I need to write more.
Let me rephrase that.
I’m going to write more. Writing soothes my soul. Writing makes me happy. I want to tell my story.
I feel like I need to begin with my story of Yosemite – my adventure. The eight days that changed my life.
Do you believe that? Do you believe that 8 days can change your life? I hope you do, because it can. It was the most powerful thing that has happened to me in a really long time – perhaps ever. I didn’t set out knowing that it would alter me so profoundly. In fact, I didn’t even know the extent until it was over.
I’ve been thinking about how to share my story. I think the easiest way is to open up and share my journal with you. I hope you’ll be gentle with me as these are my innermost thoughts and I’m trusting you with them. But perhaps through them you can come to see how 8 days can change the way you see the world – and yourself.
Let’s start with Day 1.
Dear Jake -
Oh my word!!! It’s the end of day 1. Pete was right. 4 miles here feels nothing like 4 miles at home.
All afternoon I was composing a letter to you. All the things I wanted to share with you.
We hit the trail head at 5:15pm and arrived at the lake (Barney?) at 8pm. Almost 3 hours for 4 miles.
I’m sitting around right now and everyone is eating and talking about the day and James even referred to the hike as a hug.
It was tough as hell for me. 5 steps in I was wondering what I had been thinking. I don’t know how much elevation we climbed, but it was up hill and through a pass. The whole time i was at the back of the pack. But the men were great. Someone always stayed behind me. I am SLOW! Holy Cow! But – I did it.
We’d been walking about 2 1/2 miles and the majority of the group was in the front of me and James and Ben were behind me. But I was hiking alone through some switchbacks.
I crested a hill and there was this view. It was amazing. It took my breath away and I began to cry. I’m so full of gratitude to be here.
I was embarrassed about being so slow and I’m sure I was red and I know I was sweaty – really sweaty. But I was doing it! There I was – alone – viewing God’s creation with a pack on my back!
Honestly I was just overwhelmed. The next 1 1/2 miles were tough. Tonight they had everyone say on a scale of 1-10 how difficult the hike was. Almost everyone was a 4. There were some 2-3s. I was a 7. That was so hard for me to admit. But I said so. Then I said I’ll be fine if I can just go slow. One foot in front of the next. There’s no turning back now.
We got to camp and found a place to set up. James helped Laura and I pitch our tent. My 1st time pitching a tent! And really, my first time sleeping in a tent. (At least in the last decade and a half!)
Dinner was an awesome Mountain House meal. I couldn’t eat much and shared it with Greg. He can be my food partner on this trip because if it doesn’t get eaten, we have to pack it out. Yikes! We’re packing out all our trash.
Jake – the STARS! Oh my word. I wish you were here with me. This moment in the tent. But if you were here, I wouldn’t be having this experience. I’m as vulnerable as I’ve ever been.
The men have been fantastic. They ask how I’m doing and lots of offers to help. For that I am so thankful.
I hope I’m not a burden. That is what I worry about. But now I know how to pitch a tent, pack a pack, hang food out of reach of a bear, boil water on a camp stove, make a Mountain House meal…
You would be so proud of me! Looking at the stars makes me think of you.
I’m exhausted. It’s 11:19pm which means it’s 1:19am to me and I’ve been up since 5am after a short night’s sleep. So I’m running on fumes. But I have so much I want to share with you!
The people are amazing. Laura is my tent mate and she is so great! She just turned 19. I really enjoy her company.
When we arrived at the lake I gave James the biggest sweatiest hug. And then I cried again. I finished Day 1. I thanked him for letting me be a part of this. We had a little moment and I was so in awe of the beauty of my surroundings and the added emotion of me doing it. I did it.
A few people cheered for me when I got to camp. I was probably 20-30 minutes behind the majority of the group. I thnk we’ve decided not to do the loop but to pack into a lake probably 16 more miles and then back out. That would be 40 miles.
I’ve got to sleep. I miss you like crazy. I love you. Thank you for this experience. Thank you for loving me enough and knowing me enough to know I needed to do this alone.
A few notes on Day One not included in my journal in case you were wondering:
Most of us met up at 6am at the Williamsburg Academy office in St. George, Utah. My sister Megan dropped me off and I cried when I hugged her goodbye. My anxiety was in full tilt and I didn’t want her to leave. As she drove away I had to put on my ‘I can do this’ face and move forward.
At the office we were given some equipment (sleeping bags, sleeping pads, camp stoves, etc) as well as the food we’d be packing for the next 8 days and we packed up best we could knowing that we still had our bear canisters to fit into our packs. We rented those when we got closer to the trail head. We used them to cram all our food in and at night we would place them away from camp to keep bears away.
For food we were given a Mountain House meal for each night as well as 6 granola/protein bars per day, and the fixins for oatmeal each morning. There were also some energy blocks and fruit snacks thrown in.
The 10 hour drive was a great way to get to know the other people I’d be spending the next 8 days with. We were in Gary’s 15 passenger van and the last seat was taken out to make room for the packs. Once we picked up Bryon and Greg in Las Vegas, every seat was taken. I sat between Laura and Bryon and we were in the middle seats. It was fascinating to listen to the conversations going on around us! What an incredible group of people! All have ties to teaching and education and I was honored to be a part of their group.
We left St. George around 7am and got to the trailhead around 4pm. We stopped for lunch at the Whoa Nellie Deli in Lee Vining, CA which was unexpectedly delicious considering it was in a gas station. I can wholeheartedly recommend it if you are ever in the area.
While James and Pete were getting our permit, we talked to an older gentleman that warned us about the weather and told us there had been 7000 lightning strikes in the last few days in the the mountains we’d be camping in. He also reminded us to watch out for bears – they were hungry – and then he shared about a bear who found a grenade in the trash. I’m not sure how much we could trust what he was telling us. I think he enjoyed seeing my face go ashen the more he *warned* us.
A note about the hug I shared with James when we arrived at Barney Lake. In my last post I wrote about how nervous I was to be doing this without Jake – my best friend and partner in all. Angie – James’ wife – wrote this to me: “You’re so awesome, Amy. You may not be able to bring your best friend and partner, but you’ll have mine! I can so relate to having insecurities around people who are amazing. You may not be able to see the ways that you would contribute to a group like this, comparing yourself to the obvious strengths of others. But it is obvious to me why they would invite specifically YOU on this trip. You bring strengths and perspective that is unique and real. You are easy to connect with, humble, emotionally open, funny, and willing to do what it takes to become who you want to be. You’re not going to ruin anybody’s trip by stopping for breaks when you are tired. Wish I could come!”
Her words were echoing in my ears that moment we arrived at Barney Lake and I was so proud of accomplishing Day 1. I gave James a big hug and told him what his wife had said. I’m so thankful for good people in this world who encourage others to live their dreams. This experience has been full of them.
Stay tuned for Day 2.