Best Laid Plans
I had big plans for December 31, 2016.
Like many years prior, I was going to usher in the new year from the most excellent party central of my well-worn Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 tent, or maybe even while cowboy camping somewhere on the desert floor. Coyote yips would serve as noisemakers, the stars above as sparklers, with a bit of whiskey in my apple cider to cheer the passage of time.
Instead, I spent the day nervously watching my spectacularly stoned kitty Eddie Cat Halen wander around my apartment in a post-surgery stupor, now eight teeth (and perhaps a few brain cells) lighter. I not only felt like the Certified Worst Human on Earth, but also felt disappointed that I was landlocked in the city, when all I wanted was to roam free in the wild.
My friend Brooke broke my sad-sack spell with an invite to join her family for a retro New Year’s Eve luau, so I donned my brightest island wear, baked a pineapple upside-down cake, and nudged myself into some form of reluctant optimism. We watched Blue Hawaii and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, marveled at a rather ingenious Christmas-tree-turned-volcano, tipped back a few mai tais, and feasted like royalty. Through the relaxed joyfulness of it all, I was reminded of the utter power of friendship to lift you out of the dumps.
Still, I knew that I needed to be outside on New Year’s Day, even if its eve had been salvaged. If the power of friendship rings strong in my life, so, too, does the power of the outdoors. For me, being outside is as essential as food and water, as necessary as love. In fact, it is love.
I woke early to watch the sunrise from a ridgeline below the impressive and somewhat chaotic crowds gathered to do the same at the Griffith Park Observatory. I sat down and hugged my knees to my chest against the brisk air. Tucked between a few bushes, I was beautifully alone. I watched the city yawn and stretch and come alive, first in muted pastels, then with more vibrant colors. I, too, felt alive – awash in optimism about the day, the year, my life.
Shedding any residual disappointment over the dissolution of best laid plans, I drove to my friend Pamela’s house and we rode together into the San Gabriel Mountains. Everything else dropped away as we climbed through the chaparral foothills into the pine-studded high country, the sky a stunning blue above the clouds. We made our way up the southeast ridge of Winston Peak, punching through fresh snow, pulsating with happiness. Near the summit, we laid out a tarp, drank apple cider, shared snacks, and let flow a cavalcade of thank-yous:
“Thank you for inviting me out today!”
“Thank you for coming with me!”
“Thank you for everything!”
Sometimes nowhere does gratitude flow so strong as it does in the mountains with good people.
We strapped on our snowshoes for the descent, and prolonged our return by exploring the slopes, taking photos, and enjoying the views all around – from Mount Waterman to the south to the Mojave Desert and distant Tehachapi Mountains to the northwest. It was perfect. While I might not have celebrated the new year in a tent as hoped, I still did so surrounded by beauty, buoyed by the fresh-aired optimism of a day in the mountains, my soul alive with love for what has been and what is to come.