of solitude

Three days. Thirty-three miles. Wet shoes. Mountain lion tracks. Snow, swollen creeks, flooded meadows. Did I mention the wet shoes?

There’s no better place to spend a long weekend than in the backcountry. I’ve been logging a rather ridiculous amount of hours at work lately. The reasons behind that is a whole other story and not nearly as fun as the upside of taking the occasional long weekend to compensate for too-long workweeks. The first and only choice for my latest three-day stretch off was the wilderness.

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No phone. No people (well, a solid 25 hours of no people). Just me, some mountain quail, a bear, and a whole lot of solitude. As I told my friend who’d recommended this loop to me, this trip was more about solitude than scenery. I wasn’t disappointed on either count.

I hiked a loop north of Hetch Hetchy. I’d never backpacked in this area of the park before. Definitely recommended for those seeking solitude and navigational challenges. Rather than walk you through the experience, I’ll just list a few notes on random specifics…

  • Tiltill Valley is flooded. This good because it means there’s water out there. This is bad because it means shoes are likely to get wet. …Beehive Meadow is also flooded.
  • There’s snow out there still. And, in some areas, a lot of it.
  • The creeks are swollen. Some of them are really cold. The rest are just plain cold. There are no footbridges. Frog Creek is waist-deep.
  • Don’t expect to find those awesome orangey-red tree tags to help you find your way in a recently burned zone. Actually, don’t expect much to help you find your way. Except your compass and map.
  • Do expect to find signs of humanity in the most unlikely of places. Like balloons. In trailside shrubberies. After so many blissful hours of forgetting the rest of the modern world exists.

Yeah, hiking in wet shoes isn’t the funnest (so grateful for Neosporin). Yeah, being even a little lost in the backcountry is melodramatically frustrating (so grateful for topographic maps). But the freedom from reception is worth it (I only used my phone for the occasional picture). And the freedom from life’s background noise is worth it (when was the last time you were really, truly alone?).

It was difficult to jump back into this hectic pre-summer swirl after that dose of loneliness. But I did. And I’m already counting down the days to my next adventure in facing the great unknown, well-equipped and on my own two feet. Having access to these experiences is what balances my summer. They’re what make me feel alive. They’re the reason that I choose to live in this place, of all places.

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of solitude

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