Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. ~John Muir
Marie Lakes Junction. 2.67 miles from the top of Donahue Pass. This pass is long. 23-miles. And we have been climbing for 2 days already. We will go up and over the pass in the morning. We are camped next to a gorgeous creek with the pass in view. I climbed to the highest point of an outcropping of rock that I could find at camp and picked up limited reception on my cell. I called G. He and Finn (our pooch) are in Bend, OR, making their way to Yosemite to retrieve their weary hiker. I cannot believe we are almost done with this journey. It makes my heart ache.
We woke early and were really pushing and surging ahead today at a pretty quick speed. It was a lot of switchbacks and granite. A lot of work. J tripped and pulled her calf which slowed our pace a little. K and I went ahead and found some great campsites. It was earlier than we would have usually stopped, around 1:30, but it allowed for the day to become a little unscripted. I always know when things don’t go as planned there is a HIGHER plan. I sat on a flat rock out near the water, bathed in sunlight. I was praying and thanking God for this journey. This adventure. The able body I have to be able to complete the things I love. The passions that drive me. His passions. I thanked Him for WHO I AM and the person he’s created in me. I marveled at the fact that as I looked up, even the pines and the mountains stretch their way up towards the Heavens. Even they are in praise! I was lying there in the silence, listening, God really started to speak to my heart. “Your walls Paula! It’s really time to fully allow me to break them down.” I sat bolt upright! Years of not knowing how to love and be loved flooded me. I have always held people at a distance. That’s what hurt and betrayal do to you. I know this. That’s a part of me that is broken. My past had taught me that trust was something that cannot be easily given and once broken so terribly hard to repair. I was really never taught, unconditional love. Or maybe just never felt it. Laying there in that moment, in the wilderness, I felt a deep, cemented-on-layer, strip away. It pealed right off and fell to the ground. And oh it hurt! I knew this was a point of complete rawness. Complete vulnerability. I don’t trust people because they constantly let you down. What a HUGE fault of mine. What chances have I missed because of this? Even with my incredibly, amazing husband, who has shown me nothing but complete unconditional, true, passionate, deep, love, respect, and adoration I think in my mind I’ve felt there has always been that chance of him trampling my heart. I am not sure that I have ever truly let love completely in. And that is tragic. It was time. It was like a veil being lifted. I sat out on the rocks for a long time. I cried, I laughed and I cried again. God had to take me into the wilderness, in the silence, in the deepest canyons and highest mountains to peel me down, to allow me to see and feel and realize and taste the incredible love all around me. His love is so vast and so wide and so deep. To allow me to see how my past has shaped me, but for it to be used as GOOD! I have walked some pretty desperate and terrible roads and its ok. In fact, it’s amazing, because God brought me through. There is no other answer than that! He strengthened me and gave me a story to share. Not to be ashamed about. Not to dwell about or continue to feel hurt by, but to thrive out of, to show His goodness and his love and his miracles. That no matter the past, He is the present and the future. And He is so good and so faithful and so giving and SO full of healing!
My relationships with people will never be the same now. They can’t be. I am a lover…but MAN has that grown ten-fold. I don’t hold back. I LOVE with the most extreme passion. Truly! I am not afraid to let love in and even risk the possibility of being hurt. I think to NOT would be the hugest tragedy of all. I’m not willing to allow the fear of being let down, stepped on or not being someone’s cup of tea ruin what could be an extraordinary relationship. Hurt and emotion are the consequence of loving. It’s so worth the risk!
Our last days on the trail were some of the best. Coming into Lyell Canyon in the Yosemite Valley was incredible. I longed to see even a glimpse of a bear, which never happened. We saw Tony, our dread-locked farmer pass us by only to meet back up at the end of our journey. We saw Igor’s bare feet in the dust of the trail but never saw our Euro’s until we were sitting at breakfast after meeting our loved ones. What a sight for sore eyes my husband was as he stood in the middle of the campground as we came off the trail. Clean, with his giant, loving smile, and heart outside of his chest laid open right on his shirt. Me, filthy and ragged and exposed. Bruised, uncovered and stripped of a lot of baggage.
We all came together for a last breakfast. My hubs had, as promised, met us with a cooler full of COLD beer. It was early morning, but our trail family (all of them) and our real-life families all shared in a SALUD to a journey complete!
It was hard leaving the trail. I feel a connection to these friends like no other. I love what being out there taught me about them and myself. I don’t think you can share in that sort of journey and not be completely connected and changed by the people around you.
K, your complete and utter will to succeed at this journey astounded me. You battled, failed equipment, the cold, broken laces and poles but never a broken spirit. You would grind out the day no matter how hard it was and finish in the evening laughing. Your determination and inspiration were incredible. Your fortitude and steadfastness is a huge testament to the type of person you are. You gave me the motivation to continue. You are one of the strongest women I know. You have such an incredible presence about you. Your friendship in cherished!
J, woman you are so tough. You could’ve allowed your falls and injuries to side-line you, but you just kept on. You were such a caretaker and source of reason for our group. Your sweet disposition combined with a kick-ass attitude was infectious. I loved your jokes, your singing and the games you initiated to help keep our minds off of the mire of the trail on those days when we all felt defeated. I learned a lot from you. You are so smart. The day we lost you out there my gut was hollow, I was worried, but I knew you are resourceful and smart and not one to go down without a fight. The Cheech lighter was the BOMB! Thanks for that and the gift of getting to know you.
K, our rooster in a flock of hens. Your desires and passions run deep. You’re a great coach and a greater friend. You withstood a lot from this group and I commend you for that. You are determined and so sold-out dedicated to everything you put your mind to. I know we had days of butting heads and I loved the challenge. I loved more the grace you extended to me. Your honesty and friendship mean the world to me. There aren’t a lot of people who can speak the truth and not be afraid. You’re kind and bold and persistent but have such a tender heart. Your willingness to be solid in your thoughts but show mercy when needed is an amazing quality. Thanks for not pushing me over a cliff when I really needed to be. And thanks for pushing me over the cliff when I needed it most.
I have loved reading through my journals of the JMT. It made me laugh out loud and become completely overcome with emotion at times. This trip stripped me down to bare bones and built me right back up. I am happy for the sheer blessing of this trip, for friends with the same passions, for a supportive family even when they are nervous or unsure of my outrageous decisions. For a husband that SO gets me, encourages the utter crazy in me and loves me to the pit of my being no matter the flaws and dirt and decay. The fact that you applaud and spur-on every hair-brained wild desire that I have in life and rally around me says so much about the man you are! God blessed me with such an incredible partner in life! I am so thankful that you’re the water that feeds the soil of my reckless, wild heart! I love that I felt through the adversity, I was reintroduced to myself. That we all chose to seek out the seed of triumph in the adversity along the way. I am grateful for the friends and family that encouraged us, prayed for us, thought about us, and checked in on us when they could. I am even more grateful for those who allowed me to come home a changed person and loved me all the same. Knowing my scars and my battles. My weaknesses and my strengths. Loving the soul of who I am and allowing me the true GIFT of loving you so deeply and so generously.
Good timber does not grow with ease. The stronger the wind the stronger the trees. ~T Monso
One of my FAVORITE pics from the entire trip. At the top of Donahue Pass. Job well done my friends!
*Start my JMT journey with me HERE