I became the sort of woman I always wanted to be.
We planned a trip up north this weekend, to Big Sur, the little group of cabins and restaurants along Highway 1 as that road goes spinning along cliff sides overlooking the Pacific. It's my 3rd time there in 8 months, but it's the first time I've backpacked at all since I've moved to the West Coast. (One tends to forget how much more difficult covering ground can be when you have a 30 lb backpack on your hips!)
We went up into the hills, hiking along a ridge line of redwoods, descending towards the creeks that feed the Big Sur river, then moving up the hill again. Because it was Memorial Day weekend and there was talk of nearly 200 people at Sykes Hot Springs, our final destination, we camped 3 miles away, then finished the hike to the natural hot springs without our packs. We rinsed the sweat and dirt off in the chilly river, then dipped into the hot water. Once we were warm again, we took off our swimming suits and dove into the cold mountain streams.
This will be my last big California road trip. I'm officially leaving in less than a month.
These friends of mine - the ones whom I've wrangled into weekend adventures and driven up and down this state, who have come with me into so many deserts and forests - well, as my Papa says, ten thousand words would be too few and one would be too many. The threads of our lives have moved so intimately together for the past few years and now they will drift apart, on to new and different parts of the tapestry. I see the beauty in this, and massage the sorrow as I think of all the others I have walked away from in this way. Today, our clothes hang together in the forest, flapping on the line like prayer flags, in just a few months, I'll be in a different bed, in a different country, winding my story around the lives of others.
When I was young, say 15 years old, staying up late on a cold winter night in Minnesota, I would imagine my life as a much cooler, wiser woman, there were two veins it would take. The first was towards a studio apartment in New York City where I would drink coffee at all hours and write and maybe waitress in my spare time and somehow I always afforded to live in this day dream (ah, the dreams of the young!). If I opened my mind a little wider, I would see something like the life I have now: men and women traveling with me, climbing hills, setting up tents, drinking wine barefoot and swimming in mountain creeks with me. Realizing that this is exactly who I am and those are the people I have found and whom I have been honored to share in so many journeys over the last few years, is something worth toasting to.
As we were heading out of the woods, a few people stopped to sterilize water once more at a stream. With my heart rate already up and a rhythm in my steps, I decided to keep moving, and walked the seven miles back to the car in silence. I can feel myself winding up a little tighter these days, preparing for the move and naturally experiencing some elevated anxiety, as one does as they are about to move, then move again.
I've felt my soul like a caged animal lately, thrashing and yelping for solitude. It terrifies me, but I can feel deep in these bones that there is a reason for it, I'm being called there to wring something out of me, to shift a looking glass. Walking alone, I can't even say I was thinking anything. I felt my body, moving, breathing, lifting a pack full of my belongings. I felt my ankles as they grew weary, and I watched the hills and flowers as they changed around me. I felt a song in my head, the old shaker song I remember singing with friends and neighbors: "Tis a gift to be simple".
It was very good to walk alone.
Read Masha's Blog for a closer play-by-play of the details of the trip - in case you are ever interested in doing Skyes Hot Springs yourself! I would highly recommend it.
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