Hoooooly guacamole, if my post yesterday was’t some sort of sermon that I specifically needed swirling in my head today, then pigs might start flying (or however that saying goes…). I even wondered if this is how it feels to live out a Doctor Who episode, where the Doctor might go back in time to leave a note for his future self. Maybe you would call it prophetic. Or coincidence. Doesn’t matter. The timing was uncanny, however you label it.
The day started off pretty grand. We slept in (it was too cold to get up early!), and took the path less travelled: directly up and over the mountain pass, instead of curving right around it. All four of us here: the Prodigal, Nemo, 2Beers and myself, were happy with the choice.
Photographs look like we’re in a postcard.
Seeing this first hand was even better.
Then we came to a lake.
Being between the hours of 11AM – 3PM, we had to jump in.
Other hikers started to roll in, and there ended up being nearly a dozen of us sitting in the grass, playing cards and jamming – Nemo’s carrying a teensy travel guitar, and one of the fresh faces had a ukulele, so we had a couple singalongs together.
Now, in that photo back there of me perfecting a water bomb off the ledge, you can see a few branches of a dead tree on the left. Physically standing on the edge there, we could see a rope hanging down into the water, holding together a six pack of beer in the frigid lake.
An animated discussion followed this discovery.
Some of us believed that it was ‘trail magic’: an angel had tied the beer down there as a reward for dusty hot hikers who leap off the lake. And yes, sometimes trail magic is more fun than a simple esky on the side of the path with a sign that reads: PCT Hikers, please take one!
These beers, however, had no sign.
I was of the opinion that a day hiker had gone off fishing or exploring and was simply keeping them cold for his return.
I was not alone in this train of thought, but two of the beers were drank anyway.
We spent a good chunk of our day there. It’s very likely – and I’m not confirming or denying – that we possibly even spent more hours beside that lake than we did hiking. Maybe. But who’s counting?
We snapped a ‘good family picture’, complete with Nemo lording life over us and Prodigal being a creeper behind my shoulder. We’re a good bunch. And don’t mind the armpit fuzz. I’ll shave it soon, when I get to a razor. Maybe.
The NOBOs who had joined us for lunch continued north. We picked up our packs to continue south, as three guys walked around the bend toward us.
Three guys with day packs, fishing poles, a half dozen trout, and some big wild mushrooms.
We made a little small talk about how to determine which mushrooms were edible out here (I’m still not game, don’t worry!), and hot footed it out of there.
All four of us knew exactly whether or not that beer was trail magic, and who was waiting to drink it.
So we walked, quickly.
Once we were up and around a corner, far enough away, there were bursts of laughter and relief having escaped under the radar.
But my heart was not light. And I think I know the others well enough to say that their laughter was also strained.
We kept walking quickly away, trying to outrun our guilt. My head kept returning to words I had just listened to only yesterday, and words that I had just written myself:
What will be the questions I ask myself on my deathbed?
Did I live with integrity? Did I live up to my full potential? Am I proud of who I am?
Am I living up to the answers I hope I give on that day?
What kind of woman do I want to be?
One who can admit her mistakes and grow from them. Humble, and kind. Beautiful on the outside – but even more so on the inside. Someone who leaves others feeling empowered, encouraged, joyful and blessed.
So, ah, not the woman I’m being right now…
I took off my pack.
2Beers and Nemo stopped as well (Prodigal was up ahead) and watched quizzically as I pulled apart my belongings and produced a coveted can of Coke and three Snickers bars that had been hidden towards the bottom, waiting like treasure.
I know the kind of woman I want to be.
And, although humiliating and embarrassing and needing a butt load of courage to walk back up and find those fellas, I want to be the kind of woman who is strong enough to apologise for wrongdoing*.
The others had been feeling similarly, and agreed to wait with my pack so a bear didn’t eat it instead of us all backtrack with full loads.
Man, I thought my head was swirling walking away from the lake the first time. It was racing as I walked back toward it.
What would they be thinking? Would they report us? Take down my details? Maybe they’re angry. They’re a group of guys out in the woods and I’m heading back there alone… Maybe Nemo should have come. What was I going to say? Oh, Lord, help me!
I could see them cleaning fish all the way on the other side of the lake – I had to walk the long way around, and they could see me coming.
When I got within earshot, one of them yelled out, “Come back to steal more beer?”
“No, thanks, we had enough already!”
My response was met with a few chuckles.
Their camp was set up on the top of that little rocky peak behind Nemo’s head in that picture back up the top there, and I had a rock scramble to reach them. An embarrassing rock scramble, with six pairs of eyes on me as I made my way over carrying a Coke in one hand and three Snickers bars in the other, and more of their friends up top.
I was met with mixed reactions.
A couple of the guys were kinda pissed – fair enough. A couple of them didn’t care either way. When I explained that we’re PCTers, thought it was trail magic but then knew better, one of them thought it was cool that they had given us ‘unintentional trail magic’.
And then they tried to give me food.
I’m here to apologise for stealing, and you’re trying to give me extra goodies? No no no. That’s not how this works^.
The first couple wouldn’t accept my Snickers, either. I had to push it on another two to take them and enjoy them for dessert. No one would take my Coke (which I have to admit, I was more than a little relieved about).
We had a laugh about how I actually came back. They were all surprised I was bothered to, but I wanted them to know that thieves are not who we are. The first fella who’d shouted out about my coming back to steal more beer thanked me: at least now they understood what had been going on in our heads, and that it wasn’t out of maliciousness that their drinks had been consumed.
They assured me that they were leaving tomorrow, so if I were to take some of their food I’d be doing them a favour, but I still couldn’t accept anything beyond a few Starbucks coffee packets.
My heart was a heck of a lot lighter as I walked back towards my gang.
I am proud of who I am.
And I’m still growing into a woman I am even more proud of.
Am I living up to my full potential? I certainly think I’m on my way.
And I’m going to keep striving to head that direction, along with the people around me.
* To be clear: I didn’t drink the beer. But I knew what had happened, and felt that walking away when I could have spoken up left me just as guilty as those who did. Also, I have to be honest… If it was cider, there might’ve only been three cans left in that lake.
^ This whole afternoon gave me a clear representation of the Prodigal Son story in the Bible, and of God’s love for us. We totally don’t deserve all his goodness and love, and yet when we come and face him, we’re gifted with blessings beyond our imagination. It always works out so much better than we could have hoped for.