Thursday, January 7, 2016

No Normal Days

New Year's Eve can often be a disappointment. You wait for midnight, for the monumental shift of the clock or flip of the calendar, and there is a countdown commemorating the past year—the experiences, friendships, loves won and lost, the hardships and heartbreaks, the good changes and victories–and a separate anticipation for what comes next. In that moment, whether you're tired or hopeful, surrounded by friends at a party or sitting with family or Netflix-ing alone, you choose to remember and forget, and you choose to do it all again.

This year for the new year, some friends and I decided to forgo the popular bar bash and instead, venture into the woods of Yosemite toward some mysterious, unnamed destination. Let's go on a backpacking trip, we said. So we rented snowshoes, packed warm layers, convinced ourselves that 108 switchbacks were "no big deal," and left the city at 6am with our sights set on some great woods.

The drive through Yosemite to the valley was a welcome invitation into a still winter landscape, and we moved almost as if in a delayed state of slumber. We were eager, but chilled. We also were growing less convinced of our preparedness. Thus, we did not get onto the trail until early afternoon.

10 switchbacks in, we shed some layers. 30 or so switchbacks, maybe more, we took our first break. The chorizo taco was a clear winner of the trail at this point. Then it was heads down, knees up as we hiked and hiked and hiked. Big surprise... 108 switchbacks is A LOT. Darkness descended and the headlamps came out. Next, the snow grew deeper and so the snowshoes were assembled. 0.6 miles away was still 0.5 miles away after a long indeterminable amount of time, and we felt like our destination was nonexistent. But around 7 in the evening, with the night fully settling around us, with the millions of stars out to track our progress, with the doubtful question of "maybe we should turn back now?", we finally spied a light in the distance, across a clearing, and knew we had found our final destination.

We were greeted with whiskey drinks and a warm wood burning stove. We set about thawing our feet and making camp meals. We met 10 or so other strangers, and napped until the midnight hour. Slightly rested, we sang along with our friends, popped Moet as the clock struck 12, and threw our 2015 regrets into the fire. In a word, it was perfect. Yes, cliché though that may sound, this grueling trek into the woods marked one last hardship of 2015 and the reward matched the arrival of a new year, the arrival at our woodland destination matched the hope of what is in store for us—what is promised.

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