Monday, July 23, 2012

Day 3 of the John Muir Trail

Day 3: to Thousand Island lake, 5 ½ miles, 2500 elevation change

Truly unbelievable site – granite slabs, trees for hanging laundry, stream gurgling to sleep by, warm evening and morning, rugged skyline of Banner, Ritte1000 r and glaciated Mt. Davis. 

The morning quiet was broken with an awe struck girl skipping across the granite declaring with all her being, “This is absolutely the most amazing thing I have ever seen”.  She had discovered a whirlpool created by the flow of the river that split flowing half the water below the rocks half over the top of the rocks.  A little hole between the rocks created a strong down suction through that hole that no ant, pinecone, or twig placed near it by curious kids could escape. 

While we could have stayed at this idyllic spot for hours more, after Cory doctored Bekah’s heels, we began our gentle morning hike of 3 ½ miles with a ft elevation gain to Thousand Island pass.  As we hiked and passed like minded sojourners with jolly good morning and smiles, I thought to myself, “These people don’t seem extreme to me!” sporting various sized packs, a variety of Patagonia/Merrell/North Face hats, shorts, and polyprop shirts, everyone shared one thing in common – we embrace simplicity and find solace in the quiet.  My mind wandered back to work where a co-worker, surrounded by the din of the city, remarked, after hearing of our plans to hike the JMT, that, “Well, you are quite extreme though.  What’s it like to interact with such extreme people all summer?”
            It’s only day 3 and slowly an answer to her question is emerging.  Here’s a bit of maybe not what it’s like, but instead, what it is to be so “extreme”.  Every moment is powered by me.  I am fully engaged in every moment.  Instead of starting my work day by powering up the computer and waiting for it to warm up, I am fully responsible for and part of my own warm up to the days work.  Each step of the day is powered by me – not a car I sit in.  Each sound I hear is not muffled or shut out by walls.  These are sounds that normally the roar of the city shuts out, but now they are the backdrop to our day.  I am, we are as a team, part of making every moment happen.  Extreme means life is not happening to us anymore but we are pushing into life, actively engaging in the present.  Seems to me that this is the closest I can get on earth to how God intended for it to be.

At lunch, I did a reading of my journal so far.  We sat under Banner peak on a granite island near a reflective lakelet as I read.  Of course, it’s fun to star in your own story so the family loved it.  But Bekah’s eyes were wide as she asked, “ Could I write a story like that?  How can I write like that?”  She immediately pulled out her notebook, which at this point contained more, a bulleted list of the day’s events versus a narrative story.  She went at it right there beginning at day one, writing a story of our trip thus far, asking every minute or so, “Here’s what I wrote…Is that Ok to write that?” For the rest of the day, whenever there was a down moment, out came her journal.  
 I blew it.  As I walked down to Thousand Island Lake from our more remote campsite on the Northern edge of the lake, I caught a scene that caused me to pause.  Side by side they sat on the lakes edge, quietly talking.  Her pink bonnet danced with the wind in perfect synchronization with her daddy’s hat.  I couldn’t hear their voices but I teared up as I watched a daddy and his little girl catching a priceless moment together.  Oh how easy it can be to get caught up with emails and to do lists and miss times to just sit together, soaking tired feet, in the afternoon sun.

Why I was walking the path and only observing the bonding of two souls and not sitting there with her was why I was silently berating myself.  A half hour earlier I had volunteered to take our Boo down to the lake to soak her feet.  So far, every other time she soaked, she just enjoyed being lakeside, chatting with her visitors.  So, I grabbed my mat and book and prepared to enjoy some peace and quiet, until she started crying, loudly, because her heels burned in the water.  My reactions were at first sympathetic but when she wouldn’t stop, my fears that our trip was in danger (Shocking to realize that’s what I thought) and my frustrations that I couldn’t just relax with her made me miss a chance to guide her through this.  At least I admit that I’m still in process and have a lot to learn (and always will).  Seeing her daddy patiently sitting with her on the lake’s edge gave me the full contrast of a different outcome. 

Amazingly, as I sat back at camp sadly reflecting on my missed chance, Bekah came skipping up the hill proclaiming, “I’m getting so much wisdom from that guy!”  Further inquiries revealed how her Dad taught her that her blisters will heal after explaining to me that every time she dips her heels into the cold water, the cells will get tighter to finally make the skin tougher and turn into superskin. 

“What are you learning from me?”

“Oh, you’re teaching me how to be a mama!”

Precious words from a babe, shook me into reality and I joyfully determined to spend the rest of the afternoon with her.   We spent the entire rest of the afternoon side by side, writing in our journals, reading parts to each other, giggling about memories.  Thank goodness kids are forgiving, especially when they are on the receiving end of genuine effort, a simple, “I’m sorry” and love through togetherness.

We sat on a delightful (giggly so!) grassy ledge that jutted out from a tall granite rock that provided the perfect back support.  With our ribbed sleeping mats beneath us, we had discovered a perfectly ergonomically cushioned wingback chair at 9,800 feet.  For hours we sat in our luxury chairs, writing in our respective journals, interrupted by an occasional check for spelling or an excited updated reading. 

Children are watching us – for better or for worse – and they do what we do.  The pride Bekah has in her version of the narrative story of our trip is now weaving together our time as she diligently is writing everything she experiences and then reads to us as she progresses.  She is taking her book project dead serious because she could see that I am. 

Tonight cheers were loud as we ate our rehydrated pasta and meatballs.  A resounding score of 10 echoed off the granite slabs.

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