In the past five or ten summers, my wife has often backpacked in the Sierras with our daughter Talia. My summers have been filled with Orff workshops, so I’ve always regretfully declined and feigned jealousy—while secretly a little glad not to go through the rigmarole of having to pack, sleep on hard ground, carry 40 pound backpacks and battle mosquitos.
But this summer, for obvious reasons, I only have one live Orff workshop. No more excuses. And it was billed as my granddaughter’s first backpack trip ever. How could I resist? Ironically, my wife had to bow out as she struggles with hard-to-identify (but ten doctors are trying) back pain, so it’s just the three of us heading up to a mountain lake tomorrow for four days. Sounds lovely, yes?
But on Thursday, I had some notable tooth pain, on Friday decided to brave the dentist and get it identified as a fractured root canal in my wisdom tooth, with an appointment to get it extracted as soon as I return from the backpack trip. Fun, fun, fun! Today, I got antibiotics at Walgreens for the tidy sum of $97 and would have researched joining an anti-pharmaceutical political group if it weren’t for the fact that I had to pack. From sleeping bag to lip balm, bear cannisters filled with food to a deck of cards, clothes for 90 degree weather during the day and cooler at night. I’m exhausted already.
Then there’s the three-hour drive leaving at 7am and the anxiety of getting a parking spot, with the penalty an extra-mile and a half of hiking if I don’t. Finally, of course, the nagging question— 4 weeks short of my 70th birthday, can I really do this? I have been walking around 5 miles a day or biking around 10 for a whole year, so I think I’m in pretty good shape. But none of it was with a heavy pack on my back scrabbling up rocky paths. While encouraging a 9-year old to “Keep going! We’re almost there!”
My hope, of course, is that I will spend many memorable days soothed by the silence, invigorated by the lake, taking time to watch the sun set and lie down awash in the stars overhead. A chance to get off the grid and stop checking my e-mail or reaching for my phone. A chance to quiet the mind and discover if there’s still worthy thoughts and feelings beneath the tumult of the world.
If you note a sudden silence in these almost daily posts, that’s why. See you in July!