Hopping through mountains

I was on all fours, taking tiny, careful steps to stabilize my body on top of slippery crushed rocks underneath me. Every time I moved my feet, stones and pebbles rolled downhill.

I looked up the mountain slope to see which way to go next. But the ground was so steep ahead of me, it was hard to clearly see where the trail led.

The blinding afternoon sun stared back at me every time I raised my head, burning my exposed face, chest and arms. I breathed in and out, taking a moment to calm down my racing heart, and continued upward. The 3,849-foot summit peak of Mount Diablo was just within reach, and my hiking buddies and I weren’t about to give up.

Taking a break on the way to the summit of Mount Diablo on March 12.

At last, after 6 miles of hiking and two hours of driving, over 100 miles of land opened up to us at the top.

To the west, visible chunks of Pacific Ocean and the San Francisco Bay glistened in the sun, and the Golden Gate Bridge peaked out of the usual San Francisco haze. To the north, a cluster of windmills spun on a side of green hill.

And a long wall of jagged, snowy mountain tops lined up along the horizon to the east.

The Sierra Nevada mountain range.

As a former flatland resident, I’ve written about my newfound love of hiking, which I’m currently trying to dedicate to at least one weekend per month. The San Francisco Bay Area has amazing trails all around, and climbing Mount Diablo this past weekend was just the latest highlight for me. Yup, I’d wake up at 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning to see that view anytime again.

But, in my opinion, being in the midst of those snowy mountain tops of Sierra Nevada is a whole other experience. Even gazing at those beauties from over 150 miles away leaves a lasting impression.

My dad and I took a trip to Lake Tahoe over one weekend in November for my birthday and drove through dozens of miles of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. On our way back, we decided to go south and drive through the Yosemite National Park.

Somewhere on the drive through the Yosemite National Park in November 2016. (Alex Shashkevich Photo)
Mountains and the afternoon November sun in the Yosemite National Park.

I’ve never seen such tall, massive mountains in my life before. My family has taken trips to Colorado a couple of spring breaks in the row in the past, and Colorado’s mountains are gorgeous.

But Yosemite’s peaks were on another level. As we drove through the east-west Tioga Road that crosses the park, we couldn’t help but stop several times to take in the views.

There is something about mountains that I can’t put my finger on. Every crest has one bright side that’s lit up by the sun, and another that lies in the shadow.

Mountain peaks seen from another mountain near South Lake Tahoe. (Alex Shashkevich Photo)
I attempt to remember my gymnastics poses at a stop in the middle of the Yosemite National Park.

When I gaze at the mountain slopes and their peaks, I get this exhilarating feeling, a primal desire, to climb and reach the top of each crest, where shadow meets light, to see what’s on the other side.

At the same time, calm inspiration overtakes me. It’s amazing to witness these magnificent creatures of nature, friction and time.

My experience in the Sierra Nevada made me remember my beloved J.R.R. Tolkien’s character Bilbo Baggins. Longing to leave his comfortable home in peaceful Hobbiton, he said, “I want to see mountains again, Gandalf, mountains.”

I know what he meant. They’re addicting.


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