March 12th

Today I went BACKPACKING

I may be very happy in the photo, but retrospectively the graininess of this phone’s front camera makes me sad 😦

I woke up with the sun, packed up my stuff, and started
walking into town. Luckily I was able to hitch a ride just beyond the
campground so I didn’t have to loose valuable trail time by walking along a
road.

Once in town I picked up a map and a bit more food to eat. Then
I sat in a café, eating a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich while my phone
charged. I also took this time to actually
download some of those yoga videos. And at 10am I started for the trail head.

My planned loop conveniently starts and ends in Halls Gap (click on the link for a map).
Since I’m going at it alone, I wanted to make sure I could meet Lita somewhere
easy for her to get to when I finished. The only downside is the trails around
Halls Gap were hella crowded due to the long holiday weekend and the same easy
I was taking advantage of. Although, the constant presence of people meant I
always had someone to ask to take a picture for me! So thank you, strangers,
for helping me document my hike.

I absolutely loved the geography and vegetation in this
area. I think Australia gets a bit of flack for not having tall, pointy mountains.
But their gentle slopes contain dramatic contours. And the flora is incredibly
varied. While yesterday I was seeing a lot of low level grasses and bushes with
scattered eucalyptus, today I saw a ton of green and all of it was taller than
me (I know, you’re thinking a short joke. HAHA VERY FUNNY).  

Venus Baths

Splitters Falls

On the way up to The Pinnacle

There were a ton of these thin sections that the trail wound through. This was the first one and it emptied of people just long enough for me to snap a photo. But every single passage after this one was not only thinner, but also filled with people. Several times I had to stand off to the side and wait several minutes for enough people to pass. Too many people! 

Seeeeeeeelfie

View from The Pinnacle

Selfie on The Pinnacle

I’m pretty sure Victoria is just a series of cool rock formations

Once I got past The Pinnacle the crowds disappeared. I still
saw people on the trail, just not constantly. I only saw one other person at
the Lakeview Lookout. And once I passed
Rosea parking lot I was pretty much alone. As I like it 🙂

I decided to push to Mt Rosea and then stop for lunch. While
the last few kilometers were tough (all the rock scrambling really wore out my
knees), it was definitely worth it. I found a comfortable spot and just
chilled, eating my lunch with the best view.

Lunch time

Uuuuuuhgn that view! 

Just as I was finishing up and mentally preparing to find a
spot to do my yoga for the day, a couple walked up and said hello. Being
friendly I said hello back and we struck up a conversation. I do not sounds
Australian, so they asked me where I was from. Per usual, after my answer of “I’m
from the States,” the woman asked “How do you like your new president?”

Now, let’s review. I am on top of a mountain. I just hiked
4 hours to get here. All I want is some quiet space to breath fresh
air, get dirty, and enjoy the view. I want to get sweaty, not talk politics. If
I wanted to talk politics I would be on my phone. But that thing is on airplane
mode for a reason. But I’m an American under a Trump presidency. So
eeeeeeeeeveryone wants to talk to the real-life American citizen about our
politics.

I get it. Really, I do. What happens in the US echoes around
the world. People watch us closely. And you know, for most of the last several
months (because this started back in October), I haven’t minded the
conversations. But recently they’ve grown weary. Everyone says the same thing.
I respond with the same explanations. They satisfy whatever curiousity they
have, and I get a little more weary having my countries issues thrown in my
face once again.

But I want to be polite. So I respond to the woman with a
simple “I don’t.”

Normally at this point the person I’m talking to comments on
a few areas of American politics, perhaps exclaiming dismay at how inaccessible
our healthcare is, how terribly we treat refugees, or how sexist, racist,
manipulative, and ridiculous our new administration is. For the first time,
however, I spoke to a non-American Trump supporter.

A Trump supporter who believed in taking money out of
education

Who believed the US should build the military up even more

Who said, direct quote (there are some things one doesn’t
forget hearing) “And it’s not the, the, the Mexicans
we need to worry about, but the Asains.
I mean, I’m not racist. There’s just so many people in China.”

Woah

Like, wooooooooooah

I just…

So I’m going to start with, if you have to say “I’m not
racist” then you’re racist. Not probably, but definitely. And let’s be real. We’re
all a little bit racist. Racism is built into Western culture. So we all gotta
check ourselves because racism is a real live thing. It didn’t just disappear
with the Civil Rights Act.

