On The Run: The real world is a shock after two weeks in the wilderness
After two weeks hiking on the Tahoe Rim Trail, returning to the “real world” was more of a challenge than I had initially envisioned.
I expected to stare a little longer at the 30 different varieties of bread at Safeway after eating one type of oatmeal every morning for two weeks. I knew that my bed would feel slightly different after the comforts of sleeping in the wild on rocks, small rodent mounds and slanted hills, but I never anticipated returning home to a world that felt entirely foreign.
On Tuesday, Sept. 11, 18 hikers bounded out of the woods down to our first water resupply at Spooner Summit trailhead. The day was overcast and strange, paying homage to the tragedy that would soon reveal itself to us. From a crackling radio we heard a tale that was too surreal for even a Hollywood blockbuster plot.
We sat on the ground in disbelief – hearing only the words and creating images in our minds of the tragedy that befell our fellow Americans. Not knowing whether to continue along the trail or return home to join our country in mourning, we decided we had to go on.
Freed from the horrific images of television and print, I felt far removed from what was happening in New York City and across the country. Could this really happen to the United States? Land of the free and home of the brave? It was too much to process.
For each and every hiker along the Tahoe Rim Trail, the terrorist acts seemed suspended in time. We had limited contact with the outside world to inform us about the tragedy, share the stories of those who lost loved ones or instruct us on the history and motives of the Taliban.
At times we sat down and pooled our collective knowledge, shared worries about pending war and wondered about the emotional state of our families. Other days we would pass through the miles with simple thoughts of dried wildflowers, the wonders of hiking poles and the astounding beauty of Desolation Wilderness.
We felt guilty being happy and carefree amidst national crises. We felt blessed to be away from the mesmerizing news reports, paranoia and chaos. We felt confused.
Mostly we struggled with the notion of what the “real world” truly is. Lying awake under the stars at night in the absence of plane traffic, I was surrounded by a deafening silence that seemed both tangible and illusory at the same time. We watched the frantic satellite movement in the sky and wondered if we would return from the trail to a state of war.
In nature, I found truth. I learned about myself and my trail family as well as the limits of the human mind and body. With no bills to pay, phone calls to make or errands to run, we were free to focus on existing in its most base form. Yet, I feel like Alice in Wonderland stepping back through the mirror to a world significantly altered from the last but just as real.
Now back in the daily grind, I realize that hiking the trail will always be a reality because it was where I was when our country came together. As life-altering as the assassination of Kennedy or the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, the destruction in New York and Washington, D.C. will always be remembered alongside where we were and what we were doing when the news broke.
I was hiking 164.6 miles around Lake Tahoe.
Lara Mullin is the Sierra Sun sports writer.
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