My Journey through Breast Cancer

On October 11, 2013, I was diagnosed with Stage II Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) ... or as we like to call it, extreme measures for a nap (EMFN). For a while, this blog will be my cancer journal. Enter at your own risk.

04 September 2007

Trail Journal, Day One

Beep Beep Beep ... What is that noise? Is that the alarm? But its still dark outside. REALLY dark. As consciousness slowly takes over, I start to realize that it IS the alarm, and as much as I usually hate it, this time it means vacation is starting. A vacation we've been planning a LONG time. I slowly drag myself out of bed, and head straight for the shower. I know its the only way I'll wake up enough to finish packing and make my way to the car ... where I can fall back to sleep.

At the beginning of this year Caleb and I decided we needed to plan a backpacking trip. We'd been told Mt. Langley is a beautiful hike, and the mountain is over 14,000 feet high. Its a formidable height, making the adventure a bit of a challenge, complete with bragging rights. So we sent away for the permits, and made reservations at a Lone Pine Best Western. All we had left to do was enough training to keep the hike from being torturous.

And now here it was, our long-awaited Sierra adventure. I was so excited I didn't even mind the 4:15 a.m. wake up call. Its 5:00 a.m. now, and we're actually in the car, heading out. Who knew we could be so prompt so early in the morning? OK, OK, who knew *I* could be so prompt so early in the morning? I guess when its vacation, its a different story.

We're driving up the 14 and the sun is finally peeking out from behind the hills. There's a bit of a cloud cover, what's left of the hurricanes in the Gulf I guess. The combination is making for a beautiful sunrise. Caleb says, "See how great the morning can be?" I tell him I'm content with the pictures of mornings. He grins. And yet in my mind I'm agreeing with him, the sunrise truly is beautiful. And I'm glad I'm up to see it.

We've reached Lancaster, and at 7:30 we're pretty hungry, ready for breakfast. Oddly enough we can't find a Starbucks (I thought they were everywhere), but we've found a Panera Bakery. I order a cranberry muffin, Caleb orders something with pecans. I also finally get my large coffee, and I'm happy. I'm on vacation and I have my coffee, can life get any better? Yes, soon I'm asleep, confident Caleb will get us to Lone Pine safely.

I'm waking up, and the first thing I see is the Eastern Sierra mountains on my left. Every time I come here, every time they start to make their presence known along the highway, I am left in awe. They're stark and harsh, mostly the color of stone, with ragged edges and sharp points. And yet they're beautiful. I can't take my eyes off of them. I can't wait to be IN them.

We've finally located the ranger station, only to discover its not the ranger station any more. The sign on the door says to go to the Interagency Visitors Center, a mile back down the road. We turn around. Its only 9:30. We've made good time.

The Visitors Center is new. This is my second time visiting, and they have more displays up this time. The Mt. Whitney Quilter's Guild has a display up, amazing quilts I know both my mom and mother-in-law would enjoy seeing. At the far end of the center is a giant window, out of which you can see for miles down the Sierra range. Again, its breathtaking.

The ranger behind the counter is laying down the hiking rules and guidelines for us, probably just one of 100 times she'll have to say the same things today. "All your food has to fit in the bear canister." "Camp at least 100 feet from water." "Carry your pass on you at all times." "Clean your car of anything that even remotely looks like food, the bears won't hesitate to rip it apart." We nod seriously, promise to follow all the rules, grab our bear canister and head back to the car. Its not that hot yet today, though the forecast predicts it'll go past 100. I'm glad we're leaving Lone Pine for higher altitudes.

We decide to grab some lunch to go from somewhere in town, and then head up to the trail head. The drive is at least an hour, and by then it'll be lunch time. We can be on the trail by 12:30, 1:00 at the latest. We've found a little "always open" cafe at the edge of town. Its classic in here. The decorations look like they've been collected throughout the years. There's everything from an old fishing hat to displayed like a Monet, to various canisters and knick knacks sitting on an old secretary's desk. In the entrance sits an old wood-burning stove. We order two sandwiches and wait patiently while they're made. The to-go boxes cost us an extra $.50 each. I love small towns.

We're driving up to the Cottonwood Lakes trailhead now. Its a steep and narrow road, with a sheer drop down the mountain on MY side of the car. I didn't like this drive the last time I was on it, and I don't like it now. But Caleb is a good driver, and we arrive at 10,000 feet safely. After not seeing a single car our whole drive up, we're surprised to see the parking lot so full. There must be a lot of hikers already on the trail, out there in the backcountry somewhere.

