surrounded

Wrote this as a note on my phone on August 29th, 2022. Back dating this post to then!

I’ve had such a weird but wonderful day all around and in so many ways. I woke up at 5:40 am, mostly ready to go barring a few items I had listed down to snag. Not on that list was any amount of truly warm clothes beyond a rain jacket I threw on last minute as I walked out the door. It dawned on me to check the weather after leaving only to find high of 70 and low of mid 40s. I blame it being day two of no caffeine after I slowly wound down my consumption. I debated turning around before making the impromptu choice to find the closest Walmart, which happened to be coming up in the next 10 minutes. I found a pair of synthetic nurses scrubs and true old school sweatpants. I waited by the changing rooms but no one was there. “We don’t open those until 9am”, a worker yelled at me from a few aisles over. It was not even 7am. I embraced the Walmart spirit and half tried them on when no one was looking. Good enough. Hope whoever watches the security footage enjoys that scene. 

Armed with very cheap, warmer clothes just in case, I continued on only to drive right past the dirt road to the trailhead adding another 15-20 min to the trek. This trail came recommended by my airbnb host who was a forest guide for 20 years. He casually threw it out there as a fun one to do before arriving. I fully trust everything this man recommends based on a track record that solid. I just probably should have led with the fact that I drive a minicooper which has 2WD. While this road wasn’t the worst I’ve been on, it definitely was steap, bumpy, and had a nice drop off for much of it. When I arrived, I was met with a stunning view just from the parking lot. I had to stop myself from talking too many pictures by reminding myself that I hadn’t even taken a step on the trail. 

The trail consisted of 28 switch backs up to the literally edge of a mountain. I met Mike and Joe on the way up. Mike just started hiking 6 years ago at the age of 42 after spending a lifetime in this area “missing out” as he said. Joe was hobbling up on two titanium knees to spread his son’s ashes who never made it out of the hospital after birth. Mike enthusiastically told me all about the ranges without me asking. We quickly parted ways as I headed up at a faster clip. 

The views were stunning and epic — I cursed every camera on me for not capturing the beauty well enough. I started a list of everyone I wanted to bring here. I’ll share some nicer photos in a future post but, for now, the easy ones to share:

At the top, I met a dad with his five year old daughter who both seemed perfectly content to tumble to their deaths off the side of the edge. I couldn’t believe how close they were perched to the drop off—they were sitting within it. After asking the same dad how intense the rest of the way up was, he joked about how he had planned to take his five year old. I should have known that didn’t mean much because as I tried to reach a second section, something in me did not like the next section ahead that entailed a steep, dusty curve with a completely drop off. After ignoring this feeling before and doing things like stepping on a rattlesnake soon after, I’ve learned to listen to this part of me. I later learned from Mike when I ran into them on the way down that a woman died at that part during the last year. How validating and terrifying. The views were absolutely incredible no matter how far you went. 

On the way down, I met a group of older guys who seemed to be long time friends. One had been hiking this trail since he was 4 (said since 1955). Like Mike, he decided to tell me about each range and volcano. Looking back, I can’t help but be reminded of my younger cousins excitedly telling me facts. He shared that one of his friends on the hike hadn’t been before and that with any new person he goes with he always makes them close their eyes before he guides them up to a specific part of the hike. I joked that I should have hiked with him. That level of love and thoughtfulness was so endearing. We should all take note.

On the way down the bumpy road, a dear pal called for “a midday check in”. I haven’t been exactly thriving over the last week and she was kind enough to see what was going on. It worked out well to chat since I ran into bizarre road maintenance on the way to Diablo lake, my next stop. It added at least 20 min onto the already 1 hour 20 to get there. As she was talking mid sentence about something I really wanted to hear more about, my cell service dropped out. 

I desperately had to pee when I arrived and came upon the magical North cascades environmental learning institute. It felt as if it was some sort of forbidden palace that I wasn’t supposed to find hidden in the woods. An obviously queer person staffed the desk and we both said “hi!” with equal parts relief and acknowledgment. I still can’t believe a place like this exists out in the woods and may or may have been trying to figure out how to stay there at some point in the future.

