Day 1: Rush Creek Trail Head
“If you take any pictures you will be arrested. Do you have a camera or a tripod?” After years of dreaming and a year of planning, this was the greeting we had as we started our 200+ mile summer trek, following the JMT through the high Sierras in California. My brain raced for understanding, though the dark haired, sober faced security guard stationed ½ mile in from the Rush Creek Trail head was giving away no clues for clarification. Is there a wanted criminal hiding up the trail? Did WE do something wrong?
We came out here to escape the trappings of man, experience freedom – what does a guard mean that my photographer husband will be arrested if he takes a picture? Did God pull out a copyright license on His creation?
My husband, Cory, and I let out a few nervous laughs and tried to probe for more information but the tight lipped guard held his ground and repeated his warning: “Don’t even pull the camera out. It’s illegal.”
OK. Maybe there’s a hidden camera? This couldn’t be right. A few more nervous banters with the stoic Security guard began to reveal the details. “They’re filming a movie today. You’ll see the set clearly up the trail. Absolutely no pictures of the set.” The film was “Oblivion” starring Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman and Universal Studios had indeed set up camp in sharp contrast to the natural setting and the camps we like to set up.
Such an unusual start to the day caused trail talk to switch to who these actors were, how much money they make, what their lives must be like being multi-millionaires. I wondered how many trees we’d have to pass to work this out of the system. But instead of just passing trees, we were passing cable railroad tracks running up the mountain, huge dams, electric wires, massive pipes, and dammed lakes surrounded by stumps.
Day 1 all things feel like rusty machines turning on after lying dormant for a while. The legs feel unlubed. The procedures are all foggy. Case in point, when we showed up to camp at Waugh Lake, the kids just pulled out mats and flopped down on the ground. Gently, we prodded them off the mats and let them in on the to do list. Who’s setting up our tent? Cade, our 11-year-old son, reluctantly agreed to. The unknown is hard to sigh up for and it’s been nine months since setting up a tent was part of the days flow. Quickly, he warmed up to it as with teaching and space to try, confidence was gained. Like a ball falling, gaining momentum, he could see the tent taking shape and his grumpy reluctance turned to creative energy. “So this pole goes into this slot, right?” In a half hour, our two tents were set up. This is bound to get faster, but for now, as pesto chicken pasta rehydrates for dinner, Bekah, our 9 year old daughter, and Cade are reminding themselves how to play Blackjack in the tent as the sun sets over Waugh Lake.
It took us longer to get to our destination than normal, as Bekah was moving very slow. She occasionally complained of sore feet but having never had any problems, didn’t recognize the signs of a real problem. We are kicking ourselves for not noticing the symptoms, but she is not a complainer so we’d just stop and adjust her shoes but never took her shoes off to double check. We showed up at camp to discover two huge heel blisters on our Boo. So now, plans are completely up in the air and dependent on our 1st aid and how she heals.
Lesson #1: Always double check!
Really? This is just night 1! Because things are sore, procedures are rusty, and life with cushions is too easy to remember, the 200-mile stretch that lays before us seems looming. But as is characteristic of me, I take on the whole and try to wrap my mind around the 200-mile trail that lies ahead. Instead, I need to learn the art of NOW. Today we hiked and that prepared us, exactly, for tomorrow. We are not prepared, right now for day 16, 23, or 31. We are only prepared for tomorrow. Each day, each step, makes us stronger, just enough, for our next step.