Overnight catharsis in the Alps
By Jeff Morris
For The Trinity Journal
My pal and I haven’t seen much of each other since some post-high school roommate stints during college years in Sacramento 20-plus years ago. Thankfully we’ve been able to reconnect and finally went on our first overnight pack trip. There’s no need to mention where we went. If you know it, you know it. It’s a religious experience for me every time I head up that trail, as most members of my family have done over the last 90-plus years. My grandfather grew up in a town close to the current trailhead, a town that no longer exists, except for a few foundations, a stone monument and mine tailings marking the remains of the boom economy of the early 1900s.
My old friend and hiking pal is a geologist by education, a birder by avocation and a general knowledge vessel, so hiking up one of the stream corridors of the Trinity Alps was a conversational adventure. We integrated discussions of glacial activity and wildflowers with our own family goings on over the past few decades. Stories of relatives’ escapades and failures along with small pieces of science we’ve both acquired over the years flowed freely. Every so often he stopped to pull out his binoculars and camera to try and catch a snapshot of a particularly elusive bird species that tormented him for the entire trip.
It was a busy weekend with lots of folks on the trail, including a large number of local people out enjoying the magnificent weekend as day hikers and overnighters. To get a little more isolation we opted for a trail up the side of the canyon to a more hidden lake where, coincidentally, we had both separately soloed a few years ago.
After a slog up the last 2 miles in the sun we reached our destination where I did my usual thing. I immediately took a pre-dinner nap. I woke up to the sun starting to set and the alpen glow hitting the mountain top directly across from us, which is some of the most beautiful light you’ll ever see. It gets me every time. Photography commenced as the yellow sunlight turned to rose on the far-off granite. After an adult beverage we hit the hay. Since we only had time for an overnight, we hit the trail around 9 a.m. and made our way down the semi-defined scramble and the 8-mile hike back to the trailhead.
The destination was certainly worth the trip but the trail itself seems to be the restorative part for me. As a solo hike, it’s a meditation and conversation with self that can be a needed catharsis. With one or more friends, it’s a learning experience of long blocks of conversation, fueled by footsteps and endorphins. It also has long periods of silence when your whole party is challenging themselves physically and mentally. Both are needs we serve too rarely and we’re lucky to be here with these challenging and healing trails waiting for our feet, hooves, and for many close trails, bicycle tires to deliver the next cathartic moment.