Ah, Yes...It Was a Very Good Year...
As I patiently sit and wait for my new chair to be returned to me for a fresh round of abuse, I took a post - shower toodle around the Livermore Valley this afternoon to observe a little, reflect a lot, and plan for what could be my best year ever...
To think I only had to wait for it for 53 years! All things being as they are, I feel younger and stronger than 25 years ago. I'm far more capable of being comfortable with myself in just about any situation, from a tough rocky trail to a good old - fashioned night out at 12,000 feet. And with each lesson learned, each piece of experience gained I am even more primed for the next outing.
My short drive first took me out to Brushy Peak Regional Preserve, a nice quiet place on a cool Sunday afternoon. As I unloaded the chair I watched in what would be, in a more representative rainfall season, a marsh. There I watched as 3 American Kestrals chased into the dry grass, looking to create the Tomb of the Unknown Rodent. They persevered in a frenzy until one of them popped up from the grass with a furry, squirming victim in its talons. I give thanks these times for being born human, not having to worry about flying beasts trying to make a meal of me. A sighting like this, though, is renewing for me. There's something about such an epic of survival that keeps me coming back for more, begging for a few moments to think of a similar struggle in which I might be called to engage during the New Year.
I left the park for a drive around the eastern edge of the Valley, over Patterson Pass then back toward Altamont Pass, on old South Flynn road. The old roads around here are sparsely traveled, populated by an occasional 100+ year old home or a ramble of bovines. At night, owls are on every 20th fencepost, which makes a late night slow drive out here appealing for at least that reason. As I turned east up S. Flynn, the setting sun on clouds that had dampened the Valley just an hour ago provided an impression, perhaps a calling for my New Year epic hike. I looked east to see what appeared to be snow capped 12,000 foot high peaks just beyond the Altamont, which rise barely 1500 feet above sea level. As I took a second glance it was clear the "peaks" were clouds, the elevation purely vaporous. But I took it as a sign. This will be a year to reach higher, even above the 14,246' I managed this year. Where?
I don't know. Kilimanjaro sounds appealing, but so many groups make this trip....don't get me wrong. 19,530 feet is no small effort for even the most hardy hiker. But as I read about the preparation, the scheduling and most of all the cash needed to make such a trip a couple of other options have popped up.
First is an attempt of California's 2nd highest peak, Mt. Williamson. At 14,375 feet it's a ruddy monster, and without the trail to the summit that White Mountain supplied. It's a haul just getting into any place a summit attempt would take place - over Forester Pass, which is a bitch for a hiker with good legs, and into the basin at the foot of the peak. The easiest pitch is Class 3, which means a lot of...planning.
The second is one I've talked of for awhile, a trans - Sierra hike from Onion Valley on the east to Road's End in Kings Canyon Nat'l Park. I think I can do this. It would take the better part of two weeks, though, but I've spoken with a couple of backcountry rangers who feel it's something I could do.
Finally, there are quite a few 20,000+ peaks in the southern Andes. Never mind that right now. I'm going to ask around and see which might be done in a wheelchair under the right conditions. There are no easy peaks in this part of the world, though, which provides much of the appeal for me. Why go easy at this point in my life?
I missed out on a lot of living as I battled juvenile diabetes in my 20's, through my 30's and early 40's. There's a lot of time lost there, time I can't relive or regain. All I can do now is compress time and live as much as possible for as long as possible.
I heartily recommend you do the same. As much as I hate to contradict Forrest Gump's mother, life is NOT like a box of chocolates. You know what you're going to get - you'll get what you put into it. Make 2008 your year, too. No excuses. Not from me, you or anybody!