Midnight hiking

When I was a wee-babe of 11 my fifth grade class went on a weeklong field trip to Camp Hi Hill in the Angeles National Forest; cabins, bunk beds, KP duty, it was everything you saw in Parent Trap minus the twin sister. My city school district owned a camp and every year would ship city kids off to have a little slice of nature. Among the many, many, memories I still carry with me, like my crusty beech counselor and her obsession with shaving her legs, was the most exhilarating yet totally inappropriate activity for children: the night walk.

Picture this: the mountains of Los Angeles, at night, in the dark. Our counselors take us to a trail and we are instructed to turn off our flash lights and walk a half mile of the trail, alone, to a counselor at the other end.

In the dark.

It was both terrifying and exciting, and I had ZERO hesitations despite the obvious fact that serial killers live and thrive in all dark places.

Mom, I survived. Calm down.

But this little adventure now lives in my brain and lingers in that area that pushes me to say ”YES!” to terrifying, exciting, and dumb ideas. Like running a marathon after just running a marathon, or baking Mario and Sonic cakes for my nephews’ birthdays.

Kids are serious about their cakes.

So last week when Mark said ”let’s do a sunrise hike!” I did not even have to agree. It is an unspoken rule that I am ON BOARD for a challenge. Then he said ”let’s hike Wright Mountain!” and I just kept packing my damn bag.

For context:

Sunrise hike: what to expect

Option 1: pack a sleeping bag, drive to the trail the night before and nap in your car. Wake up with enough time to strap on your shoes and your pack before hitting the trail.

Option 2: book a bunk at a local hostel, sleep commune style with strangers, hope for the best. Wake up with enough time to drive the short distance to your trail.

Option 3: sleep in your comfortable bed. Wake up and drive for hours in the middle of the night to the trail. Pass the cool kids who are heading home from a night on the town.

Headlamps. You’ll need headlamps. And Mark asked that I instruct you to make sure you pack extra batteries because hypothetically speaking if your headlamp did not function properly that would be bad.

Wright Mountain: what to expect

An Adirondack High Peak; over 4,000 feet, with 2,800+ elevation gain.

Windy. So windy. Nearly blew me off the peak the last time we hiked.

Not sure why anyone would choose to go here.

Cool plane crash just off the summit.

Beautiful summit, tho!

And so, after running 6 miles Saturday morning and doing chores all day, we decided on option 3 and settled into a nice comfortable bed for a hot second before waking up and rushing out the door with gear and snacks at midnight.

Oh but it wouldn’t be a true Agostino adventure without a touch of mayhem.

Picture this: the last potty break for our dogs just before we left. Also the last potty break for, Lucy, a neighbor dog. Mid-pee, my two realized they were not alone, and so they darted across the road, dragging me in my sandals, then after I fell, dragging my full body across their lawn. Dog fight ensued. At midnight. With me still attached to the end of the leashes.

Everyone was fine.

Annoyed. Furious. But fine.

And then it was off we go!

Fortunately, no more hiccups. Just driving and chatting, and dancing to House of Pain. After that, hiking and cursing and completely missing the sunrise.

Our legs were tired. Our entire bodies were tired. The climb took so much more out of us than we expected and we made it to the mountain in the full light of day.

Did I mention it was cold?! Like, 13 degree wind chill, cold??

(We wouldn’t have seen much anyway; a cloud came and enveloped the whole mountain range until we were well into our descent.)

Happiness.

Leading up to the peak, though, in the darkness, it was cool, quiet, and serene. The forest critters were all still nestled in their beds.

Every now and then I’d remember that behind me (I was following Mark) was absolute darkness, and then I’d remember that serial killers lived and thrived in absolute darkness; filling me with terror and dread for just a quick second.

A sunrise hike that starts in the darkest part of the night is the adult version of my childhood night walk at camp. Maybe that experience is what nurtured an adventure streak in me. Regardless, walking in the dark, not knowing what’s out there, is just so creepy cool.

As long as you stay clear of the serial killers.

The April Fool is me

This is an embarrassing moment for me.

I’m going to be open and exposed.

Raw and SEEN.

This is a story I can tell now that there are at least a dozen years behind me and a most unfortunate situation. But it still makes me cringe a thousand cringes. And ask myself, ”Stace, did you really??”

”I mean, REALLY??”

Long ago and far away in 2006, little baby Stacie was in a vulnerable place.

New job, new town, new STATE. I had moved to New York at the end of 2004 after graduating from college in Indiana and was completely unfamiliar with my surroundings. My first year and half involved bouncing from job to job to find the one.

In February of ’06 I found a job, I didn’t know yet that it was the one, and set to work (no pun intended) getting to know my role and my coworkers. It was my first foray in politics; I worked for a New York State Senator who would grow to prominence in our corner of the state.

