Day 2: A New Name (7-23-12)


I popped the valve on my mattress as a signal to get my butt out of bed. Beyond the tent door, steel grey clouds billowed and the ground was cool and wet from the previous day’s storming. I stretched, aching muscles and tight shoulders complaining after the opening round of miles and elevation. Huddled over my stove, I slowly munched my first round of Grape nuts and blueberries, efficiently breaking camp while keeping everything as dry as possible. I stood over the Beast, arms akimbo, and breathed out through puffed cheeks. With one eye on the sky, I heaved to, cocking the Beast on my thigh before swinging it across my shoulders and cinching the waist strap. My legs felt solid beneath me as I crossed the logjam over the miniscule creek. I dug the poles into the dirt of the trail to start the day.

As it would for much of the beginning of the trip, my thoughts drifted back to my last trek in this direction. I slowed on the quick up-ticks of the trail, knowing my pace, breathing the moisture-laden air deeply. My legs and lungs didn’t quite groan as much this time around. Descending into Wallace Creek, the clouds hovered up near Mt. Tyndall, and I couldn’t quite tell if the breeze was blowing fresh rain or residuals from the pine needles. While resting at the junction, a green uniform and big pack caught my eye as Laura made her rounds of the campsites. We hugged and laughed hello, spoke of adventures ahead and offering plans to each other for the future. With a wave, she crossed the creek to get back to work while I strode on down the northern side of Wallace Creek, dropping slowly to the great Kern Canyon.

Darkening clouds gathered and spread before me, waves capturing the peaks in all directions. As I traversed high above the river, I could see the wall of rain advancing north in the big ditch. A bear cub dashed across open rock above Junction Meadow, and I paused to both throw on my jacket in time for the squall and look around for its mother. The open forest of yellow pines swallowed the trail, and I dropped my pack heavily in the site where I had slept back then. Another tall, solo woman soon joined me under the trees, and we spoke of the storms rolling through. Lauren was a PA in Oakland, and she seemed as pleased as I to meet another strong woman on the trail. She had seen me yesterday, rolling hard to get down from Trail Crest as she had ascended, and said she couldn’t get my color scheme, or our greeting as we passed, and my smile out of her head. “Do you have a trail name?” she asked after a few minutes more. “Well, I’ve been known as MooseTracks for the past five years or so,” my reply.

“Doesn’t suit you,” she said with a shrug and furrowed brow. “I hope you don’t mind, but I have another name for you.”

I cocked my head to one side. This ought to be good, I thought.

“Heart of Sequoia,” Lauren said, matter-of-factly.

I sat back for a moment, stunned, then misty. I always give my friends nicknames, some way of telling all the same names apart. But this was more than just a simple nickname. I didn’t know what to say, how to react, other than to smile humbly and hug my new acquaintance. We loaded up again, waving one last time as she headed up to Colby Pass and I turned south to follow the Kern. Breathing deeply, a cool breeze followed the day’s storms, and I positively floated up and down the gentle undulations of the trail.

In late afternoon, I finally reached the Kern Hot Spring and set up camp above the small groups already there. All had already taken their turn in the tub, so I eased into the hot water to soak my sore shoulders and listen to the river. With a deep sigh, I watched the shadows creep across the narrow canyon and up the opposite wall, knowing I would sleep well that night.

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7 Responses to “Day 2: A New Name (7-23-12)”

  1. Shoshana B Says:

    Tall Woman from Oakland been ingesting too much granola — you Bee Moosetracks.   B

  2. Nice, Laura, really nice. You have a gift for including those little details that make things come alive for anyone who’s been out there. Keep ’em coming (as time permits).

    HJ

    P.S. “Heart of Sequoia?” Now, that’s pretty darned awesome. 🙂

  3. Wow, really like this. Would like to hear more…..

  4. This is like reading a book. You paint pictures with your words.

  5. Peter Hirst Says:

    Yeah, a book . . . exactly . . . hmmmmm . . . :-}

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