The Mountaintop

What I love most about hiking is how it mirrors life. A good hike combines long, hard slogs uphill, relatively level stretches to catch your breath, and brushes with mortal danger. Best of all is that last agonizing push to the top where blessed relief and a spectacular view is your reward for never giving up. Much like the last four years.

In 2016, right after I graduated film school, I was terribly out of shape. Between my fulltime dayjob, night school, and weekends taken with class assignments and studying, I had let myself completely go. When I made my annual May pilgrimage back to San Francisco for my mother’s birthday, she suggested we climb Mount Lassen in the summer. Like an idiot I said yes without thinking.

Mom got me into hiking when I was a teenager, but that was several decades ago. I hadn’t done any real hiking since 2002, nor meaningful exercise since 2014. I didn’t want to disappoint her, so I bought hiking boots and began to train in the Santa Monica Mountains for five weeks. Then in August of 2016, my 81-year-old mother and I drove to Mount Lassen, and I rediscovered my love of the trail and Mother Nature.

It’s only a 2000 climb over 2.2 miles, but a third of the way up I began to wonder if I could make it. I cursed how difficult and painful it was, and I barely acknowledged the natural beauty in every direction. Yet when Mom and I reached the summit, it all seemed worth it. Mostly, I loved the inner strength I found as I trudged doggedly to the top.

It didn’t take much imagination to draw parallels between that moment and President Biden’s inauguration. It was only four years but it seemed to take forever, and America’s beauty was overshadowed by much of the ugliness. I found new mountains to climb since then, and some of my trips have not gone well, but the joy and beauty of the summit abide always.

Mom at the Lassen Peak parking lot.
On our way up Mount Lassen.
A long steady climb with sharp drops.
Snow in August – that’s how high it is!
“Strike a Randolph Scott [heroic] pose, Mom!”
Mom and me and Mt. Shasta in the background.

I have a film going into production this spring, which will sadly cut into my hiking, but even a couple hours on a local mountain keeps me happy. Happy trails for 2021, everybody!

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