IT’S MY BIRTHDAY! 😁 (Here, in America.. Because I know for my Australians it happened yesterday. Time zones, right?)
And it’s been an absolutely beautiful day.
Maya woke me up with a cup of coffee. Thibaud – who left KM sometime after Jefé and I but hasn’t been seen in two days – caught us up. He walked 45km yesterday in the flipping Sierras to share the day with us. We had a lazy pack up and meandered out close to 10AM.
Most of my morning was spent thinking about Mt. Whitney. It’s the largest mountain in the contiguous US (which just means don’t include Alaska and Hawaii and you’re set), so climbing it is a pretty big deal to a lot of people. Personally, I don’t really care. But I also don’t like to back down from a challenge, and it would be another cool little feat to tick off on this journey…
My dilemma is: M&D have a schedule to stick to, because they fly back to Switzerland in three weeks for a wedding they’re a part of. If I stay back to climb Whitney, they’ll have to go ahead, and I only just caught them.
I’ve also been thinking about my pack. A lot. I keep stating that it’s heavy (stating is not complaining! 😉). And I don’t have any regrets about the stuff I carry around…
But it’s heavy.
I’ve been mulling over different thoughts and ideas, and I think some part of me felt like I wanted to ‘prove something’ by sticking with the heavy load. I wanted to be strong, and accomplish this with more than others. I wanted to stand by my original decisions and not let anyone tell me it’s too much or that they know I should lighten up.
And then I’ve also been thinking: who the heck cares?!
I’ve got no one I need to prove myself to. I don’t even want to be proving anything to myself; my priorities will be askew if that’s my driving force. I reckon I’ll enjoy the hike more carrying less. I really don’t need some of the things I’ve got with me – I can get by just fine more minimalist. And anyway, it’s okay to change my mind! There’s nothing wrong with adjusting my choices.
And on that note… Maybe I will just tackle Mt. Whitney after all.
Before all that, though, is Chicken Spring Lake.
It’s our first lake – of many! – and we set up shop here for a few hours.
M&D totally spoiled me and somehow managed to pack out a mini birthday cake (aka. chocolate muffin), complete with a candle, and both they and Thibaud bought bottles of wine too ❤️
During our beautiful sunny hours there, I decided that although I dearly love the Swiss and love journeying with them, I’m going to go conquer Mt. Whitney after all. I’m going to catch them on the other side of their Switzerland trip. And by ‘catch them’, I mean let them catch me, as I visit friends up North California in Tahoe and Reno and Redding.
The beauty of this choice also meant that we really only had to do a total of 20 or so kilometres, could laze around a lot longer this afternoon, and have another campfire tonight!
I slowed down and walked alone for the couple miles from the lake to where we camped.
I stopped to take in sights from the top of a climb.
I stopped to soak in the sun set and watch a full moon rise.
I stopped to sit with the Prodigal for a little while, and Pickleback joined us.
I spoke out some of my thoughts to them: about letting go of the expectations I’d placed on myself, about wanting to keep up with M&D whilst now also wanting to climb Whitney, of why changing my pack around felt deeper and more significant than the act itself. Pickleback might wear a party shirt and have a trail name after a shot of whiskey + pickle juice, but he’s a wise kid. He told us:
“You have to define success within your own margins – that’s the key to happiness and fulfilment.”
I like that.
I have to define my own success; even that choice is up to me.
So… Where does that leave me?
Tonight, I’m camping with some old friends and new. We’ve got a campfire going and wine being passed around and I’ve had a great day.
Tomorrow, I’ll have a shorter day again. No need to rush – I’m only going to the Mt. Whitney junction.
Next week, I’m going to change up my style. I don’t know exactly what that means just yet, but I’ll be getting lighter, that’s for sure. A lighter pack, sending some stuff to my family for storage, leaving other things in the hiker box at our next town stop in Bishop.
And actually, on that note – and please please know there is NO pressure – if you want to put in a little something something for my birthday, I WILL be getting a new pack, and absolutely definitely need some fresh kicks again before I know it. There are a few other odds and ends I have my eye (mind) on: new headphones, a mini boombox for the night hiking morale, socks without holes, another chocolate shake when I get to town… You can click here and it’ll go straight to my PayPal.
Otherwise, one other thing I’m always keen for: new tunes. I’ve got Spotify, so you can always whip up a playlist or four and shoot me the link, and I’ll just download it next town stop.
Small things like fresh music go a long way.
So do my feet, apparently.