter, that I was perfectly suited in a solitary state.
While I danced in the throes of my anger that was disguised as fearlessness, a dear friend questioned my need to deliver this yearly "screw you" to the world. Was I doing this hike because I mad? And is anger necessarily the best house to inhabit?
Fast forward through a couple, well, many discussions about my life choices, the hike took on a new shade.
A few years ago I approached the hike with a clear mind. Free from two-sided reasons, free from carrying the heavy suitcases packed with "screw you," "bite me," and "I don't need you." Now, I could enjoy the trip. Fun, joy, serenity, happiness, became the components of the day. I knew this trail like the back of my hand, but now it was all different because I could see the trail.
This year, the hike morphed yet again into a personal touchstone, a re-tightening of my DNA ropes. The past year has been riddled with family medical emergencies and infuriating work stress. I could feel the life blood draining away from me with each visit to the ER or doctor; there is something about being in a hospital environment that just weakens the soul. When I re-read my old posts, I can see the rise and fall of my moods.
The hike this year was one of the best ever. A good day of hiking Whitney requires the following: stable weather, a clear trail, physical preparation, and a little bit of adversity to overcome to fortify mental strength. Last week I was blessed with clear, dry weather, the likes of which I have never seen before on the mountain. The trail was free and clear of snow and ice. My wind was solid and deep. The pounding in my chest felt like a steam engine. The slight adversity appeared in the form of a short spell of cool dampness in the wee dark early hours of the hike. I am not a fan of being sweaty and cold, and I caught myself getting rooked into the beginning stages of a hypothermia. This was dealt a swift blow by a welcome rising sun and some stern words to myself to stop whining and handle it.
The year is not over, and there are still family matters that beckon, but my focus is sharper.