The mountains, I become part of it
The herbs, the fir tree, I become part of it.
The morning mists, the clouds, the gathering water,
I become part of it
9:48 – Tuolumne Meadows Backcountry Permit Office
Those of us waiting, what are we all thinking? The trail? Our packs? The high country? Our escape? Is it circumstances we left behind? We, our, us; we are all one being: backpackers. I am interested in the stories of these people. What brought them here. Why they came. The German man I just spoke with, so seasoned, so prepared, why is he here? Why do we travel thousands of miles for a few miles of hiking? What makes it worth it? To me, it is every blade of grass, every pine needle, and every foot of altitude.
We are at the starting point for all backcountry excursions in Tuolumne Meadows. Seated in “the line” patiently waiting 11 o’clock, reminiscing all the trips that started here and sharing them with those around. The backpacking community is something special, true backpackers share a deep respect for nature. Mountains and weather are feared. The extra five pounds of a bear barrel is worth saving the bears. Trails are made to be walked on. Flowers are meant to stay in meadows. Of those around us, not all are part of this unspoken community, though they are learning. We all are.
12:37 – Tuolumne Meadows Grill
The big city feel of the Tuolumne Meadows Grill is something we all look to forget in the backcountry or dread upon returning home. The rush of the lunch hour; hoards of confused tourists; emotionless faces with equally emotionless thoughts. Our minds are not free to think in the mad rush of these overly populated areas. Our actions become synchronized with those of others. Unique thoughts are segregated by a wall our minds create to protect us from the damaging influences of a chaotic world. I am no longer in that world, I am in a hidden realm within the trees. This sandwich is a last supper of sorts, my sound off to this abysmal world.
14:53 – Backpackers Camp
It’s quiet. Unlike the chaos found in the campsites below; we are tucked away on a hill cloaked by trees. For some this camp is the end of journey – more like the beginning of a new chapter. For others the journey begins tomorrow. There is so much that is different here: ethics, morals, aura. Not much is said between us, communication is mostly kind glances or a tip of the hat. Gear is spread across tables and tarps; books are read; eyes gaze into the ambiguity of the forest. The experienced is not separated from the otherwise not. Experience is obvious, lack thereof even more so. Experience is no boundary, long as one has a genuine respect for the wilderness they trek through.
No one looks happy, sad, frustrated, anxious, or otherwise. We all share the same emotion, one I think is a mixture of contentment and belonging; something you do not see in the real world. The immense gravity of our pending journey halts time. I notice every little detail on every flower, every tree, and every one.
My presence here is ambiguous and conflicting. A beautiful tree stands close to our tent. As I peer into its depths hollowed by fire and beetle, ants begin to flow from its depths. I pose no physical harm; yet, a detrimental amount of harm is already to just by my presence. Can I coexist with wild creatures?
17:59 – Backpackers Camp: Dinner
The magnificent smell of white gas. I know it all too well. It is always accompanied by wilderness and good friends. The Whisper Lite – my personal favorite of all cooking implements – may be complicated to some, it is a solace to me. I find it meditative filling the primer cup to heat the coil; its intense aquamarine flame; its roaring whisper.
18:59 – Backpackers Camp: The Tent
A short walk down the Tuolumne River brings more than could ever be desired. Rock formations, pure flowing water, trout, grass flowing with the wind. Interesting how things in nature work with one another. The trees and grass flow with the wind. They do not try and beat it. Water glows down a stream bed not over or up it. Nature changes with the seasons, it doesn’t change the seasons. What if humans could learn to live in the same way?
Our plan is to wake up at 5:30 and be on the trail by 7:00. Can I wait that long?