Anita was happy to let me sleep on her couch for a few nights while I was busy organizing my next adventure. I had just returned from several months of traveling through a number of the western-states, making music along the way and working on a few love projects. I spent that summer living mostly out of my van.
For about a year I had been spending time researching the Pacific Crest Trail after having a discussion with a couple who was hiking the entire length of it, 2700 miles from the border of Mexico to Canada. Their stories inspired me and got me thinking that I might like to follow in their footsteps.
Everything I had, I borrowed. With the help of friends, I filled a backpack that was to big for my frame, loading it with a sleeping bag, a tent, a camp stove, a water filter, a ukulele, and a few books. And there were lots of other things too that I carried with me. I added to it a list of objects I felt were needed to address all of the fears that I was creating in my mind. I was preparing to defend myself against everything from a bear attack to loneliness.
Another friend, Amy, she dropped me off on the side of the road, snapping a photograph of me weighted down and leaning forward. After saying our goodbyes, I disappeared into the forest. It was the first time I had ever gone backpacking and I still I had a lot to learn.
Trekking through the wilderness, I was making my way south to Crater Lake. I had planned on going further but physically I wasn’t able to. My knees ached, my tendons were on fire and both of my feet felt broken. But the following month, on a cold October morning, in the rain, I did it again. This time I went north, covering another section of the trail through the Cascade Range mountains of Oregon. And another time, I wandered through the Russian Wilderness, the Trinity Alps and eventually ending at Castle Craggs near the base of Mt Shasta.
The following summer, after riding my bicycle the 650 miles from Oregon to San Francisco, I hitched up to the Sierra Nevada’s. It was there where I climbed at least a half dozen or more of the twelve thousand foot mountain passes that stood in my way and also forded a few streams that could have swept me off my feet if I wasn’t careful.
Somewhere along the way as I shuffled my feet on that trail, I eventually began to realize what it was that I was to be learning. I learned that I was never alone, that there was nothing to be afraid of, and that the bears didn’t really want to eat me. I discovered that I was capable, powerful and that I could trust and believe in myself. My insecurities turned from worry into a humble self confidence. The restless ground beneath my feet became a path of peace and comfort.
I recall taking a seat on a rock beside a stream where the birds and I were having a drink and I remember thinking how I felt so small, so humbled, and so full of love in that moment. I began to see how the Creator who had shaped those peaks and valleys was also shaping me, preparing me for what was to come next. On the final day, I arrived on the summit of Mount Whitney at 14,505 feet, the tallest peak in the contiguous United States.
Last January, I became inspired to lead a group into the wilderness this coming summer. I’d like to take a few young men, teenagers, those who are finding their way. It was Picasso who said, “the meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away”.
If you’re thinking of someone who might benefit by going out and discovering the gift that I received, the beauty that I found in the hills and eventually in my heart, please write me…
In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. ~ John Muir