(Recently I was told by my mom that my blog posts are a little too long. Out of love, I know she wants me to keep the readers attention long enough to finish my post. My intention with blogging has always been, and always will be, more of a journal with the hopes of sharing, inspiring and above all, connecting with others. So, sometimes it means that the story takes a little longer to get out, the details, to me, are all important. So, I've decided to break this one up a bit so it's shorter, maybe you'll read all of it and while still keeping the integrity of the piece. - Here ya go Ma! Love you!)
"We must take adventures in order to know where we truly belong."
It's 12:30am and I wake to the clicking sound of someone lighting the propane gas stove twenty feet from my tent. Its pitch black and cold but not nearly as cold as it soon will be as I snuggle down further into my sleeping bag. "Just a few more minutes." I say to myself.
I roll over, knowing very well that I have twenty-five minutes, exactly, to get up, brush my teeth, get my coffee and change into my black fleece-lined running leggings which I've chosen because of their warmth, my grey swiftly tech long sleeve crew that is quick drying and surprisingly warm, and my dark grey running jacket. The one with the little thumb holes and giant hood. I make a mental note to pack my North Face down jacket and of course, my black and red checkered flannel in my pack in case I get cold.
I've already been wearing my black Graced by Grit sports bra for the past three days and crack a smile at how uncouth I am. All of this accompanied by my new REI hiking socks, my low top hiking boots that I got before I backpacked around Mt. Hood, and of course, my green 'Be Hippy' hat. She goes everywhere with me.
I hear Robb climb out of his tent and realize I am running out of time. It's now or never.
"Do you really want to do this Amanda?" I quietly ask myself as I thought of all the reasons to bail out last minute, all little while lies of course. I got my period? No, girls do plenty of stuff on their moon cycle. I twisted my ankle on yesterdays short hike and it's just too painful? No, they would have been well aware of anything like that happening yesterday. I'm too sensitive to altitude? Nope, you've been acclimating for two days just fine. There are bears and mountain lions and I really do like my face. Ugh, Amanda, toughen up.
And then the real reason starts to bubble up from deep within and I could not ignore it any longer. I'm just plain f&^king scared.
I crawl out of my warm sleeping bag and unzip the tent door making a mental note to go to the next REI sale and purchase one of my own all while simultaneously feeling very grateful for neighbors who had a small tent I could borrow.
Grabbing my headlamp, I switch on the light and navigate my way to the picnic table twenty feet away from my borrowed tent and say good morning to John and Robb who are busy making coffee as I walk past them to my car to change into my hiking attire.
As I fumble back to the picnic table, the hot water is bubbling and the coffee is steeping and I finally give in to the fear and the excitement that I am, in fact, going to climb the tallest mountain in the lower forty-eight.
I grab my toothbrush and walk about thirty feet away from camp, more for one last moment of reprieve then to follow the rules of camping. I am filled with the feels that come with facing your fears; a mix of excitement, wonder and nerves coupled with a slight numbness and an overwhelming feeling that I am exactly where I need to be. That every experience, for better or worse, has lead me to this very moment. And I crack and faint smile as I think back to how it all began.
When I was somewhere around ten years old, my dad took me up my first mountain. Tiger Mountain sits east on I-90 about twenty minutes from the home I grew up in. My dad, the epitome of fit in my small and narrow world, was beginning to train for Mt. Rainer and I thought he was nothing short of the cat's meow.
Together, we jumped in his blue Chevy pickup truck, barreling down the road, we sang along to Randy Travis, "He wore starched white shirts buttoned at the neck, and he'd sit in the shade and watch the chickens peck. And his teeth were gone, but what the heck, I thought that he walked on water." As we drove and sang I stole sideways glances and smiled at the man who in my world, walked on water.
I started the hike with a burst of energy, running up ahead shouting back at my dad to hurry up as my spiral strawberry blonde curls danced frantically on top of my head. I don't know why I remember my curls but they were big and everywhere and a vivid part of this memory. I also remember wearing a white shirt splattered with a mix of red, blue and yellow paint and dollops of sparkly puffy paint that matched the same colors of the regular paint. All paired with navy blue loose fitting cotton pants with an elastic waistband and white tennis shoes. Be nice, it was the late eighties, early nineties after all.
At some point early on, I grew tired and my dad ended up carrying me on his back for a good portion of the steeper parts of the trail. Despite my exhausted effort, I was hooked. The sweet smell of vanilla scented pine trees and morning dew was like a hit of crack; intoxicating, inviting, invigorating. I was hooked and little did I know then but my soul would always fiend for more.
The quiet, which is at times almost eery, sends you into an almost meditative trace. Every noise is pronounced, every moment seems heightened and whatever thoughts are dancing around in your head and emotions in your heart are exaggerated, whether you like it or not, you feel things and think things you spend all your other time trying to ignore.
When the wind rustle through the trees or the branches creak around you, you feel it throughout your body. Ever foot step inviting more as rocks and dirt crunch beneath your feet. And the soft lullaby of the bird's who perch high above, watching, observing your every move, are forever etched in your memory.
My heart was stolen, all those years ago, by the timeless wonder and mystery of the mountains and now by the bittersweet nostalgia that each dance in the wilderness brings, when I remember a time when to me, he still walked on water.
I always think of that morning as I set out on another adventure in the mountains. I always think of my dad, who most likely unbeknownst to him, inspired this deep love, this connection to a part of myself that is the most wild and untamed, raw and inspired. It was my dad, all those years ago, who first instilled my longing, my deep and at times reckless need, to be wild and free.
I shake the memory off as we climb into the rented maroon Kia Minivan I told Robb was a 'chick magnet.' "Girls just love dudes who drive maroon Kia minivans Robb. It screams babies." I said laughing as we sipped on our hot coffee and loosely chattered about nothing much at all.
"The mountains are calling and I must go." I said over and over quietly to myself as we drove down the road that lead to the tallest mountain in the lower forty-eight.
I needed my latest fix. I needed to get higher then I've ever been.
Part two coming soon...stay tune.