Second, anyone who’s tone has that much venom when speaking about
another people has some deeply rooted inner hatred.

Oh, and did I mention the couple were not actually from
Australia? Cause they weren’t. They moved to Australia from a socialist country
a couple decades ago in an effort to create a better life for their children.

So according to this woman, it’s perfectly okay for white
people to move in search of a better life, but nobody else can.

That’s called, you guessed it, RACISM.

This is the first time I’ve been confronted with such
blatant racism since I personally realized it did still exist. So I had no idea
how to respond. I just sat there in disbelief, wishing these people away and
off the mountain I had sought out in search of peace. I’m embarrassed and sorry
to say that I did not call her out on her hypocrisy and racism. I just didn’t
know what to say that would both educate her and end the conversation. Because
mountains are sacred. Mountains stand and watch over our stupid human issues,
knowing when we destroy ourselves they will outlive us.

To his credit, her husband clearly saw I wasn’t interested
in having this discussion. So he called his wife away and eventually she left.

I tried to find the peace that existed before she approached
me. But my mind couldn’t stop spinning. I picked a train that it could settle
on- developing ready to go statements to shut up racists and end political
discussions I’m not interested in having.

“Can we change the subject?”

“I am not going to discuss this.”

“That was a racist statement.”

I hope, the next time I’m confronted with a political discussion
I don’t want to have or someone who Is racist, that I step up and say
something. I think having these responses in the back of my mind will help.
Have any of you had such an experience? What do you do when you see racism?
What do you say to stop conversations you are not interested in?

Anyways, I think this was a perfect bell story moment*. So
in a universe in which I was a ranger once again and could tell a political bell
story, here’s what I would say:

SO THERE I WAS, ON TOP OF A MOUNTAIN IN VICTORIA AUSTRALIA,
WHEN A COUPLE WHO EMIGRATED TO AUSTRALIA FROM A SOCIALIST COUNTRY A COUPLE
DECADES AGO TO PROVIDE A BETTER LIFE FOR THEIR CHILDREN START LECTURING ME ON
HOW WESTERN COUNTRIES NEED TO CLOSE THEIR BORDERS, INVEST IN INDUSTRY, TAKE
MONEY OUT OF EDUCATION, AND PREPARE FOR NOT THE MEXICANS, BUT THE ASAINS. ALL
WHILE CLAIMING TO NOT BE RACIST. AND ALL I COULD THINK WAS…

I eventually did find quiet in my mind again. I selected a
flat-ish spot and worked through Revolution – Day 6 – Attention (and Abs) Practice. A very kind couple
helped me take this photo and shared some snacks. One last view from the top,
and I headed down towards camp- Borough Huts.

Once I got past the rock scrambling bit I just flew down the
trail. It was the perfect grade for hiking and the air was beginning to cool. I
got into camp around 7 and plopped down at a picnic table.

Despite my 23.36 kilometers (14.52 miles), I wasn’t very hungry. My appetite
usually decreases while backpacking, so it wasn’t a surprise. I had a dinner of
nuts (gifted from the kind couple on the mountain) and chocolate. I then set up
my tent and did some more yoga! Revolution – Day 7 – Stability Practice. Two videos, one day! Told ya I would catch up
🙂

Really, today was fantastic. It’s been a while since I last
just pounded out a bunch of miles. I’m covered in dirt and everything hurts a
little, but life doesn’t get better than this.

Thanks for putting up with such a long post. As a reward, here’s one more beautiful view. Love you all,
xxoo

*A Bell Story is a Philmont Ranger tradition. In front of
the dining hall in base camp there is a bell on a stone pedestal called the
Ranger Bell. Before every lunch and dinner, 4 rangers climb atop it. One lucky
ranger shouts a story beginning with “SO THERE I WAS” and ending with “AND ALL
I COULD THINK WAS.” At that point, all the other rangers start shouting the
Ranger Song/Chant which begins with “I WANT TO GO BACK TO PHILMONT.” A one
point the four rangers on the bell trust fall backwards and are caught by the
ones below. There is much hip-hip-hurrary-ing and general cheering. It’s all
very exciting. I find that former rangers (myself inluced) will often start
stories with “So there I was…” and, if there’s another former ranger around, we’ll
finish it “and all I could think was…” trailing off and sharing a smile with
others in the know.

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