With winter in full force, many of you have expressed a deep longing for the trail. I think this guest post by Kit Mitchell is just the ticket. Kit “Chinchilla’ and her husband, Jacob ‘Pyrite’ completed the entire Pacific Crest Trail in 2011, one of the snowiest in history. On their way through Tehachapi they stayed at our home and it was indeed Reverse Trail Magic. Be sure and read about their journey at The Hungry Honeymoon. Kit has written for Women’s Adventure, The Pacific Crest Trailside Reader, and currently can be found at A River Runs. She is an outdoor enthusiast, long-distance hiker, writer, poet, naturalist, and protector of all things beautiful.
Walking for miles, on high alpine ridges
deserts and snowflakes and hummingbird wings
long-conversations while showered and full
…these are a few of my favorite things
It was late May, 2011, and over a month into a PCT thru-hike. The day before I sent a text message to Rockin’ about our estimated time of arrival in Tehachapi, CA. Kung Fu, a female solo, was traveling with my husband and I, and she asked how I knew this trail angel.
I said, “I met her on the Internet.”
She laughed. Kind of like match.com, or you know, Internet dating. In those last few miles into Tehachapi I felt somewhat nervous about the in-person meeting that I imagine people feel on first dates, after their on-line selves have circled each other enough to give the go-ahead nod of approval. We were to be picked up at the roadside, and this athletic woman came bounding up to us. In the car she handed me a coffee and bananas and I immediately felt that connection-here was someone I would truly enjoy being around.
I stumbled onto Lady on a Rock in 2010.
And I thought , clearly, here was a woman intent on providing a space to describe, and share, her adventures.
Here was a woman who traveled deep into open spaces with respect, curiosity, and a contagious enthusiasm.
Here was someone who open-mindedly aimed to meet, engage with, and have loads of fun, with other travelers in mutual sojourn. I was struck by her dedication, and was excited to find an on-line voice with whom I could connect. What a great way to share story and inspire others to live their own stories.
The passive and reflective online world where we can learn and plan and dream combined with the dynamic of being in wilderness, where we can move, and just be, and see-this is what inspires me.
Reading about fellow adventurers exercises our imaginations without the foibles and trip ups, blood shed, sweat, or tears. It points out a path which may or may not have worked for others, and it fills our minds with pulsating possibility and joy in harmonious vibration.
Then we get our own chance to live out our stories, foibles and trip ups, blood shed, sweat and tears-and this story becomes one of the many echoing stories of the larger narrative.
Our visit at her house in late May was a break from the trail and was pure magic. She, Dan, Bryn and Grant were incredibly open, it was like walking into a dream world-she even had little travel toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner; she knew Pyrite and I were vegans and had prepared and planned to accommodate us in a way that made me feel like I was visiting a member of my family.
I distinctly remember sitting up that night in the cushy pillow laden bed in their basement, talking about gear and hiking and everything trail-like. This prior-internet-woman was a humanoid live wire, and at any moment, I felt like she was going to burst at the seams. I wanted to be around her, and hear her stories, and listen all night. Unfortunately we had to get sleep and leave the next morning, and I never did get to have an on trail chat.
I left profoundly grateful for her kindness and gifts, and feel that this website could use a dose of inspiration and insights gleaned from her voice. So, here we go for some inspiration:
Chinchilla: It’s snowing a lot right now in the high country. What do you want to do this winter? What are the future adventures up your sleeve?
Rockin’: Ahhh you ask the magic questions…this winter: learn to Telemark ski, actually do Yoga, back-country ski to Ostrander hut in Yosemite, climb more Southern Sierra peaks, snowshoe up Mt. Baldy, visit the town of Wrightwood and ski Mt. High (eat pie at Joe’s Mudd’s Coffee and Pie). I am dreamin’ big adventures this summer, but all depends on snow levels and melt. I love flexible planning so here goes plans A and B. Plan A: Hike the state of Maine starting at the northern most terminus of the Appalachian Trail, then hop onto the PCT at Crater Lake Oregon going north to the Canadian border. Plan B: Hike a big section of the Continental Divide Trail starting at Chuma, New Mexico.
Chinchilla: Do you remember your first backpacking trip?
When and where was it?
