Last weekend, I cruised up the 395 for over ten hours, doing the slow and awkward tire chain dance every few miles between Bishop and South Lake Tahoe. By the time I arrived, my poor minivan was practically limping down the road to my mom’s place in a full-on blizzard, flailing its one remaining cable chain and sputtering like a parrot on too much caffeine.
On this fine June evening, I’d like to raise a glass (of champagne, PBR, kombucha, cherry limeade, or whatever else is in your merry cup) to the odd jobs. To the jobs that got us through and the jobs we barely got through. To the kettle-clanging coffee mavens and the primped and pastied pole goddesses: this one’s for you.
Three years ago, in a tucked away corner of Van Nuys, California, lodged between a golf course, a church, and an AutoZone, I walked into a yoga class that I haven’t been able to shake. The studio was no different than most, lacquered maple floors greeting my toes as I shuffled to find a space near the front left corner of the room. Looking around at the imperfections in the wood, I waited. It was five minutes past 10am. Class should have already started. When the teacher finally arrived, my stomach sank, and my brain flickered to contain a few deliriously judgmental thoughts. Toe to tuft, I eyed him like a cat. “This is not what I had in mind.”
I awake to fuzzy hipster garage rock reverberating off the tin can that is my unfinished Ford Transit in the wee hours of dawn, downing a Clif Bar and a caffeine gel while praying for an extra 8 minutes to snooze in the comfort of my luxurious sleeping bag. I think I was having a sex dream about Alex Honnold. Ugh… Such strong hands.
“Stop looking at me!” I screeched as I crouched into a windbreak to clumsily remove a used tampon from my body with a sharp tug. My boyfriend, Ben, didn’t know how to turn off his joke faucet, especially on a long thru-hike, and he was darting from rock to rock like an untamed marmot. My nerves were getting raw. It was lunchtime on October 3, 2017, and the closest thing I had to comfort was a granite ledge perched 2500 feet above the Kern River Valley, wind whipping my face as I teetered, bloody-handed and sore. I couldn’t believe it was 33 degrees in the sun. I couldn’t believe that I was sick, depressed, and on my period, either. I squinted pathetically as a raven flew overhead, twisting my neck as it soared out of view. A sharp pain seized my stomach like a petrified child. Everything felt wrong, and the only way out was to climb over Mt. Whitney.
The first time I soloed a long trail, it almost broke me. Being naked and shivering inside my sleeping bag with nothing to shield me except a tiny backpacker’s tent quickly twisted my thoughts into a thousand worst case scenarios, my mother’s voice echoing loudly about hypothermia, snakes, and career-minded decision making. It was 42 degrees outside, and I could hear the percussion of rain lapping against my tent as I trembled in my down sack. Below my precarious perch on Saddle Peak’s mud-covered switchbacks, the constant whoosh of traffic pulled at me like a trail of breadcrumbs. Civilization was just a mile away, if only I would give up.