As preparation continues for hiking a couple of thousand miles, it turns out that the bit of training that gets omitted is the actual hiking. Between trying to wrangle my classes and grading into shape, taking care of paperwork, trying to get our house and the family squared away, buying equipment and supplies, typing blog posts and support letters, and heaven only knows what else, I’ve only hit the trail sporadically of late.
This is why I was pleased during the kick-off to take an afternoon to hike a mile or two up the trail from Lake Morena. It was on Friday, as the weather transitioned from hot and sunny into the freezing rain and blasting wind gusts it would devolve into that night.
The trail tread leaving the lake is sandy and wide, crossed by many dragon-tracks of bike riders and off-road vehicles. The path wends through weedy oases, green and blowing in the vales that rise from the lake itself into scrub and stone.
The weather was shifting and wisped clouds were beginning to race across they sky; the cool breeze was a benediction. I climbed up gently from the valley below, watching stone and sage unfold around me in undulating waves.
At the peak of my walk, I decided that the barefoot walking style might be most accurately accomplished if I was, in fact, barefoot. The trail tread was soft and clear, so it seemed a good point at which to give it a go. It turned out to be a great thing; on good stretches, I’m hoping to continue the tradition. I didn’t feel any grand, mystical connection to the Earth and all her creatures, nor did I somehow feel more powerful and primitive, but it was pleasant to have sand and soil beneath my soles, and it certainly made me mindful of each detail of the trail.
As I made my way back toward the gathering, the breezes grew more chill and I trod through alternating sun and shadow as the clouds grew. One standing stone greeted me upon my return.
It was fortuitous timing: by the time I got back, changed into warmer gear, and got dinner, the wind was blowing fiercely and the cold began to set in. That night, the temperatures dropped into the high thirties and bursts of wind-driven rain hurled themselves against my shelter all night. (My tent stood up to the onslaught very well, I’m pleased to report, and my layering system kept me warm, so that little preview of what may lie ahead was reassuring. Many hikers were not so lucky.)
May all the journey turn out so blessed, and may I have the strength and resiliency to carry on with a bright heart when it does not.