Somehow in dealing with the bathroom, I managed to leave my water bottle in the car. I only noticed about 20 min into the hike and made the call to turn around at 40 or so. Despite my fear of cold weather, it was well into the 80s at this point at high altitude no less. I got in touch with my dehydrated FL soul and knew I could last that long even though I was already thirsty. The hike was boring—it was supposed to go around the Diablo Lake but, in the 40 min I was on it, I never even got a glimpse of the lake itself. I was thankful in a way that I left my water behind as I think I would have missed out had I continued on hiking. On the way back, I was once more deep in thought and managed to twist my ankle very painfully. I paused at first panicked that I might be in real trouble before slowly limping then walking along once more. Years of playing soccer has helped me know when an ankle is seriously hurt vs when it’s just pretty pissed at something you did. I kept thinking how lucky it was that I twisted my ankle there on a boring hike rather than the one in the morning with the drop offs and dusty, steep paths. 

I curled up by Diablo lake when I returned after first dipping my toes in the water. I don’t normally do that. It feels impractical but I had the time since my hike was cut short and the water was SO blue. I had a glorious nap on the rocks with the hot sun beating down and the water lapping next to me. I opened my eyes from time to time just to notice how blue the water was or to pet a few dogs roaming nearby that wanted some love.

I nearly had a close call leaving Diablo Lake due to the same maintenance that delayed by trip there. As I went to turn on the main road, a line of cars driving on the wrong side of the road appeared. I was able to quickly maneuver out of the way only to find out that I’d have to wait to be guided through this section. It seems my close call got passed on as another truck came by 10 minutes after putting up signs instructing folks what to do.

After getting everything sorted out at my airbnb, I headed to the one local food spot for a burger and beer. I sit at the bar next to two already drunk middle aged women. They ordered double shots before soon after getting into the car parked in front of mine. I was panicked enough that I actually got up after them and tried to move my car even more out of the way. The bartender and I both agreed they were plastered. No one did anything about it, myself included. By the time I could have called any sort of police and they could show up to where we were in this small town, they would be long gone. It was a good reminder of how arbitrary life is. 

Right as I was about to leave, a scraggly young white man walked in asking for food. I decided to cover for him and soon found out he was also from Florida (Sarasota!). He was obviously drunk yet was somehow also a vegetarian. I found out further into chatting that he self describes as an alcoholic and starts shaking if he tries to stop so he doesn’t. We were likely the same age from what I could tell and swapped stories of FL. He doesn’t know where he wants to live either and it was trippy to hear someone talk about that feeling who I felt so little in common with on the surface. He was kind and sweet. His “vibe” reminded me of my sole three week boyfriend from high-school. Lost and loving. We left the bar together and parted ways. Him to his adorable dog and me to my car. I told him to take care. He told me very seriously and happily that he loved me. I told him that I loved him too and I did in a way. 

Dogs really won the day today. First there was the one I met galloping up the hike this AM with his own pack on and everything. I barely managed to take a photo. Then I met three adorable dogs at Diablo lake who kept coming up to me with the owner’s profusely apologizing. No matter how many times I said I love dogs, I love their dogs, and I can’t get enough of dogs the owners still seemed to feel bad. I wish people understood how much I love loving their furry children. Finally, my airbnb host has four mastiffs. They were at the door when I knocked and I could tell he was holding them back, nervous about my reaction. “Ahh I love dogs! Let them out if you’d like”. All four came bounding out absolutely being so loving and gentle. He tried to introduce them to me but I can hardly tell them apart. It was wild to see the sandlot dog up close — I can see why they picked that breed to act as the big monster in that movie. 

I went into this time off with the purpose of being alone only to find myself surrounded today by very present, authentic conversations. None of which were of my doing. All of which I really appreciated in their own way. What does it mean to want to be alone only to be surrounded all day? Add into this, my usual hyper aware and efficient self was way off. I was forgetting things, very off on timing, etc. Perhaps it’s the reminder I need to focus on people and nature rather than the allure of concepts like efficiency, minimalism, etc. 

P.S. the wifi doesn’t work after I mentioned not wanting to use my computer as much as possible. Wish granted. 

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