I was looking at some photos this afternoon taken high in the Trinity Alps, a wilderness area in northern California with bristly granitic peaks and pristine Alpine lakes, rugged and steep and beautiful.
My kids went to a wilderness camp up there–one of them for years, and later worked as a counselor–where they learned to backpack, cook over a campfire, and drink from mountain springs. You have to hike in six miles to get to the camp. They sleep in tents or under tarps, no TV, no radios or Mp3s, no video games, and they’re out on the trail backpacking for three or four days at a time, some for as long as 10 days. They learn how to tell a white bark pine from a ponderosa, where to find the rare carnivorous California pitcher plant, what to do when a black bear wanders past, how to take care of blisters and bites, how to read a topo map and use a compass, where to go at 7000 feet in a lightning storm–lots of useful stuff.
My husband and I went up for a few days one year. It was breathtaking. I couldn’t do it now, and as I was looking at the pictures, a bunch of fresh-faced kids lounging on a high granite peak watching a brilliant sunset, I suddenly found myself choked up with longing so great it spilled over into tears. I loved those hikes we used to take into high country in the Sierras and Trinities–the granite basins and peaks against incredibly blue sky, the red fir forests, meadows exploding with wildflowers. I’m so afraid I’ll never get there again.
I haven’t written a lot about age and disability here, but they’re having a major impact on my life. I can’t do a lot of things I used to love doing, and it makes me sad. It’s hard to accept, and it’s hard to know what to accept. Am I just feeling disheartened, not wanting to do the work it would take to get better, or is this really where I’m at? I think I’ve been a little too passive about the whole thing. There are some things I cannot change, but maybe I can change more than I think.
A pledge: I’ll do the work and see what happens.
Meet you next year on Mt. Tallac.