Oh my God, I’m cold. I guess I didn’t imagine this on my retreat. 30MPH gusts blowing at me, stinging my face with snow bits. Nature is beautiful yet harsh, and I realize that the City Boy in me is not quite cut out for this. We aren’t in Oakland any more.
Nobody is on this snow-covered trail. I am following moose tracks some ways in the distance. I imagine it ambling toward me, at some earlier point in the morning. Is it a moose? Or a horse? Paw prints emerge in the snow a bit further on, and I wonder if there are mountain lions nearby.
That morning I drove up to Lake Brainard and was met with blasting winds coming over the mountain pass. I changed my mind, screw this, and I jumped back into the car and drove a few miles down the road, figuring that I’d take a couple of miles of hiking in the forest to warm up before navigating through the lower lake.
Three hours and a mere six miles later, I’m at Lake Isabelle, a frosty, glassy-blued alpine lake, and the sun has just begun to warm me. Alas, the gusts are still there. I see two men make their way up on the trail pass above, their voices echoing off the mountain walls. The snow somehow makes their voices travel further, or I’m really desperate for human contact.
I think of all the hikes I’ve taken with friends in the past and for a moment, desperately wish they were here, just so I could stop feeling so lonely, or to have some conversation to keep my mind turning.
Annie asked me the other day what I think about when I’m running. Sometimes I’m singing a song in my head, or other times I’m just picturing me entering the next trail. At the moment, I’m envisioning how warm the car is and how good the bed is going to feel. I’ve been turning over a phrase in my head for the past couple of days: “A new way to be human.” It’s a line from a Switchfoot song, and I have a suspicion that it has some significance for me here.
I meet more backpackers coming back the other way: High winds, no visibility, we’re turning around. I make mental notes to go as far as I can, and realize that honestly, I have no idea how I will know. Is it fear? Is it physical tiredness?
In the end, I turn around because I’m cold.
The clouds are getting darker and the gusts are biting more fiercely. I arrive at a snowy field at 12000 feet and look up. The next climb is totally shrouded in a dark cloud. Two men are hurriedly making their way down from the top. I shiver. Let’s go home.
This solo retreat is exactly rooting out the things I want and love. I desire the warmth of friendship, the experience of beauty, the purpose of a journey. I did come here to be alone, but I did also come here to find a new way to move and be human.