It could've been any number of lakes with any name in that wilderness, but this one was on their trail. They sat by the shore, their shoes off, packs still strapped, watching the clouds. They were far from the last person They'd seen, days possibly, and nothing felt better.
It was the last week of July, 2006. None of them had wives, children, ex-wives, PhD's, or mortgages yet. Antonio told himself to remember that moment of complete peace as he watched the ice cold lake breath, lapping his feet with glacier water, clouds above growing then disintegrating, the pines and sequoia's swaying against the enormous blue rocks. He felt small.
The thought of never returning crossed his mind, as I'm sure it crossed theirs.
Dan had been struggling with the hike since they started. He and Greg had bought top of the line packs and filled them with every REI accessory available. Dan convinced himself he was in the early stages of altitude sickness. He and Nick knew he had way too much shit in his pack.
I can't do this. His words just loud enough for them to hear.
What do want to do?
Um... He labored for words. I just wanna take off this pack.
Don't take it off shithead! You won't want to put it back on.
Dan took off his pack anyway, they peeled it off, lightened his load, spreading the excess ballast among them. He took Dan's bear canister. Greg and Nick each took a compression sack.
They continued hiking for several hours under shade of old pines, over million year old granite, and into flowered meadows where the narrow worn trail was two feet deep in places, a slop of mud in certain spots, old footprints and the scent a wildfire some miles away.
The evening soon caught up with them along with the punishing weight they'd taken from Dan's pack. They stopped by a cliff's edge. Antonio took off his pack, stuffed his lip with snuff and pulled out Dan's bear canister from his pack. Why was this motherfucker so heavy?
What the fuck is this?
Nick and Greg walked over as he pulled out two cans leeche fruit, a can of coconut milk, and several avocados.
Holy shit man!?
Greg and Nick broke into laughter. Antonio handed his friends the avocados and walked over to the cliff, hurled the three cans of excess into John Muir's wilderness. Dan just watched, never moved from his spot, no protest. The others went back to their packs, pulled out Dan's extra weight, camera equipment, novels, clothes, a mini spice rack, and other knick-knacks.
They ate the avocados, packed up and started their five mile trek up a stone staircases and switchbacks built generations ago. They made their way into the dusk and eventual darkness, reaching a snow packed saddle. Twenty mile an hour winds and a sign announced their next direction, another lake, 2 miles to the right in complete darkness. It was close to midnight.