These events took place July 2016
Shivers in the sunlight, I lie with my head covered gasping for breath. This walk wasn’t easy, 4 miles up a sandy hill. But no one should ever wonder if they’re going to survive this particular round trip.
Cathedral Lake is one of the more accessible of the Sierra’s many alpine lakes, fed by glacial melt and high mountain springs. On the far side of the lake lies the highly rated Cathedral falls but I have neither the will nor the ability to walk the 300 yards to see them.
I’m cowering from the power of the high altitude sun (9300 ft) behind a small stand of juniper. My bandana, steeped momentarily in the crystal water of lake, is my best attempt at temperature regulation. I’m burning every last ounce of strength and focus in the struggle to slow my heart, prevent my nausea from boiling over into vomit, and regain control of my breathing. How the hell did I get here?
I’m 29. Used to be athletic. The last several years have been incredibly hard, and I’ve taken the brunt of it out on my body as I’ve pinballed my weight across the chart. 7 years ago I lost 100 pounds in 3 months due to a water borne illness (the last time a hike nearly killed me), and I’ve managed to bring it all back.
It’s 10 weeks until I hit 30. I wonder if I’ll see that day. I realize I am the greatest threat to myself.
This must change. I have to change.
Eventually my champion younger brother tells me it’s time to head back to camp for dinner with our family. I stumble back to camp a zombie, eat 4 cans of lentil soup, and crash hard in my tent.
I have to change.
Next morning, wake up and hike to Cloud’s Rest, this time much more slowly and with less in my pack.