This is my experience Backpacking in the Sierras! Instead of going back to school, my daughter and I went back to basics.
Our church, Calvary Chapel The Rock, has an outdoor adventure group. I’d never really taken to the outdoors and the sorts of adventures I used to be into never involved backpacks, dehydrated casseroles or exercise. But my oldest daughter loves to go hiking and she loves to go backpacking and no amount of falling off the trail or getting eaten alive by insects has ever been able to put a damper on her affection for the Great Outdoors.
I didn’t love nature, but I sure do love my daughter, and it isn’t too often a mom of six gets to get away with just one. I signed us up, rented and borrowed the necessary equipment and with excitement and a handful of anxiety, I joined the group and we set off for the Sierras.
Thinking it was just under five miles of moderate to strenuous trails, I was a little apprehensive. I’m not what one would describe as, “In good shape”. I really didn’t want to be sprawled out in the bushes, gasping for breath from my red, sweaty face.
I made it. It wasn’t easy, but I made it with a little help from my new friends who offered to carry my pack up this particularly brutal hill and who let me stop whenever it looked as if I may actually pass out.
This whole time we’re hiking, my daughter, Jasmine, is being very encouraging. She is an encourager. “You’re doing good, mom!” A few times, she walked back with me saying that she needed to go slow, too. I knew she was just trying to make sure I didn’t feel like a huge loser, but I let it go because it meant I could walk with her and experience something she loves so much with someone I love so much.
At one point, I realized I’d been walking while looking almost exclusively down at my feet. The terrain wasn’t always smooth, and actually, it got pretty rock-climby for a while. I crossed a stream one time and wanted to be able to take each step on one of the rocks sitting above the waterline. God help me if I were to end up flailing and splashing. It wasn’t until I saw these photographs that I saw what I had missed by staring at my shoes.
Look at this! Look how gorgeous it is! I walked right by it and never even saw it. In fact, I walked right by it twice. But look at my pack! It’s huge and unwieldy. I really needed to concentrate on avoiding losing whatever dignity I had left after going out in public with my shiny white gams.
We finally arrived at our site. Gorgeous. Five Lakes Basin in the Sierra National Forest. Apparently, how it works in places like this, is people come into camp and over time, little living rooms emerge. For example, I passed one spot that had been designated by someone as a campsite that had a sofa made out of large, flat stones. The whole seat was one stone, the back was another. The sofa even had arms.
Our site had quite the kitchen set-up. Food prep table, stove area, a fire pit with a nearby “coffee table” and seating surrounding it all. We also were right near several lakes and butt right up against the most magnificent mountains.
Thankful to our leaders for cooking for us! Dinners were the best meals. I actually didn’t eat the others, but I am pretty sure I am right about the dinners being the best.
On one of the days, some of the group went hiking and the rest of us hung around at one of the lakes. One of the younger hikers was going to jump from this ledge into the lake and I thought it would be awesome if I were to run up to the ledge and jump off before he did. I was walking up the giant rock and then back down to the ledge when the kid jumped. So here I was – on the ledge, but with no purpose. And I was too scared to jump now.
Remember how I told you that Jasmine is an encourager? She’s also very kindhearted. She came down and sat next to me as if to say, “It’s okay that you’re a total chicken. I will come and sit with you and pretend not to notice.” Earlier, while on my Ledge of Shame, one of the teenage campers was hollering things like, “Come on! Just jump! Jeney! Jump, already! Come on!” I made sure to note that he had yet to jump.
I never did jump. But much like when I was the slowest hiker and made everyone have to wait for me, nobody seemed to hold it against me.
This wasn’t our tent, but it sure was a nice tent. With a very nice view.
Soon, the sun would go down, we’d have another dinner and sing a few songs together. I’d go on about the brightness of the stars. One of the leaders asked us if we wanted to share something that had an impact on us during the trip. I shared how I’d been looking up at the stars – which were brighter than I’d ever seen – and looking up at the mountains – which were more majestic than I’d ever seen – and I remembered the verses in Psalm 121: 1,2 that say:
“I lift my eyes up to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”
I sat in the middle of this awe inspiring display and I thought back to my life back in civilization. There were concerns and cares waiting back there for me, things that were merely set aside for a few days while I traipsed through nature. But those pressing matters suddenly seemed very small when I considered the fact that the God who made the stars and the mountains is the very same God who is intimately familiar with all of my needs. He is able to form these mountains out of nothing; He is able to take care of me.
Jasmine and I shared a tent. I didn’t sleep even for a minute for the two nights we were there. (In fact, the second night I woke her up because I was certain there was an animal clawing at our tent. (Turned out to just be the rain fly hitting the tent because of the wind.) So, I’ve hardly eaten, haven’t slept, am probably a little dehydrated and am about to embark on the hike out the next morning. The high-altitude hike out. And I’m 40 and out of shape. It’s gonna rule!
Here we are just before we started the hike back. It was rough, I won’t lie. I did fine until the last mile. Then – and I don’t know how this happened – somehow my legs became filled with cement. I was sure I was either going to whine or just straight up die. I didn’t die or whine, but I can’t promise I didn’t complain a little near the end. But just a little.
Eventually, we made it back. And that’s when we learned that the hike was around 7 miles, not around 4 miles as we had initially thought. I was glad it was longer. It added fuel to my, “I can do anything” fire. I hobbled back to the parking lot, climbed into the church van and dreamed of the moment I’d be able to shower.
Jasmine was the perfect trail partner. She really is a remarkable young woman. I’m very proud of her and very thankful for our adventure together in the Sierras.
I learned some things that long weekend: I can do it. There really are people who will help you without secretly making fun of you. People love Jasmine. And the next time, no matter how excited I am to be on a grand expedition, I gotta get some sleep, or I end up wearing giant, bright red t-shirts and awful powder blue bandanas.