The most recent attempt to top the Sawtooth trip took place a couple summers ago at Kennedy Lake in the Immigrant Wilderness of the central Sierra Nevadas. This was not our first rodeo at this lake, so we were ready for the sinky, stinky bogs and grueling hike. On the way in, I was excitedly telling Garrett about my new, super-small, super-lightweight sleeping bag I got … at Walmart. I think he knew I was in for trouble, but wanted to wait until we had hiked a full day and completely set up camp before pointing out the error of my cheapskate ways. My pack was probably only ten pounds heavier than Garrett’s, which was a huge improvement from the first time we hiked there more than a decade earlier (that time I had intense groin pain, and Garrett, who had “just read about this in a hiking book,” was sure something “down there” was not as it should be. Turns out it was poorly performing boxers bunching up and cutting off circulation. No big deal once I effectively turned that pair of undergarments into a slitted kilt). I was the everything-and-then-some guy. Garrett was and is the if-I-don’t-need-it-to-survive-it-stays-home guy. It’s not that Garrett really convinced me that taking everything you might want isn’t a good idea, it’s just that I’m too old now to be carrying 70 pounds on my back with my “green antenna” (as Garrett dubbed my fly rod case) protruding up more than twice my height.
Even though it was July, the nights were cold. There was even frost in the mornings. I learned four things on that trip as it relates to sleeping bags. Number one: Garrett is right. There’s no substitute for a quality bag. Number two: The temperature rating of a sleeping bag is “you can survive at this temperature,” not “you’ll be comfortable at this temperature.” My 40-degree rated Ozark Trails bag was no match for the frosty Sierra nights. Number three: Nothing, not even all your clothes plus the rain fly will make things better. Number four: other than the rusty hot tub incident, this was the closest I’d ever come to getting closer to Garrett than I ever had been before. After three nights of more shivering than sleep, we both agreed to head out early. Our decision was also influenced by the fact the lake valley was rapidly filling with wildfire smoke from whence we knew not, and didn’t want to be warmed much more than necessary.
Before I close out this Kennedy adventure, I want to mention one more story that isn’t particularly humorous, but testifies to the quality of the man to whom all this writing has been dedicated.
My mother passed away in the May of that year after a long and hard fight with Pulmonary Fibrosis, and I had a canister full of her ashes that I wanted to scatter somewhere special. I had decided upon Lost Lake, a small lake about three miles away and 2,000 feet up from Kennedy Lake. Garrett agreed to attempt the hike with me. At one point, we came up to a basin where we thought the lake would be. However, we quickly realized where I was trying to take us was “way up there. See it? There’s a small path in the shale. It’s only a thousand feet up. We can do it.” That’s the point where Garrett mulled things over, stared at the map and suggested we turn back. He was tired and not convinced I was leading us where I thought I would. After some prayer and consideration, I made one last appeal.
An hour later, we were standing on a 9,000+ foot ridge with Lost Lake immediately behind us and the breathtaking glaciated valley below. Garrett took photos of me reading Psalm 90 and then pouring my mom’s ashes into the wind that was rushing over the ridge and down to the valley. It was meaningful for many reasons, one of which was sharing it with Garrett. He told me later the only reason he was willing to endure my folly and the brutal and treacherous hike was so I could honor my mom. I am grateful for a friend who cares.
While I could fill in many more adventures that include bears, guns, caves, green spray paint and fire extinguishers, theological debates, blizzards and a Russian exchange student/wannabe KGB spy, I think these stories suffice for now. What I hope you take away from this is that there are certain special people in our lives that leave indelible marks, and Garrett is that for me. It’s been an honor and blessing to partake in this pilgrimage on the way to to heaven with him, and I look forward to more adventures together … if his wife will let him hang out with me ever again after reading all these stories!