Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
by Robert Frost
As the last of the morning stars began to fade and the sun's early warmth crept over the mountains, I lay in my sleeping bag thinking, "nothing gold can stay".
It was the final day, the day we would walk out of the mountains and back to asphalt, cars, and crowds. We'd also be walking towards hot showers and beds and the ability to communicate with loved ones, so it was with mixed emotions that I went through the final routine of making coffee and stashing everything in my backpack. We didn't linger for long in camp that morning. I got the sense that some of the others weren't as hesitant to leave as I was. After 5 days in the mountains there are quite a few things you grow to miss. But for me, there was much to gain, and I didn't feel ready to let it go. I dawdled at the back of the group as the others started to make their way down the steep and long slabs of rock that would lead us to the trail that would take us out of the woods.
Eventually we found ourselves surrounded by the majestic trees of the Sierras again. We'd been above the tree line for 5 days, seeing mostly rocks and shrubs and a few solitary wind swept pines along the way. It felt welcoming and familiar, and soon we were on a developed trail. It was almost too easy to walk along a maintained trail. There were no big and small rocks to navigate, no questions about which way to go, no problem solving about the best path to take. We just walked. We walked until we started to see clean, fresh-smelling day hikers coming up the trail past us. We walked until we could hear the sounds of cars in the campground below us. We walked until our feet touched pavement and then we walked a little further to the parking lot where we'd left our cars 5 days ago.
We'd done it. We'd looped through and around and over the mountains and lakes of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. We'd left this parking lot as strangers and returned as friends. I stood by my car, feeling a little lost and sad. Not just because the hiking was complete, but also because I knew I'd have to say goodbye to everyone. They had become my mentors, my companions, my team, my safety net, my teachers, my mountain family. We'd walked and swam and cooked together. We'd shared stories and advice and hopes for the future. And now it was time for us to return all the gear that we'd borrowed, exchange hugs and well wishes, and go our separate ways.
I had arrived in California a week prior unsure of my fitness, my abilities, my preparedness. I walked into the mountains full of worry and doubt. My comfort zone was very narrow, and I was determined to test its boundaries. With each climb and night spent under the stars and dive into a cold mountain lake I discovered I could do things that scared me or made me uncomfortable and that it might be alright. In fact, it might just be beautiful.
L to R: Rod, Tom, Phil, Mike, Alan, Nicole , Bill, Chris, Bonnie, Brian
Thanks for following along with me as I told the story of my Sierra adventure. I hope you'll stay with me as I continue to push my comfort zone boundaries. What should I try next?!