Off the Grid

(Apparently this didn’t post prior to my hike…2nd time’s a charm, right?)

So here I sit…In flight at 35,000 feet on my way to SFO where I’ll take the BART to the Lafayette stop where moments before I’ll text my friend and hiking buddy Tom K (aka “Ironweed”, aka “The Colonel” aka “TK”) to pick me up and drive me to his family’s place just outside of Oakland, CA.  A quick pack packing, some chitter chatter, and off to my bed for a quick night’s sleep.  My last in an actual bed for at least 7 nights, could be 8 nights.  We will wake early and drive to Yosemite where we will grab our permits, meet a car shuttle driver and promptly disappear into the woods of California.  The first day will be about pacing, both our steps and our conversation.  An agenda might be set so we can capture relevant topics to catch up on, after all, it has been nearly 2 years since we last hiked together (Bishop to Whitney Portal via Mount Whitney Summit at 14,450 feet).  There’s lots to catch up on when you have only exchanged an occassional phone call and email over this time.  In my mind this is one of the signs of a true friend.

Of the entire trip, today is the toughest day.  Goodbyes for 9 days to the kids and Cindy.  Last minute chores (mowing, shopping) and life’s great pleasures too (solo coffee in a coffee shop on a work day, dropping my youngest off at school, lunch with my best friend and wife Cindy) made up today.  Today, I’m no closer to being back with my loved ones.  In fact, today, I only get farther from them.  Tomorrow, as of the first step onto the trail in Yosemite, I’m at least a step closer.

The blessings in my life are all too amazing.  A wonderful wife who I admire and love, fantastic family who I adore, perfect parents who have taught me so much and more of everything than I need.  I take all of this for granted way too often which is precisely why I feel this draw to these hikes.  A reminder or wakeup call to myself of what I tend to fall away from with the insertion of life’s routines.  A reason to connect with my thoughts and come back a better husband who thinks more proactively about my wife and how to contribute to our marriage.  A more patient father who finds more opportunities to connect with my children in fun, memory-making ways.  A father who remembers fatherhood is not all about teaching lessons but showing love, grace, peace and character.  A son who experiences his parents as they grow a bit older rather than one who worries about their quirky characteristics, some of which are brought on by them growing a bit older.  Ultimately, I am a seeker of perspective.

There are some great other benefits of being “off the grid” for 8-9 days.  Exercise.  Roughly 6-7 hours a day of it.  Routine.  Pack up, walk, unpack.  Nature.  So much of it you actually have trouble seeing it after a few days.  Internal cleansing.  No more pesky dairy products getting in the way of what would be an otherwise normal digestive process.  Facial hair.  When else can you go nearly 2 weeks without shaving?  Friendship.  Ever spent 8 solid days in nature with one of your close friends?  8 solid days anywhere?  Again, back to why I’m so blessed and thankful.  I know, I’m also likely not brave enough to hike in the desolation of wilderness on my own.

So, I have been asked some interesting questions as I have told folks of this hike:

What do you do with your stuff while you are hiking?  Carry it – ideally in my pack.

What about bears?  Ideally we co-exist peacefully.  If not, run downhill in zig-zags if chased.  If caught, play dead and pray.

Do you share a tent?  Nope – unless you count my backpack as a tent-mate.

What do you eat?  Mostly water-based foods, processed foods, light foods, compressable foods – 23 meals plus snacks have to squeeze into a bear bin roughly the width of two 2-liter bottles and the height of one two liter bottle.  And cheese.  This trip a nice hard, dry Gouda of the non-smoked variety.

Boots or shoes?  Hiking Shoes

What do you do when  you aren’t hiking?  Mostly pump water, cook/eat, write in my journal, relax, stare at the landscape/stars/moon, sleep.  Occassionally swim if the opportunity arises.

What do you do with your journal writings from your hikes?  Right now, stuff them in my nightstand drawer.  I aspire to documenting them online in a database of sorts…one day.

Do you see other people out there?  Yes, mostly of the backpacking variety.  2-4 per day would be typical.  Sometimes more.

Well, that’s about all for this entry.  The world as we know it right now?  The Curiosity Lander made it successfully to Mars.  This was a cooler event than I thought it would be.  Twitter is one of my favorite time-waters (@jasut is my handle).  The current President is trying to get re-elected.  His economy isn’t helping his cause.  His opponent (Mitt Romney) is helping his cause.  I’m not undecided.  Our approval rating of Congress is at an all time low.  Primarily because divorcees get along better than our two political parties do.  The Summer Olympics just ended.  The USA did well.  I miss them a little – even with NBC continuing to push tape-delayed prime-time coverage.  Large banks are still hurting.  People primarily read from electronics.  I’m one of them.  Network television is getting crushed by cable content which is getting slowly eroded by online content.  2  people at a movie can run you $20 just for entry.  $40-45 if you decide to eat food from the theatre.  A dying way to get movies for sure.  Netflix won’t stream anything of relevance but somehow they’ve hooked my 3yo on unlimted curious george episodes.  My Grandmother is very ill.  Pray for her.  There’s no person on Earth who has embodied peace like my sweet Granny.  Mother Theresa called her for tips on good intentions, peace and goodwill to others.

So you waded through this rambling article and feel like you need something to come from it.  Ok, that’s fair.  I’ll offer two things: 1) Here’s some pictures of me and the family from the past month or so.  Just regular life.  Some funny shots, a Lazy5 Ranch visit, the first day of school, teeth losses.  2) A write-up from the hike.  Enjoy.

Click here for a slideshow of our past month.

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