Often I want hikes to last longer than they do; I want time to slow. This could be for a variety of reasons: The view is so beautiful that the minutes, hours I have to take it in — It is never enough. Or the memories created at that spot, on that trail, on that mountain — They are ones I desire to hold onto because I know they will escape and fade, despite my attempts to grasp them. Or, like this day, I could want the hike to last for a more simple reason: To stretch time in the wilderness with my sister and fiance before life gets in the way again.
It’s April Fool’s Day — a time for jokes and pranks and hoaxes. A time to instill doubt, second-guesses, concern, dare I say a smidge bit of worry. A time when trusting individuals are turned to fools, and loyal individuals become tricksters. April Fool’s Day — a time when . . . let’s be honest . . . a time when Andrew proposed to me.
The farther we hiked, the more comforted we were in being alone. After forging the river, we had the forest to ourselves. We felt like children, darting across and splashing in the water, jumping on rocks, laughing. Life was innocent, light, carefree — another magical quality of forests.
This was our first snow hike, and it left us admiring the landscape, feeling appreciative to have winding trails and mountains like this one to climb.
This hike feel short, too quick — like the setting sun, which burst in color then sank into the water.
Our boots were splattered with thick clay and brown mud, and it made me realize we don’t have to travel to the mountains for hikes. Some days, it’s okay to take a different path because there is beauty everywhere. You just have to look.
Our first hike together in 2018 comes with possible bear markings, a vista that has dramatic drop offs, and — of course — another dose of direction miscalculations.
“I’ll burn my old boots,” I began thinking. “To save Usua and me, I’ll burn my old boots.” I was entering a moment of desiring hope, a moment of needing a pick-me-up, and that’s when Usua turned to me — red-nosed, hat icing over, hands stuffed deep into her pockets, scarf wound four times around her neck — and she looked right at me and said, “Vwe get loust to-gether, vwe die to-gether.” Reassuring.
It seems only fitting that on New Year’s Day, a day of celebration and new beginnings, I would reminisce over the last trail I’ve taken in awhile, the one that comes almost a year after I first bought my hiking boots and set off into the wilderness. And while this trail wasn’t filled with terror or death-defying adventures, it was nice to simply stroll up a mountain with some of my most true friends.
And that’s when it happened. The worst of the worst. There was no relief, oh none at all. Only a mistake. One big ultra-horrible mistake.
Once we reached the top and jumped state lines, we stood together in the opening among trees where blue sky burst forth to our vista, which was worth it, which was incredible.
It definitely looked like smoke. It even smelt like there was wood burning, which really panicked both of us so we needed to hustle and get out of the forest because we were in the most serious hiking trouble we’ve yet to be in.
No matter what happens in life, we all just need to keep going. Sometimes you’re given boosts and sometimes people can grab your hand. And sometimes, you have to make it on your own. But in the end, the journey — oh, that journey — is absolutely worth it.
“STOP IT!” I tell him as I try to make it back up the mountain because in that moment, I’m done — I’m done judging his dance moves, I’m done being shoved by him, I’m done and I simply want to avoid breaking my ankle. Then he says, in the most serious viscous verbal-machine-gun way, “BEARBEARBEARBEARBEAR!!!”
To say we felt barely holding onto life, to say we felt drained in all mental and physical states, to say we felt like champions by the end — all of that, an understatement. Except for the champions bit. We were, we are champions.