Love Above Ten Thousand Feet

Last week, I think I fell in love all over again.

I’m not exactly sure if it was with a “who” or with a “what”. Maybe it was with both? But it happened, and it started above 10,000 feet of elevation in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. So... what exactly happened?

That feeling happened.

Photo by  @andymcnasty

Photo by @andymcnasty

You know, that feeling when you first allow love to slowly take over your system after some sort of connection, interaction, or exchange. All this time I thought I was already in love with the great outdoors, but for some reason, this recent experience re-opened my soul, knocked me out, took me to another level, and had me seeing stars, literally. It felt different, yet familiar.

Was it just a reminder of some sort, resurfacing it’s way to the top? Perhaps.

Was it the altitude sickness affecting my brain? I wouldn’t doubt it.

Was it mutual? Hmm... no clue. I unfortunately did not stick around long enough to ask.

But also, who says falling in love has to be with someone? We can all be capable of falling in love with a new city, a new country, a dog, song, a best friend, a restaurant, our craft, our home. Love can be anything. Love can be free.

And my heart as of late, has never felt this free in a long time. More wild, open, fluid, adaptable, and constantly curious.

I may have just fallen in love with this recent experience I had in the wilderness - which includes everything and everyone that was involved, intertwined with my childhood memories coming into the forefront.

Photo by  @omgwtfevo

Photo by @omgwtfevo

Before I wrote this, I had finally finished unpacking my clothes out of my backpack, still heavily fragrant in campfire smoke, skillet-cooked meats, and burnt almond wood. My trip consisted of spending four days in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains, approximately 6 hours away from where I live, disconnected from civilization, internet, traffic, and city pollutants.

Photo by  @alexcalish

Photo by @alexcalish

We set up our home away from home next to Saddlebag Lake, which, on the opposite end nearly 2 miles away, holds the entrance to the 20 Lakes Basin in the Hoover Wilderness. To our west, the Tioga Pass entrance to a side of Yosemite I was excited to finally experience.

Along with me were 17 other colorful strangers & friends. We came together to unplug, and to strip ourselves of everything that society defined us to be. You put a handful of wild souls together from all over the map for several days, high above the treeline, and some beautiful things are bound to happen.

And something did happen.

So while it’s still fresh in the head, this is my brief poetic attempt in explaining my current state, in retracing my footsteps, in sharing my observations, in connecting the dots, and then, just letting it be...

Photo by  @alexcalish

Photo by @alexcalish

So what exactly is my “love above 10,000 feet?”

In no special order...

It’s the weather playing mind games with you. Bi-polar, unapologetic, mysterious. No matter the circumstance, you’re prepared to either fight back or simply give in.

It’s pure, unfiltered, clean air. So fresh, that you’ll feel a tinge of suffocation when you return home because it instantly reminds you of something you’ve been living without for years.

It’s when the temperatures reach below freezing, and you accept it nonchalantly, because you have both the campfire and someone’s body warmth to make it all OK.

It’s your entire squad being unexpectedly separated in the open wild, and finding your comfort in a new friend.

It’s the moment when you realize that you’re going to be that last person falling behind on the trail. And when you look up, you find your friends adjust their pace to your level and push you all the way to the top.

Photo by  @omgwtfevo

Photo by @omgwtfevo

It’s having an out-of-body, emotional experience simply by practising yoga outdoors. Natural ground with no mats, nature’s soundtrack and the scents of the Earth.

It’s meeting that married couple, whose support for each other is so addictive, adorable, and genuine, that it makes you rethink your own doubts on love & relationships.

It’s instantly connecting with someone for the first time, excited that by the end of the trip, you’ll be going home to the same county.

It’s also instantly connecting with someone for the first time, and then realizing that you’ll be going home to two different sides of the country.

Photo by  @omgwtfevo

Photo by @omgwtfevo

It’s the sounds of water boiling in a pot, food sizzling on a cast-iron skillet, and coffee beans being ground by hand, ready to provide you fuel for your next trek.

It’s the childlike wonder. It’s re-entering your childhood, and re-living the memories of your family camping trips.

It’s meeting one of your best friends during your teenage years, growing up through your twenties, and finding yourselves together out here in your thirties.

It’s the mountains welcoming you, demanding your respect, and then embracing your every footstep.

It’s all the frustrations while trying to figure out the answers of childlike camp games.

Photo by  @omgwtfevo

Photo by @omgwtfevo

It’s reuniting with friends you haven’t seen in a few years. It’s reconnecting with people who were meant to be in your life.

It’s jumping in the lake no matter how crazy it seems or how cold the water is, and coming back out with all of your senses fully stimulated.

It’s waking up next to your friend cuddling with your pack, and then low-key wishing it was you instead because you’re freezing your a** off.

It’s relishing the moments with your group in slow motion.

It’s the simple joy of having theme days (i.e. flannel day) on your trips, no matter how old you are.

It’s those surprisingly deep talks you share with someone as you make your way back to your campsite, and then slowing down your pace because you just don’t want the conversation to end.

It’s live music around the campfire and on the trails.

It’s your new friend giving you a personal kayak lesson, no matter how many times you think you know the way. It’s that friend who chooses your safety first over everything.

It’s the altitude completely wiping you out, and then suddenly breathing life back into your system.

It’s cleansing your whole being, while laying inside a natural hot spring.

It’s when you disconnect to reconnect with your soul through nature.

It’s the continuous flow of learning, growth, and acceptance that the outdoors can provide.

It’s the feeling of being humbled just by looking above and beyond. That personal reminder of how small of a speck you are in this world.

It’s the million stars sky high above your head, with nightly viewings of the Milky Way Galaxy and shooting stars so close you can feel it’s speed.

Photo by  @andymcnasty

Photo by @andymcnasty

It’s when all of your personal expectations and all of the world’s distractions quietly fade into the background, and you’re able to finally see the forest past the trees.

It’s when you live for these moments. For newness. For that next adventure.

It’s when you realize that going outside...simply feels like going home.

Written by Philip Cariaso Jr, a THISWORLDEXISTS Ambassador. Check out more of Philip's adventures on Instagram: @philipislost

Photos by @omgwtfevo, @christopherkhoitran, @andymcnasty, @alexcalish. Click their usernames to follow their photography on Instagram.