This hike was everything I hoped it would be. And so much more.
After seeing a few photos posted by an internet friend/fellow outdoor lover (thank you Nicole), I knew I had to see this spot for myself. I had no idea which permit to book (there are literally dozens for the Big Pine area), and at first glance, I excitedly thought this was a different angle of Mount Whitney. I felt like an idiot when I realized it wasn't anywhere near Whitney, but that's ok. Laugh at your mistakes. As long as you have an open mind and common sense, it just means you have things to learn. Some years later, looking back at your development can be a beautiful thing.
Take me, for example. A decade ago I had been living in Los Angeles for less than a year, and on top of getting a major promotion at work, I was dating a guy I had crushed on hard for months. Everything just seemed so...perfect. I was also pretty full of myself. Less than a year after that, I was in the hospital after a wild night of partying. And by a wild night of partying, I mean I was doing so many drugs, my body essentially started short-circuiting and I thought I was going to die. That was a big wakeup call. It was a humbling experience and from there, I had nowhere to go but up. I promised myself I'd stop abusing my body, and I did. I rekindled my relationship with horses, which proved to be the perfect distraction. I rode on the weekends, and not only did it made me feel alive, but it kept me out of trouble -- and introduced me to all kinds of amazing new people.
A few years after that, I fell in love. I had been in love a few times, but not like this. He was my everything, and far too much. I completely lost who I was, and when it ended in 2013, I was devastated. A few weeks after moving out of the apartment we shared, I had to put down my beloved cat, which pushed me over the edge. I couldn’t sleep, I wasn’t eating, I couldn’t stop crying and I was so depressed, I started thinking that ending it all might be the best way to go. I recognized this was a problem, so started seeing a psychiatrist. I also got some help in the form of Xanax, but after a few months of therapy and actively trying to get better, I was OK without it. I kept telling myself that I couldn't wait to get to the point where this dark pain no longer consumed me. It took a while, but I finally got there. After pushing past the lowest point in my life, being able to smile and find joy in even the smallest of things made me feel like I was standing on top of the tallest mountain in the world.
It was right around then I discovered being outside was something that, without fail, always made me happy. After my full-time staff position dissolved and I went freelance, I was lucky enough to have the option of working remotely. Money was tight and I was pretty stressed, but this was the best thing that could have happened to me. As long as I met my weekly deadlines, I was able to travel, hike and camp as much as I wanted, and I took full advantage of that. My path to the outdoors has been a bit slow, and I'm definitely a late bloomer. The first time I hiked by myself was in early 2015, and the first time I camped by myself was last year. I'm not a mountain-climbing badass, but maybe someday I will be. Right now I am just going at a pace that feels good to me.
Over the last year, I've realized that I want to do more. And after doing this particular hike, something really clicked. It was that same rush I used to get from blowing rails, but rather than fading after a short time and making me feel like shit afterwards, it stuck with me for days and made me glow from the inside out. It's made me want to get in even better shape, so I can improve my trail time. It made me draft up a whole list of backcountry trips high in the eastern Sierra, because I'm starting to get addicted to views like this.
I'm ready to challenge myself with harder trails and perhaps even with adventures that require new gear. Gear that requires some learning. When was the last time I took any sort of a class? It's been a while. My brain is getting hungry, because I feel like I've been stuck in a bit of a creative rut lately, and even though hiking isn't exactly art, it's satisfying something that I've been missing. Rather than settling down and getting comfortable, I have an urge to see more of the world and do things that aren't easy, but have the potential to be indescribably rewarding. Things that the old, LA me never even thought about.
I love how a series of unforeseen events pulled me away from the life I had so carefully planned and threw me on this path. It's taken ten years, but damn, I feel like I'm right where I belong. And I still have miles to go...