This last Friday, Pedro and I headed over to Baxter Park in Maine to spend a weekend around the wood fire, accompanied by friends, and hike up Mount Katadhin in the early hours of Saturday. I had scheduled work off with advanced and was excited to get away and also to use my new Vasque hiking boots and backpacking bag (which I just purchased at Radical Edge for my trip to India in 2015).
I woke up very early on Friday morning and started bugging Pedro out of bed. After never-ending delays, such as doing laundry and being hungry and grumpy which leads to fighting, we finally hopped on Mateo (our Tacoma) and drove off. About thirty minutes from town, I realized that my post-graduate work permit was hiding somewhere in the storage unit. I complete forgot that I was no longer a student and my Canadian Student Visa was not posted on my passport and God forbid I get stuck in the United States. On our way back I could already start to feel the exhaustion of “not being able to get the f*** out of Fredericton quickly” (not that we not love it here, but we love it everywhere else too!). We made it home, I went through all my “immigrant do not throw away unless you want to be deported back to Costa Rica on a donkey” records and found my new $450 post-graduate permit.
We are next in line at the Houlton border.
“Where are you planning on going in the United States of America?” said the very well trained gringo as he suspiciously went through my Costa Rican passport.
“We are heading to Mount Katadhin,” said Pedro. I felt like he was a little nervous but I didn’t say anything. Being an immigrant is something you learn to be, and he’s most probably never going to be one. White people are welcomed almost anywhere no questions asked.
“How long are you planning on staying?” replied the gringo.
“Just overnight,” said Pedro.
“I’m gonna have to ask you to step inside,” said the gringo dead serious.
“Story on my life,” I murmured as Pedro drove into the “Clearance” section.
We walked into the border patrol office to find eight people in the room. A Scottish couple, three Asians and a newborn, a Mexican (accompanied by a Canadian woman) and, now, Pedro and I. No one told us anything as usual, immigrants do not deserve to know how long they are to be waiting (as if the eight hour wait to request a tourist visa every now and then wasn’t long enough). The patrol officer eventually grabbed my passport and scanned the small crowd trying to guess which one is the Costa Rican. When he looked at me, I smiled at him and he attempted to call out my name but his lack of culture spat out something far from the proper pronunciation. I stood up and walked over, Pedro following close behind. The officer looked through both of my passports scanning with detail each of my visas and stamps. The excitement builds in his stomach, “this might be an illegal immigrant, runaway prisoner, international drug dealer or known terrorist.”
“Aha, you’re in luck,” the gringo said once he spotted my ten year tourist visa.
Umm, I’m fairly sure that visa did not appear in there magically. I paid a lot of money and stood in line for hours, while some gringa kept yelling “go forward, go forward!” until we were breathing in each others necks, back to back like cows in a meat farm. I am not in luck, I have paid in many ways my right to enter your pretentious nation.
After he examined each of my fingertips and took a picture, in which I tried my best to give him by biggest smile (your social position will not undermine me), Pedro and I finally continued our trip to Baxter Park.
We arrived at a beautiful camping site, with some open camping spots and some wood cabins. No electricity, no private bathrooms, no running water. Just a wood cabin, a fire wood spot and a picnic table. I ran behind some trees praying to Lord Karma that I wouldn’t get bit in the ass as I squat down to urinate. I made our bed and came out to find Pedro striking up a fire. We made hot dogs and sat close to each other. The trees were tall and the ground was covered by red, yellow and brown leaves. The afternoon sun fell through the branches kissing softly the colourful ground below. We had maybe one more hour of light. Worried about were the others were, Pedro and I starting planning ways in which we could put all the beds together and have a super camping bed. Thankfully the others arrived pretty soon after that and they brought their kitchen. Gas stove, cutting boards, dish set, cutlery, coffee pots and lots of food. They also brought wine for which I was spiritually thankful. The fire warmed us up as we ate steaks, potatoes, carrots, asparagus, onions, peppers and fresh tomatoes. Eventually a pick up truck pulled up and Dave got down, the camp “janitor” as he likes to call himself (even though he’s the manager).
“You bunch sounded like you were having fun,” he said, “so I figured I’d come over and have some fun too!”
We offered him food and drink but he refused. He did reminded us of the hot tub though.
“Don’t forget clothes are optional,” he said. We all laughed while considering how much nicer it’d be if we were naked. At least I was. But men are less unlikely than women to be able to keep their junk together. So we all behaved and wore some type of clothing. The water was boiling and my body began to really relax and I submerged it in the tub. Stories were shared, questions asked and maybe some friendships even began to spark.
It was full moon, I awoke in the cold and Pedro was policing the sleeping bag we used as a cover. I got out of my liner and shook Pedro as I asked him where the location of his head lamp was. There was no way I was walking out that door without a light.