Our lunches are good. You can't beat a homemade sandwich (er, handmade at least). We've found a picnic table near where we parked. In minutes I'm cold enough to need my sweatshirt, and Caleb digs it out of my backpack for me. The weather is perfect for hiking. The sun is shining, and on its own quite intense. But there's a cool breeze to offset its intensity, and my legs shiver a little as the wind blows.

We've packed up our packs, loaded all the food into the bear canister, changed into appropriate hiking attire, bathed ourselves in sunblock, and cleaned the car of all food-looking items. We're ready, all that's left now is actual walking ... walking with huge packs our backs. Man that's heavy! Wait a minute here, did I say I would carry this much? Caleb just smiles at me. "You'll be fine, its not that heavy." He would turn out to be right, but at the moment I'm feeling a bit ... alarmed.

We stop for an obligatory picture at the trail head sign, and we're off ... off on our mountain adventure! The trail is a nice one, in fact at the moment, here at the beginning, its mostly downhill. I'm already worrying about coming back ... it means I'll have to go UPhill at the very end of this three-day backpack. Oh well, at the moment I feel good, fresh, ready to attack whatever comes my way. I don't think about it anymore.

At home last night I spent a solid 10 minutes searching for my good moisturizing blistex, with SPF 15. I know I'm going to need it. I finally locate it in one of my many purses, and put it in the purse I'll be taking with me. But I never transferred it to anything I'll be taking with me on the hike. And now, a good 15 minutes into our first day, I suddenly remember. "My Blistex!" Caleb asks me if I want to go back for it, we're not in that far. But I say no, knowing I'll probably regret it. I just don't want to backtrack already. So we continue on.

The trail continues to wind and curve, still with zero to little elevation gain. The weather is nice, high 60s I'd say. I'm starting to feel raindrops on my arms, just a few here and there. And then suddenly, its raining. Really raining! I'm grateful for my broad-brimmed hat, keeping my face dry. Fortunately, its not too cold, and the rain actually feels good on my skin. Its also beautiful to watch it falling in the meadows we're walking past. Its falling softly, creating a moving haze all around us. We welcome the rain.

Today's hike has been fairly uneventful. In 5 miles we only gained 1,000 feet in elevation. It took us about 3 1/2 hours to reach our campsite. We were going to camp closer to the trail, but Caleb found a more protected spot further up the hill. It has a great view of Cottonwood Lakes #1 and #2. The ground is level here, and the perfect size for our little tent. We've found a home for the next two nights.

We're a bit tired from the early morning wake up and the long hike with heavy packs, so we're setting up the tent, and blowing up our thermarest pads. Our first order of business is a nap. I take my boots off, a glorious feeling. I put my sandals on, and realize my toenail polish matches the pink straps! Caleb is amused at my enthusiasm over this fact.

The tent has a lot of mesh windows in it, which lets in the cool breeze. Its too cold when the clouds cover the sun, but when the sun's shining through, its perfect. After an hour its gotten too cold, the sun is going behind the mountain, and its time to get up anyway. We have to make dinner, get water to drink, and finish setting up for the night.

I'm sitting on a rock, it would become our favorite rock to sit on to eat dinner, put our shoes on, gaze on the lakes. I'm journaling about our day while Caleb works on getting dinner going. He's trying to pump gas into the stove to get it lit, but its not working. He finally discovers the valve is broken, and there's simply nothing to be done about it. There will be no hot water this weekend, and therefore no hot meals, no hot chocolate, no oatmeal in the morning. We're panicking only a little, we quickly realize we've brought enough food to sustain us, even without the hot stuff. It would have been nice, for the night is getting downright cold, but we'll survive. Within minutes we've accepted our predicament, and sit down to a dinner of crackers and peanut butter.

My feet are so cold they're turning blue. I realize its only 7:30 or so, its still daylight, but still I want to climb in my sleeping bag and get warm. It takes a long time for my feet to finally warm up, and my sleep is restless. Mummy bags don't allow for a lot of movement, and our tent is really small. I'm also absolutely sure we're going to be raided by a bear. And regardless of how tired I am, I toss and turn most of the night, only getting several cat naps' worth of sleep.

But I'm happy. I love being out here. I love the quiet and the solitude. I love the natural beauty we are surrounded by. I love that it takes some work to reach a place like this. I love that I can go to bed at 7:30! I love that Caleb and I both love being here. I love that we can take a broken stove in stride. Its been a great day, and even a bad night's sleep won't ruin the rest of my trip.

(For more pictures, click here.)

Stay tuned for Trail Journal, Day Two.

1 comment:

Mom Dub said...

As usual, Heidi, you make us feel like were are there with you. Great narrative! You and Caleb would make a great team for writing/illustrating travel books.