Almaden Valley and Brendan

I’ve spent a lot of time (and money) moving around this summer, and it has been absolutely amazing.

It’s been a little over 2 months since I graduated high school, and I have spent the least amount of time in my home than ever before.

Never have I lived off of so little sleep. Driving to a beach house here, small camping trip there, racing home to make it to a concert, to leave town the next day with the family, to getting home and working just to get a few extra bucks to drive to another location, buy another concert ticket. To me, it’s sustainable living, and it’s how I thrive.

About a week into the summer, I figured I would wake up early and run a few errands, and do some shopping. Strolling into TJ Maxx — easily one of the best stores ever — I stumbled over a stupidly low-priced kayak. The adventure bug nipped at the back of my neck, and on impulse, decided to buy it. Excited, and $200 lighter, I drove as fast as I could with the 9 foot kayak strapped to the top of my little Mazda Protege straight to Calero Lake. A month in, it’d seen the ocean, 3 different lakes; it’s carried 2 men at once, and even a dog. It’s safe to say I’ve got my money’s worth.

There are so many hobbies I’ve always been fearful to pick up, just because of the daunting threat of danger: rock climbing, white water rafting, backcountry backpacking — but like most things, there is a way of easing into it. My small-time family trips have now turned into havens of adventure and new trials. I SUPed in San Diego, climbed waterfalls in Yosemite Valley, and drove through Tuolumne Meadows in the pouring rain (and eventual snow) and 40 degree weather (in mid-July) to find a mountain and climb it. Never have I felt so hungry to move, and travel.

I’ve met a few interesting people over these past few weeks, but notably I was talking to a musician named Steve, whom I shared many similar interests with. We both loved music, loved (and hated) Netflix documentaries, and being in his forties, had his fair share of misadventures and journeys. He was the definition of a self-starter; someone who truly had a knack for just doing, something not a lot of people are good at. He and his 5 year old daughter, Chloe, seemed infinitely happy.

My dad didn’t get me a graduation present. There was no brand spankin’ new Dodge Challenger in the driveway, no check for $1000 to throw into my college fund, nothing but one of those thick, music playing cards, blaring the Rocky theme song. It read a simple “Congratulations! An adventure is coming our way.” My heart raced. It was better than anything I could’ve gotten with a price tag. It was an adventure.

We packed up backpacking packs, threw in some bare necessities, and hit the road on August 1st at 5 in the morning. Our plan was to get there early enough to beat the people in Yosemite Valley waiting for wilderness permits, and Half Dome Permits. It was all so surreal, and I was bursting with excitement.

However, Yosemite had for us a different plan. Being unable to claim either permit, we decided to head out to high country, and began climbing Mt. Dana, Yosemite’s second highest peak by noon. The sky was dotted with a few puffy white clouds, and at 10,000 feet above sea level, our starting point, we started working our way to the summit, a mere 3,500 feet above our heads.

Not hail, not rain, not freezing temperatures or high winds, or the impending doom of darkness would kick us off the mountain. But lightning strikes all around us most definitely would, and we high tailed it out of there, just 800 vertical feet from the top. Exhausted, soaked, oxygen deprived, we trudged back to the car. However, we were both, without question, completely satisfied. Looking back up at Dana, a massive bolt of brilliantly blue lightning ignited upon her busom. I shook my aching head, wondering what shade of ash that strike would’ve turned us. After eating a huge dinner at a small diner, we spent the night in a small campsite just outside of Saddlebag Lake. We would spend the next day fishing Tioga Lake, before driving 5 hours back home to the bay.

Although this summer may have flown by, it was undoubtedly very full; I shared many memories with a lot of great people. I came closer to my family, and came to appreciate my good friends before we all break apart to begin our lives in new places. Despite a few missed opportunities, a day wasted here or there on Netflix binges or sleeping in, it was far superseded by long hikes, beach days, eating way too much ice cream, and just appreciating what we have.

Because if I’ve learned anything, it’s that you have your family, your close friends, a few toys (like a kayak), your home, and the road. As long as you are finding new ways to bring all those things together, you really don’t need anything else.

Except maybe, the weather report to check for thunderstorms.

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them — that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” — Lao Tzu

This story is dedicated to my family, the Mitz’ and Ruiz’, the Delaneys, the Chioreans, the Andersons, the Phillips, the Patels, the Burrows, the McCues, and all others that have shared with me their time this summer — thank you for all of your tremedous amounts of love