“Where is the head light?” I hissed one last time.
“Somewhere around there,” murmured Pedro as he finally came to consciousness.
Not a very effective response though. I threw things around until I finally got my hands on and secured it to my forehead. For some reason I could’t get the white light to function and only a red light came to my rescue. I opened the door. Surprisingly it was almost warmer outside than inside the cabin. I was still cold. I looked around for about five minutes in an attempt to discover the bear waiting to bounce on me, or the hungry wolf waiting to use me as his squeaky toy, or the psycho that likes to steal campers and eat them. Nothing. I walked slowly back to my tree, the one I used earlier, and realized it was in full view from the cabins. If anyone was awake and looking through a window… I walked farther into the woods and found a new tree. I was the wolf, I was the savage wolf marking its territory. My red light in my forehead was my third eye. I was a new, evolved creature. On the way back to the camp, I could see perfectly, the moonlight was strong and as I looked up at Mother Moon I felt very free. I was thankful for the beauty.
The night was horrible, I suffered from a lot of freezing my ass off. Yet in the morning, the boys had the fire going quickly and we were warm again. There were eggs, bacon, toast, potatoes, peanut butter, bananas, smoothies. We drove into Baxter Park and the street turned into a multicolour ribbon which surrounded the mountain, trees sneaking in the road to kiss the cars on the way, moving out of the way every now and then to take our breath aways with the view of the Katadhin. We were visiting a God.
We stretched and started hiking up the Katadhin around eight in the morning. The first hour I thought about turning back about twice. The hike was challenging. I was somewhat happy of the workout. The second hour I got a magical burst of energy and lead the group on our way up the path. Surrounded by trees, running chipmunks, and wetness. Eventually, the tress surprised us again and I started to realize why people hike up mountains this high.
The view was beautiful, this is what it felt like to be God. This is what Gods like Katadhin surrounded themselves of. This combination of mountains and valleys. The valleys had become to the twisting path on the way here, the colours interchanged between orange, mustard, green, brown and blue and grey for bodies of water. I was excited. I was inspired. I was growing older. I was becoming more aware. We climbed up the two sets of rock mountain on the way to the top and it wasn’t until the way down that I realized how scary it really was to hold on to a mountain next to a precipice. It was foggy and a bit chilly, but never too windy to discourage my heart. I took layers off and put them on over and over. We became squirrels on the hike and stopped to feast on nuts, grapes, apples, nut/coconut/granola bars. We filled out bottles on the running streams of fresh, cold and crisp water. We made friends with other squirrels. There was a man with a kilt and a bottle of Jim Bean who was finishing the Appalachian Trail. He smelled terribly but had the facial expression of a person without responsibilities or time. He was beautiful.
The last stretch was a fight, I was feeling burning in my buttocks and my calves. I was so close, there was no space for thoughts of return. I needed to touch that sign that said I did it, if it was the last time I ever touched anything. On the top of the mountain we had a picnic, sitting upon rocks and using the gaps as bottle holders. We ate hummus, crackers with sausage and cheese, raspberries, peanut butter, bananas, cookies, nuts, and chips. We drank power smoothies, water and vodka. Vodka with raspberries. I felt very accomplished, the view was astounding. I was on top of the world, and Pedro was standing next to me. We were on top of the world. He’d done this hike thirteen other times, I heard him say earlier. But this was the first time we both did it together. I very much value doing things together in my relationship, accomplishing little things or big ones. Planning a trip, buying groceries, eating in bed, cuddling, taking a walk, exercising, dreaming.
I was feeling very inspired until I realized I had about four hours on the way down. Although there wasn’t a breathtaking view at the bottom, there was Mateo’s warm seats. I held on to that thought on my way down. The energy was different. On the way up I was constantly struggling with my mind to continue pushing my legs and my energy, yet on the way down I was sort of levitating. I was scared in the rocks to misstep, but mostly I was stepping into the skin of a new me. A fearless hiker I found somewhere inside. I was more silent, more aware, more strong.
On the way home, I kept myself awake afraid that Pedro felt as exhausted as I was and would fall asleep on the wheel. Our car’s battery was drained and it made our trip much more difficult. But we stood together. At the border I was stopped by the Canadians, because I did not have a new visa (which is now under request). I assumed a work permit was enough to prove I lived here. I have studied, worked, lived, loved and changed in this country. This is my new home. It’s a strange feeling where someone does not recognize your home. Regardless, we made it over and drove home.
Pedro and I got into a hot shower and scrubbed our bodies off the fire smoke, sweat and dirt. We were sore that night. And the next two days. We made our bed and cuddled regardless of the pain. Of course we were sore, our bodies had changed and so had we.