A random Friday off. Awesome. You know where my mind goes straight away. Into the wilderness. The Northern loop, about 120kms out of town in the Cathedral Ranges, it’s on my hit list. Not too far, but far enough to feel like I’ve long left city life. I love driving through the Black Spur, a 30km stint with twists and hairpin turns, to be exact, with enormous gum trees and rainforest ferns awakening your senses as you blow through. Windows down, the mixed smell of fresh coffee beans and air loft through my car. I listen to the Foo Fighters and feel especially happy as the sound system belts out Everlong, the acoustic version. Cracker of a song.
I arrived at camp with the plan to have a sneaky hike up to the Southern loop for the afternoon, but the weather had other ideas. These particular hikes are grade 4 and involve rock scrambling, that is using both hands and feet to move along the ridge. Storms were coming. I didn’t like the idea of being up there on my own, clambering in the rain. Throw in some lightening and this gal went for camp set up instead. I knew my body wanted movement, or was that my mind? I was somewhat surprised by being decidedly disappointed and edgy to have to remain quiet for the afternoon.
When all else fails, make tea. Just as the water boiled on my faithful pocket rocket stove, the skies opened up and I dove into the snug cocoon of my two-person hiking tent. The beauty of camping out of the back of the car is you can bring as much as you like, there is no heavy pack carrying when you have base camp. Of course, I threw in my books and journal. The thunder was pounding the skies for what turned out to be an hour. Fair to say it was a decent storm. Humidity hung in the air as I sipped tea, ate musk sticks, read, and wrote my journal.
Actually, it was so lovely not to be moving, being forced into stillness for a time. Funny that. I feel like I’ve been on the move for weeks now, in many ways. Just kicking back with no agenda for the afternoon felt like an enormous breathing out. I lay there thinking about all the memories that have been created with this tent, the adventures I’ve been on with the people I love, and the quests I’ve undertaken solo. Who would have thought some two years ago, a pack hike with a group of friends would awaken a deep longing in me to seek the wilderness and the mountains.
John Muir was right when he said “going to the mountains is going home”. After that introduction to hiking, I booked flights to Italy where I took on the Alta Via 1 in the Dolomites. On my own. Admittedly there were refugios every night and a three course meal. Yep, that’s the way to do it. However, I made my way through 150kms of unrelenting climbs, up and downs, along spaghetti like trails with crazy making intersections. Yep, I got lost, took wrong turns, hiked many extra kilometres, and then found my way back. I balled my eyes out, I swore, I cursed at myself many times. As I descended into my dark self, I also found strength, courage, resilience, and a boldness I never knew I had. Those mountains left me in awe, eagerly awaiting the next ones.
Listening to the deluge of rain on my latest jaunt, made even louder by falling on the fly of the tent, I was inundated with gratitude. Still reflecting on the words of Everlong, “if everything could ever feel this real forever, if anything could ever be this good again”, I realised as long as I was keeping my heart open to love, being with the people I love and creating a life I love, it will feel this real forever. This doesn’t mean I’m not going to hurt, be confused, ache, push back at life, be disappointed, ad infinitum. It does mean though that whatever it is for it to be real, I need to let it be heartfelt. Lounging in my little oasis, I knew at least my life is real. Damn real. And it can be this good, again and again. For ever.