A slow and sunny morning. Everybody around me has disappeared. It is quiet, beautiful and so peaceful. Today is the day to take my time. I know that today is a tough long 2000 feet uphill climb and I am getting good at it. I only plan to go to Bear Creek which is fewer miles than the previous days. And so I revel in the sun and not having to worry about wet tent, wet me and threatening hail clouds overhead. The little immense pleasures of a slowly sipped cup of tea, a warm oatmeal and then a second one, all while watching and listening to the river. I let everything get as dry as I have time for and then head out. I am packing extra water for the climb and am glad I did.
The climb goes steadily upward through Juniper Pines. I love those pines. Every chance I get I stop on a rock with my backpack being supported and rendered weightless. During those moments I really get to know the trees in front of me and tune into the grand symphony of beings around me. Often small animals and birds will come very close, cocking their heads as if to wait for an invitation or assurances that I am going to stay still. I sometimes rest for 2 minutes, sometimes for 15 minutes. The Pines are straight when young and over time twist with the wind to the point that they break open, revealing different colors of wood. The inside is blonder, warmer, more orange and the bark starts to shredd and fall off. The tree is shedding it's skin. They are so strong and vulnerable at the same time.
Now it is getting hot and the warm air enhances the pine smell and the accuteness of sound. I meet a few hikers who are coming up behind me, overtaking me at a rapid pace. I know a few of them from Red's Meadow. They have spent one or two nights at Vermillion and are aglow with the energy of company, showers, hot meals and beers. It sparks doubt in me that last and that I revisit all throughout the day. Should I have gone to Vermillion myself? Did I miss out on a unique opportunity? Was it beautiful and did I miss meeting fun people? Everybody says something different and so what mattered to them does not necessarily matter to me. That's the hard part - I make my decisions, I take the consequences, I get to have conversations with myself only about my decisions and I get to second guess myself without additional data or opinions or a hug or reassurances. At the end of the day I am finally able to take in again and believe myself that what really matters to me is nature, spending as much time as I can by myself out here. It is so hard to go against the flow and not be infected by what others are aglow with and worrying that I lost out on it and made the wrong decision. I also put myself at ease - I can always come back another time if it turns out to really be important. What I am proud of is that I am able to come back to the present moment and look around and love where I am and what is happening around me and inside of me over and over again and more quickly than I used to. For what's the point of worrying about what I left behind and loose out on what I am experiencing right now. That would indeed be a double whammy. And so I get better at letting go and enjoying what I decided to do over time.
The mountainside across from me is granite and folded like elephant skin. I start my descent to Bear Creek and with all my pauses it is now starting to feel like the trail will never end. Well, it does and I arrive at Bear Creek. A delightful river cascading down a valley forming ledges, swimming holes and great camp site. Lots of people are swimming and having lunch. A large Korean group gestures to me, they just saw a bear run up from the river. I am not too wild about that since I plan to camp in this vicinity. Everybody is moving on today to get closer to the next pass - Selden Pass and the resupply at the Muir Trail Ranch. I want to take my time and spend 2 more days before getting there. I find a wonderful campsite right near the river, put up my tent and want to go swimming - when the sky darkens and it rains. It doesn't just rain, it pours, thunders, gushes so hard that the drops jump up from the hardened ground and get very close to the netting part of my tent. I can't relax, worrying about getting wet, about getting washed away. And then of course anxiety leads to…you guessed it…having to pee. I am getting good at doing that efficiently in the rain and getting in and out of my tent quickly - in case you really wanted to know.
Finally the rain eases. I readjust my tent, decide to have my dinner for breakfast in the morning and not cook sicne everything is wet and muddy. The tent is dirty and muddy and I hope it doesn't pour again. My tent has done well so far so I am gaining some comfort that I will stay dry. From now on, however, I will put up my tent among trees and on pine needles whenever possible. Another moment of doubt - 15 more days, with this rain, will it be worth it and won't everything start to look alike and get monotonous? Well, I am having a shorter day tomorrow and we'll see how it goes.
The moon when it rises is so bright that I don't need a flashlight and the magic returns.