Pacific Crest: Mile 1381

“…ready?”

“No wait, just a second…”

We were standing on top of Mt. Lassen, the sun had just slipped over the horizon, but still lit the sky in a vibrant red glow.

“Ok…ready now?”

Everyone nodded.

“…Go!”

The cameras started blinking, each counting out their timer as the five of us bolted away, kicked our legs into the air and slapped our bellies. We danced like drunken clowns on a rocking ship. The less rhythm the better. That’s the secret to dancing the Fanafanu, a made up dance designed for humor over rhythm.

And laughter, always laughter. When I remember that night, it’s not the setting sun, not the wind ripping across the peak, not the distant silhouettes of mountains, but laughter, simple, pure, laughter.

As the bulbs began popping to life, flashing here and there, no two timers exactly the same, I felt my foot land on an odd rock. My ankle rolled to the side and pain shot up my leg.

I collapsed to the ground rather than put any weight on it and lay there, afraid to move, afraid to find out if I’d done any real damage. My friends danced on, unaware I’d fallen, laughter still filling the air.

What was I doing up there on that mountain? It’s not even part of the trail, just a side trip that I joined on a whim. What a stupid way to end my hike–hurt jumping around doing a silly dance on top of a mountain I never needed to climb.

Laughter, laughter, everywhere laughter.

There’s more to this trail than a simple line through the sand. It’s not about completion or walking every inch, not about how many miles you cover in a day or what your pack weighs, not about where you started or when, but it is about laughter.

Sometimes I forget that.

It gets lost in an obsession for miles or a race to the next town. I’ll forget hundreds, maybe thousands of miles along this trail, but I’ll never forget the top of Lassen. The five of us goofing off, Girlscout’s bright, almost glowing Hawaiian shirt, Teatree’s beer hat and electric beat playing mini-guitar, Cloudspotter’s cowboy hat complete with turquoise flair, Squatch’s bigfoot yells echoing through the night, and that silly dance on top of the mountain.

And me, lying there, wondering if it was the end, surrounded by laughter. Most of it was my friend’s, but some of it, even then, before I knew I’d be alright, some of it was mine.

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