I like to learn about the pins and scraggly seams all out in the open, so what early lessons did you learn that you carry now?
Rockin’ : Boy howdy I do, 1992. It was the worst and best of times. Armed with literally everything borrowed, including my boots, backpack, and sleeping bag, sporting cut-off jeans and a sports bra, I headed into the heart of the Sierras at South Lake Trail Head right outside of Bishop, CA. Within the first few miles, I had open blisters the size of half dollars and had managed to borrow a pair of leather moccasins from one of the hikers in my group. Shortly after that, the too large men’s backpack rubbed my hipbone skin raw. I remember everything being shocking: going potty, naked bathers, night, cold, lots of rocks, eating weird food, and walking uphill…a lot. One of our group members even slipped on a rock in camp and broke an ankle. I also remember base camping at the most gorgeous lake I had ever seen, day hiking to the top of something and looking over wondering what was there and wanting to go further. I now know the top was Bishop Pass and I was looking down at Dusy Basin. But most of all on this first trip, I distinctly remember the shear thrill and exhilaration of having everything I needed on my back. I was forever hooked and never looked back.
Lessons learned? Many, but since then I have been dedicated to making backpacking a safe and comfortable experience and have tried to pass this on to my children and others I hike with. Very likely, if you hike with my kids they will have extra clothes, first-aid, food, and water to share.
Chinchilla: I remember how you were inspired by the Oregon Trail. Do you like to read historical accounts of cross-country travels?
Rockin’: Some of my favorites are Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose, Jane Kirkpatrick’s Kinship and Courage Series, Bound for Oregon and my favorite ultimate thru-hike fiction Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier.
Chinchilla: What books are you reading right now?
Rockin’: The River by Gary Paulsen, The UltraMind Solution by mark Hyman, M.D., Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain (yes I am an introvert), and The One Year Bible.”
Chinchilla: As a teacher, mom, grandmother, wife, and everything else, how do you construct, and live, a life in balance?
Rockin’: Balanced? Is there such a thing? Isn’t that a concept we just work on all our lives but never really attain? Seriously, recently I was introduced to the concept of a blended life. I think this best describes the model of my life, where there are no strong lines between work, play, and home. I try to blend each of these together so that they build and compliment each other. Take for example this blog: it is about hiking mostly, but it is also about keeping up with the latest in technology (I am the administrator for our school website), sharing my ideas in writing (not an easy task), sharing the outdoors with my students, and keeping my family and friends informed of my whereabouts. I also have a BIG advantage that I have a husband who is supportive of my wild ideas and loves to hike with me. Win, win I think.
Chinchilla: What song (if you have any) do you bee-bop to on a solo hike?
Rockin’: Confession time…this summer I started listening to music, podcasts, and books WHILE hiking on the trail. This is a shocker to most that know me. I have very thoughtful friends and family who compiled itune music playlists that I loaded on my iPhone. So many great songs to choose from, but “Love Today” by Mika will get me up most passes and through those last hard miles on big mile days. A perfect hiking beat.
Chinchilla: How did you first get into mountaineering? When and where and lessons learned?
Rockin’: I owe this one to a very good teacher friend that long ago encouraged me to go on my first 8 day backpack with the Sierra Club. On the trip I climbed my first cross-country peak climb, Mount Henry. After that everything was literally all uphill and downhill from there. Mount Whitney, Mount Shasta, and Mount Rainer and countless other peaks followed shortly after.
Chinchilla: If you could tell your 20something self anything, what would it be?
Rockin’: Smile, smile and just go. So often stuff got in the way (life) and I did not grab every cool adventure I could.
Chinchilla: How would your kids describe you to a stranger?
Rockin’: In the ideal world I would like to think that they would say, “She is hardcore, passionate, generous, prepared, enthusiastic, supportive, inspiring, a little quirky and crazy, and always loves to research and learn!
Chinchilla: What do you enjoy most about teaching?
Rockin’: I thrive on challenges and learning new things. Teachers are always on a high learning curve. I love the opportunity to be creative, make choices, and be my best. What I do or don’t do everyday may have an impact on a child’s education. It is great fun being part of making a small difference. Oh and I have to admit summers off are a big bonus.
Question: Curious… are there other questions you would like to ask me while hiking on the trail?