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I love the Sierras…to climb up out of the lower elevations into the pine-scented heights, to feel the gritty crunch, crunch, crunch of rocky soil under my boots and to fill my entire being with that cool, crisp morning air…to feel strangely small beneath the towering lodgepole pines and to ache with the beauty of grand views across a seemingly endless majestic range. Having grown up in the midst of endless cornfields of America’s Heartland, I did not have the mountains in my backyard…though my soul had always yearned for the grandeur…to climb to the sky.

My university in California had what was called Outdoor Adventures…you could get backpacking equipment and OA guides would lead you on trips to wild and remote locations…perfect. So one spring break I signed up for a 4-day backpacking trip into the Sierras. Days and days to drink-in the beauty of nature…the solitude of a sanctuary untouched by paved and stuccoed suburban sprawl…back in the days before iPods and cell-phones and GPS.

A group of a dozen or so students arrived in the dark of night, pastey-mouthed, with slits for eyes to sleepily drop bags of gear into trunks of old cars…to start the drive up out of the monotony of the flat valley up into the mountains promising both adventure and refreshment. I was thrilled!

As we parked at the trailhead, the first order of business was to have experienced OA guides help all the novice adventurers to get their backpacks organized. This trip required all kinds of gear: sleeping bag, ground-pad, water bottles, socks, shorts, food, camp stove, first aid supplies and DEET, on and on…all to be stuffed into one backpack that would be part of your body for the next 4 days. I had this guy that was lanky and clad in Columbia shorts and a watch much too large for his gangly wrist…probably an aspiring engineer straight from Sunnyvale. He wrestled everything out and vigorously set to shoving my mountain of gear into the pack, explaining all the while the laws and logistics involved in loading a backpack just right. Finally, he pulled the strings tight, and with a confident “click, click, click” of the plastic buckles, patted my pack with the satisfaction of a young car salesman who has just completed a sale.

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