When I’m hiking, it’s easy to lose myself in the rhythm and discomfort: the backpack straps rubbing my shoulders, thirst constantly scraping the back of my throat, the heat, the dust and the ache of my feet. It’s easy to forget about everything but the trail itself right beneath my feet; one step, another, to get wherever I’m supposed to get.
So, it’s not easy to look up.
Look up, anyway.
The Sierras are never the same, despite their millions of years. Clouds of small, silvered lupine flowers float and bloom above granite dust. Snow plants push through the earth crimson and glowing. Wild creatures and humans move through the forests, which are burnt by sun and fire, or are thick and clothed in emerald ferns. I can find myself on a trail deep in Desolation Wilderness, or in a wild strip between the shore of Lake Tahoe and a road; it’s all the same to me, because even when civilization encroaches on the mountains, it only takes one thing to find myself.
Look up from the trail.
If I take a deep breath and keep walking, then the wind chasing itself through pine trees might drown the noise of not-so-distant cars. The footprints on the earth beneath my feet don’t matter if I don’t see the people who made them. And anyway, the roads and buildings don’t conquer the mountains, not just yet; they simply hide bits of them. The forests and granite peaks are always somewhere, in empty lots between rental homes, on the horizon rearing above the endless road. It’s good enough for me if the water on one side of the trail is deep and blue enough to quench my thirst just looking at it. I don’t need it to be empty of kayaks and motorboats.
Currants grow thick around a miniature waterfall, blooming pink and white. The rocks on the trail are small; if I look up, I can see ones with character. They’re standing, improbably, on the manzanita-coated slopes. Their visages have been carved by wind and rain, their age shows in wrinkles where ice has made its home many winters in a row. I can pretend that they’re my only company.
As long as I remember to look up from the
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.