A faint trail in the distance was climbing up a ridge that would offer some spectacular views of the Alabama Hills and Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states at 14505 ft. I knew it would be the most breathtaking vista, but I also knew it would require a bit of work to get up there.
That particular day marked the day that I would have to overcome the urge to quit, just wanting to be done several times. It was my first real hike since the rusty winter month and I for sure felt it. But then on the other hand, it always turns out a little like this and “why ease into it if you can scale an entire ridge all at once”. I’m not sure if this is just coincidental but it happens more times than none and nevertheless I have to remember my warrior spirit and that everything that doesn’t kill me, makes me only tougher.
The trail was climbing, steep most of the time with only a few short stretches with more forgiving and level ground. It was during those level stretches that I found my stride and thought “this isn’t all that bad”. Soon I would catch on to the ever repeating pattern of the next climb and having to overcome the inner urge to quit once more. I still wasn’t adjusted to the higher elevation that took my breath away while leaving behind the pressure of a headache. Climbing the ridge was hard work, not all that enjoyable at times, but up, up and away was the only way if I was to be rewarded with a grand view. I knew it would be worth the effort as the end destination had never disappointed before. I just wish I could be out here more often to stay conditioned instead of starting at square one over and over. The work job and having different days off is really starting to get in the way of things these days since I seldom go out alone. Plus that hamster wheel keeps spinning faster and faster and I need to find a way to jump off before I get lost and lose consciousness.
Climbing the ridge was no different than all the other times before and once I reached the top, the sight was breathtaking. We only stayed for a few minutes though and while scouting out the area, we spotted another man sitting on what appeared to be the perfect spot. We decided not to intrude and let him enjoy this majestic spot all to himself. People come out into the wild for a reason, usually to find peace and quiet. To get away from the noice and enjoy the solitude, he should have his spot as long as he desired. With little to no time to rest, we continued in search of our own spot.
I scanned the landscape to the left of where I knew another arch to be located. We had visited it years ago coming from another direction and with a little bit of luck we had to be close to it. The sun was casting a golden glow on the sandstone giving the area even more of a magical feel. Rocks as far as the eyes could see, with natural arches and caves that were formed over many years ago, this area continues to be ever changing. There it was and I spotted the arch, not too far away but distances often are deceiving as we made our way towards the arch, which would be our final destination for the day. Climbing over boulders, into little canyons and back up, we finally arrived and found a spot to the side of the arch. A picnic, including avocado and chicken filled tortilla wraps and short rest period followed in between snapping away and trying to capture the beauty of this unusual place through the lens. The time went by too fast as we had spent a big part of the journey on getting here. The drive, the side trip/stop at the other arch, scaling that ridge and finally redirecting our course to our end destination. I could have stayed longer and it was hard to leave, but that’s a good sign and all the more reason to come back on another trip.
On the way back we passed the man who had claimed the spot on top of the ridge. Alone, he was making his descent off of the mountain while talking to himself and I couldn’t help but feel a certain amount of sadness for him. Happy for him to be out, enjoying the beauty of the land and sad that he was alone unable to share it with somebody. We made some noise to not startle him and exchanged a few words before passing him by. After reaching the Jeep, we said our goodbye’s to this wonderful place and waived “Until next time”, heading back to our base camp. Another two hour drive back made us realize that it wasn’t just a short side trip to get here and that we had left some time in the car and on the road today.
The return was pretty quiet, our trip had reached the halfway point and two days had passed already. It was during the quiet of the drive that it came to mind that this trip was slightly different than the others had been. There was less laughter and playing with child like abandon on this trip, not that it was a bad thing or a feeling that something was missing, but definitely something that was noticeable. The carefree childlike attitude was replaced with a deep appreciation of escaping the norm of what our days had become. We were grateful and happy to be away, to be out here in the midst of what we love, able to breath deeply and witness such grandeur. I can’t say that it was the first time this became obvious, but maybe this time it hit me with full force and I realized the toll our work life was taking on us. You could say we were too tired and too exhausted to play, having to return to nature to let it heal us and restore the peace and strengths that had gone astray. Something that can’t be compromised and become a constant condition.
The war bonnet returned back with us unused and despite the perfect backdrop of the Alabama Hills we would have to find another day and another opportunity. One that would allow more time, being rested and in the spirit a little more. For me the day was a great workout, even though strenuous, I also felt the rewards of it as I was beginning to feel stronger. Flexibility and a greater range of motion returned and I forgot all about the stubbed, fractured toe from a few weeks ago that had given me so much trouble over the past weeks but luckily didn’t hinder me in any way by making things tougher than they already were.
We got home late that night and lasagne was “What’s for dinner”.