For quite awhile, I've been intrigued by the idea of some solo backpacking. I grew up backpacking and have been on many multi-day trips but I've never gone out in the bush on my own. I've car camped by myself, I've gone on 100 mile bike rides by myself and I've done 10+ mile trail runs on my own. The weekend of June 25, 2016, I decided I would attempt to hike from the Crabtree trail head near Pinecrest, Ca to Emigrant lake, about a 16 mile one way route.
After getting all my gear squared away, I left San Francisco at 2:30 pm on Friday, I hit horrible traffic 20 minutes outside of the city and the approx 160 mile trip took almost 5 hours, I didn't love that part.
Setting out on the trail right as the sun was setting I decided I would try to hike about 6 miles in the dark.
I've never actually done a lot of night hiking but honestly, on my own and in the dark, I was pretty scared. The sensation of being in an unknown place in the dark with an unknown destination definitely creeped me out.
I attempted to cross the first stream (which apparently I'd have to cross many) in the dark. I couldn't quite understand where the other trail was and while I was trapsing around on the river's edge I saw something looking at me in the bush, I could see its eyes reflecting my headlamp. I decided not to cross the stream at night and I backtracked about half a mile and spent the first night on my own at the top of a ridge, hoping that nothing out in the bush cared about me. I didn't eat dinner cause it was late and I didn't feel like dealing with my gear, that was not the best choice.
The next morning, I woke to what I think is one of life's great subtle pleasures, having a cup of pour over coffee outdoors, listening to 'Kind of Blue' on my phone and just taking it all in.
During the first major day of this hike, I pushed pretty hard cause I was going to try and cover over 14 miles. I saw some amazing vistas, lakes and generally felt very inspired by the beauty and clarity of the scenery. The lake full of dragon flies was pretty interesting and given all the other lakes were full of mosquitoes it was much appreciated.
By 3pm, it was really hot, I felt fatigued slightly dehydrated (though I was drinking quite a lot of water) and also the altitude (8000ft) felt like it might be hiting me pretty hard. Arriving about 1/2 way to what I hoped was my destination for the night, I came upon this lake and was pretty awestruck by the tranquility.
Given how rough I was feeling at that point the fact that I had barely dented the 16 mile distance for the day and the fact that the lake was just amazing, I decided to put up my tent and get out of the sun. About an hour later, noticing that my tent was mobbed by mosquitoes and that the temperature felt much hotter, I think I made a solid decision.
I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the shade of my tent and hoping the mosquitoes would chill out, they didn't. I ended up putting on my rain fly to make dinner, I should have cooked inside my tent.
The next day, Sunday and the final day of my trip, I decided to get up as early as possible and hike the 10 miles back to my car. It was an epic choice. I saw some unreal serenity
and my overall feelings of fatigue passed.
Ok, so now, what was the point of all of this? Well, like many things, I don't explicitly have a point or always look for a reason. Sometimes I like to think that the the great mystery of life is that if you look for too much meaning in things, you miss out on the being-ness, which by itself is pretty spectacular.
I also think that being on my own for three days was an awesome opportunity to notice what was inside me in the absence of a lot of heavy external stimuli. There is something really, really useful about being responsible and having to really pay attention to myself and notice my own physical and mental boundaries regardless of what my goals might be (something uber useful for anyone involved in the casino of startuplife). I think it was also really interesting to notice how fear drove a lot of my behavior and then to notice how in real life fear drives a lot of my and many people around me's behavior, something I don't want to nurture.
I will return with better planning and greater awareness of my own boundaries and make the full distance of 32 miles (instead of the 20 I did) to Emigrant Lake and back.
p.s., I'd like to thank my father who took me on so many hikes as a kid those hikes which i think gave me lot of confidence in my ability to both explore with no purpose and always find my way.