I am up on my feet with my pack on, taking my first steps at 6 am. The light is just coming over some of the mountain tops and I am the first one out on the trail. Magic!! I am cruising. It's cold but bearable and I have this sudden wish to be on the pass by myself. It's ok if it doesn't happen but having moments of solitude above the world would be a gift. The trail is the most amazing trail I have encountered yet - to be confirmed by others who also gush about the trail work. After winding around the little valley and meadow, the trail goes up steeply along the side of the mountain, passing more lakes and then curves right along the large hill that pokes its grey mass into the meadow. The trail is hewn into the rock and buttressed with large rocks that have been piled on and stabilized by human hands. I can continue to see the valley and the mountains and the meadow every step I take up the trail. I feel like I am flying and pause every chance I get to take it in.
I start sweating and take off layers - wrong timing - I do it as I get to the ridge and the gusts of mist and wind nearly blow me over. I squeeze my pack into a crack and pull my layers back out. I have to be careful that nothing is blown away, especially hats and gloves. I eat a bit more - maybe the extra weight will make me not be lifted off:) I am now above the clouds and the mists is moving up the mountain and curling over the ridges. And I have it all to myself! Just in time the trail takes me out of the open ridge and wind and the switchbacks to the Pass start. I now notice the altitude and slow down, drink, breathe, put on sunscreen and wonder at the trail work. To imagine people hiking in here with all the tools and doing this over years and years. The dedication and generosity so we can all enjoy this is inspiring.
And then a wiry, fleet footed man overtakes me - I am disappointed and, it is what it is. He gets to he pass 10 minutes before me and I watch his progress to gage the lay of the trail. As I get to the top, I do a private moment of grace, gratitude and a firy jig. The hiker is sitting out of sight and out of the wind in a little crack in the rocks - clearly he also wants his own time to enjoy the Pass. What a great coincidence. I find a spot as well as the wind is fierce, blowing up from a window in the rocks from the other side of the Pass. For over 30 minutes I sit, enjoy and love this moment.
Then it gets busy. Hiker upon hiker is moving up the trail and I can anticipate the moment when I will be sharing this spot with at least 20 people. It gets loud, celebratory and the energy is shifting. I stay by myself for a little while longer and then embrace the new wave of bubbliness. We share photos and food again and some of the hikers tell me that my early departure and steady hike up ahead inspired them to get going and that they would make it as well. Nice to hear. We are all inspired to make it to Whitney and I promise German chocolate to whoever I will share my moment on Whitney with. And I do and all of the hikers who are on Forester Pass today remember my promise when we meet again on Whitney.
Now it's on to Whitney and the final days. Right now I feel like I could walk all the way to Whitney right now. Energized, confident, in love with this experience and I wonder how on earth I will spend another 3 days - maybe I'll hike out earlier.
Time to go - I am always reluctant to leave a pass after I worked so hard to get up here. The first mile is right down the steep cliff and the wind is strong again. Afterwards the familiar downhill through lakes and tarns and granite and stark landscape continues. Today is harsh, lots of wind, so dry my lips crack and I constantly need to drink. The day is getting long again and no good resting stops around. When some trees start to appear, I take a long pause among them. The landscape is incredible. Wide open, stark valleys with rivers runnign through. Mountains like folded table cloth or drip sandcastles. This is what Mongolia might look like. I try and imagine what it would be like and take to live here. A different fortitude and way of living for sure.
I start running into a lovely group of young hikers and one of the young woman's dad and we all find ourselves cooling our feet and bodies when we finally get to Tyndall Creek. The campsites are overused and dusty, so I continue on towards the ranger station. Those campsites are lovely, right along the Tyndall Creek, under trees and out of the sun. I would prefer no company tonite and being right smack in the middle of nature by myself and it is clear that this site is going to be busy. I notice the pull of the "lasts" starting within me - not many nights left to be out here, not many chances to be alone…. I have energy left and think about heading further down the trail but there is no indication on the map that there will be water in less than 3 miles and that's too long for today. With some reluctance I settle down for the night.
I enjoy my evening, chart with a few hikers for just a little while and spend most of the time at the Creek and taking little exploratory meanders through the forest and along the Creek. I talk with the female ranger living here and can't stop praising all her colleagues and herself and the work they do and the wonderful attitude they have. They are so approachable, serene, grounded, polite and open, they are and will be great leaders, having had this experience in the wilderness at such a young age ( I estimated most of the rangers to be in their mid 20s to early 30s). Then, as has become my tradition, I have my cup of tea and this time share it with the evolution lake trio that is camping here as well.
I ponder a lot these last days of my hike about the next generation and how they will take our world forward. Having an experience in nature will allow them to feel at home in the world, at home in their bodies, at home with responsibility and the understanding of how everything is connected and impact by everything else. Rather than teaching young people to set goals and push and keep challenging themselves to go further and higher and get tougher and competitive with themselves and other, teach them to get to know and trust themselves and their limits and decisions, their levels of comfort and facing fears. Then let them experiment and experience with support how to live that self-knowledge and comfort, that confidence and respect into their world. The more they do, the more they would push their limits on their own. The more spacious their world, the bigger, more spacious, all-encompassing they would become. They would be able to set boundaries, to respect others' boundaries and to do it with kindness - backbone and heart. I imagine that they would, like I am learning to do, be clear about my own space and respect others' space. When our spaces meets, have honest, clear and kind whole body and heart contact and feel into that joint space - collaborate, create negotiate, be with and leave the joint space with ease. I know I will have conversations in the future about these thoughts.