In this new town, there was a local weekly publication called The Chronicle; it was a no-spin newspaper that covered exactly what I wanted to know about this whole new world in front of me. The Chronicle told me who was buying the empty building downtown and when the local hockey team was playing next.

And I really felt like I could trust what I read.

Until April 1st.

That very first April 1st.

The Chronicle publishes an April Fools edition of their paper that, on the front page only, brings the most nearly-possible, yet totally absurd ideas to life with pictures and ”interviews” and thorough reporting. Because it is a weekly paper published on Thursdays only, the April Fools edition didn’t always fall on April 1st. On March 31st you could find yourself with a fresh-off-the-press copy, completely unaware.

An old, 2014 front page

Enter Stace.

Literally. Let’s watch as she enters her regular coffee shop down the street from the office. Watch as she orders her drink and peruses the front page of the most recent Chronicle. It’s around April 1st, but Stacie is a grown-ass-adult and no longer on the lookout for pranksters and bullies itchin’ for a good gag.

A title catches her eye.

DEC to let beavers rebuild Hadlock Dam

Well, that’s interesting. She thinks.

Not that long ago the Hadlock Dam in a neighboring town broke down and drained Hadlock Pond. The pond is in her boss’s district and an issue she knew her coworkers were heavily involved in.

I mean, we’re talking files inches thick of correspondence.

(Side note: DEC is the Department of Environmental Conservation.)

A pressing, timely issue.

One she was sure her coworkers would be interested to know if there were alternative proposals floating around out there!

She reads.

“Beavers are nature’s engineers.”

Of course they are!

”The plan would allow the beavers to naturally build their own timber dam… crews would fill in cracks with cement…check for structural soundness…”

Ok. Brilliant.

Friends, I ran. Not walked. Ran. To my office.

I burst in the door.

I yelled to my co-workers, ”THEY’RE GOING TO LET BEAVERS REBUILD THE DAM!!”

“BEAVERS!”

Ala: “THEY’VE LANDED ON THE MOON!!”

I was full of awe and excitement! I explained the complexities, the engineering involved.

I rationalized the plan. Out loud.

The plan to let beavers build a fully functional dam that livelihoods depended on.

And then….

I heard nothing.

Not a peep.

**Cringe**

No excitement, no questions, no response.

I thought nothing of it, until One. Year. Later. when I read the 2007 April Fools edition. Me, not-so-new to this world, recognized the absurdity and then…

Extreme camera zoom. Record screech. Eyes. Wide. Open in realization.

First realization: I believed a state agency that is full of highly qualified professionals was going to let beavers, BEAVERS, rebuild a dam. A DAM for crying out loud!

Second realization: I shouted this, SHOUTED, from the freakin’ rooftops to people I barely knew.

**Long pause while I just crawl under this table here**

I’m glad I can’t actually see you roll your eyes.

Enjoy my pain, ya sickos.

Thinkin’ spring, but it’s still so cold!

My first memories of spring were of flowers and sunshine and walking barefoot in my backyard.

Sundresses and strappy sandals.

My sisters flanking me in our (always) matching Easter dresses

It was spring before it was officially spring.

That’s because I grew up in Southern California. Life may not have been carefree or safe, but it was WARM.

Cousins! Probably December, j/k

Those days are lonnnnnng behind me and so so far away, literally. Now in the upperright, opposite coast we see spring on the calendar and then count two more months before the ground thaws enough to dig in our gardens.

My first spring away from the West Coast I didn’t understand why it wasn’t warm during my ”spring” break. ”But….it’s SPRING.” I could not wrap my baby brain around the calendar not matching the weather.

And now my middle-ish aged brain still struggles as we watch the daylight grow longer while the snow falls harder. But…it’s SPRING!

BUT…

It’s SPRING!! Which means day by day we get closer to those first daffodils poking through. Closer to the first buds on trees and shrubs. Closer to green grass and baby birds!

My dad said the same thing every winter after we left California.

He’d say, ”remember when all of this was GREEN?!” And we’d laugh because of course we did and if we didn’t laugh we’d cry the frozen little tears of southerners whose blood was too thin.

One summer he said, “remember when all of this was WHITE?!” and then we killed him.

I kid. We loved the winter in those early years. It brought snow days and snow men and sledding and snowball fights and those perfect naps of exhausted babes freshly warmed by dry clothes.

But there is just something so encouraging about the growth and rebirth of spring. Even in California we watched the old die and the new grow in it’s place. Now the effect is so much BIGGER as it’s a much BIGGER extreme from the below zero temps in winter to a perfect 60 degree spring day. But it’s also a BIGGER struggle as we anticipate the coming of those warmer days.

Hence this post. I’m reminding myself that Spring. Will. Come.

It always does, Stace.

And in the meantime, switch out those winter decorations for spring. Shop for the flower seeds you want to plant in May.

Maybe pick out a bright pink yarn for that spring sweater you’ve wanted to knit for yourself. You know, because even when it’s warm out here it’s never really WARM.

Lol.