My mom drops me at the bottom of the mountain where the road turns from dirt to pavement. A mere 5.5 miles and 20 minute drive from our house. I jump out, grab my 18 lb. pack and trekking poles before she departs for San Francisco. I do an about-face, ready for my climb back up the mountain. The tread is gradual as it follows the Robinson Creek meander far below. Although the water level in the creek looks like it’s June, the sound of rushing water ripples off all the newly budding buckeyes.
The muscles warm and the miles are easy. Birds sing and play in the decomposing leaves under thickets of poison oak. A squirrel darts up a tree, worried that I’m on the prowl for my next meal. Squashed California Newts lie in their final resting place along the road and sadness seeps into my heart. I wonder about their ability to survive the increasing traffic levels on this rough, bumpy road. Their barometric keenness sends them across the road to Robinson Creek with each chance of rain.
Another half mile and I find the mystery of the day. Abandoned crutches lean against the barbed wire fence lining the road. They’ve been there a few months. The scenarios are endless.
An old man was ushered out of the family car. The family hands him his crutches with tears in their eyes. But can you actually limp to your death? Assisted suicide isn’t always pretty. No words were spoken. There was a simple understanding that Life isn’t forever. The dust spirals up as he watches his family drive away. Might as well walk until the legs collapse, he thought to himself. So off he goes, practically crawling at half a mile per hour. The afternoon sunlight starts to leave the valley and climbs up the nearest peak. And then suddenly the sun finds its way through the leaves and warms his face. A feeling of quiet and calm comes over him. He feels good. He feels blessed. Is this life really over? There were so many things he wanted to do. Like hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. The warmth from the sun radiates through his body all the way down to his feet. He imagines big, strong muscles carrying him far and wide. Without even realizing it, he starts taking steps without the aide of his crutches. Could it be? He takes a few more steps reeling in disbelief. It’s like a grassroots revival where the miracle healer touches you on the head and you’re cured. A single tear slips out. He takes a deep breath. With a new found power in Life, he gently sets the crutches aside on a nearby barbed wire fence and walks off.
The last 3 miles are a climb and I quickly find a rhythm. I push myself and the sweat starts to drip. Oh yeh, this feels good. I hike the 5.5 miles in 2 hours. Not too shabby since I haven’t really hiked since last September. Bring it on CDT. I’m gettin’ ready for your cold!