I stand there, frozen, unable to speak, pinching a ledge of rock about a knuckle deep for dear life. We had bushwhacked our way up a Castlewood Canyon to hang out on some walls and get our climb on – however at that moment it was the last thing I could bring myself to do. Half way up a route where the holds went from gentle 5.9 jugs to a grueling 5.11a. finger killers. There I was, stuck in my sick fantasy on how was I going to fall to certain death. Tears started to trickle down my face.
Laying awake under the mosquito net I’m staring at the ceiling of the bungalow. The air is still thick, and covers are useless. Silently I listen to the orchestra of sound around me. Each species rhythmically singing it’s tune, as if they’ve all been practicing for centuries. Despite the exhausting humidity and general uncomfortable feeling that comes with constantly being covered in a film of sweat I’m at ease. The noise is deafening – as if someone is blasting a system right by your bedside. However, I’m pleasantly tired. It’s as if every moment was meant to exist just like this.
Pristine sapphire waters lap gently against the steep peaks of the Sierra Nevadas. Dramatic views unfold between pines and you hike along the ridges of the mountains. Perhaps hiking isn’t your thing, you’re more of a beach bum, that’s ok because there are countless nooks and crannies to find hidden patches of beach leading to sapphire waters you have to see to believe. Where is this obtainable slice of Shangri-la you ask? Oh, it’s closer than you think, this is Lake Tahoe like a local.
The 3:30am wake up call came with some ease this go around. Surprisingly, my eyes naturally popped open without an alarm. It’s as if my natural body clock knew what was coming. I rolled out of bed and got moving for today’s destination: Lake Haiyaha in Rocky Mountain National Park. Who doesn’t want to ring in a new year watching the sun rise dramatically over the snow caped mountains?
As I finally clear the boulders and begin to rip my spikes off Nina does a happy dance and starts rolling furiously across the patches of snow. She’s happy to be outside enjoying the great white wonderland. Seeing her joy brings a warmth to my heart. I look up at the beautiful lake snuggled against the steep couliors of the 13,000′ peaks surrounding me. Life is perfect. This is why I snowshoe with a dog.
It’s cold, well below freezing. You’re a few miles in and the weather is starting to roll in quick. 40-50mph freezing winds whip down the steep face of the mountain your hiking next to. You lose sight of your partner in front of you. Despite the seemingly brutal conditions you’re warm. The wind actually feels good. You’ve been working hard through the drifts. You stop, look at the swirling landscape around you and you’re overcome with pure joy, even though you know you can’t go on. You aren’t making it to your intended destination a mere 1.5 miles ahead. In that moment, you realize that you’ve arrived at the day’s destination. You are here.
I was 48 hours deep into a long, weary journey from Bali to Jogjakarta. During that time I had traveled by local bus, suspiciously un-seaworthy ferry, crappy bus, inconceivably crappier bus, taxi, foot, and finally – train. To give you a sense of how far I traveled Jogjakarta and Denpasar, Bali are roughly the same distance as Los Angeles is to San Francisco. In other words, about a 5 hour car ride in America. Without going into too much detail, as this particular stint is a story on its own, I was filthy, I was exhausted, I was hungry, and at the end of my rope. To make matters worse, my SIM card had run out of credit and I hadn’t been able to find a place to stay.