December 31st, 2015 began as I sat in a coffeeshop finishing up an application for the Peace Corps, had its crux when I stood on top of Castle Dome, with wind whipping snow particulates at myself and my camera, and ended up in a house playing cards against humanity, drinking cheap champagne, and petting cats.
First of all, yes I finally finished my application to the Peace Corps. It had a deadline of January 1st, and I beat it by about 15 hours. I sat in Roco (Rogue Valley Roasters) and thought about how realistically my chances were slim, as I have limited life experience, but it couldn’t hurt to apply. I kept eyeing my watch, as I was trying to time the day perfectly. If I wanted to go hiking and make it back in town in time, I would have to leave early. I stopped at the grocery store to pick up champagne (using my usual not-the-cheapest-but-not-the-most-expensive line of decision making when it came to buying alcohol I am not incredibly familiar with) and I started the drive.
It took me about an hour and half from Ashland to follow to windy mountainous stretch of I-5 that traverses the State of Jefferson, and I entertained myself by listening to a book on tape (The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith: set in Botswana, quite an entertaining read, or listen as the case may be). The sky was cloudless, quite the contrast to a few days earlier when I drove up to Ashland when vast, wispy ethereal behemoths lumbered above. It is relatively easy to find Castle Crags State Park. It is essentially right off the highway; brown signs guide you in and after you pay the entrance fee (yes, I used to just tear the part that you put in the windshield and conveniently ‘lose’ the payment part, but now I feel like I am contributing to something great: the American experience and the accessible outdoors) it is a twisted road to the trailhead. At the parking lot, there is a short hike to a viewpoint. This hike isn’t more than a quarter mile, and for someone who is on a tight time frame, this is an easy way to get some dirt under your shoes and some majesty in your photos.
After finding the trail, I set off to the dome. The trail would ordinarily be relatively easy – well maintained and the only difficulty being the elevation gain that had even me taking breaks to strip off layers and hydrate. This was also combined with a layer of snow, which was beautiful, but on the trail it had compacted to slick ice which had me struggling to keep my balance in places.
Near the top, I walked along the base of the granite giants, with steep slopes beside me and snow to trudge through. I realized that I was not adequately dressed, and once my cloth pants got wet they simply stayed wet. However, the view from the top was completely worth it. Normally, I would stay, picnic, and even attempt to hike up some of the craggy peaks. However, as beautiful as the surrounding sights were, my wet hands (wet from losing my step and attempting to brace myself when falling in the snow) (I had gloves, but I took them off to use my camera) made my stay at the top short. I hiked as far as I could, with each step I knew I might sink or slip, and indeed in a few places what seemed like a casual step had me in snow up to my knees. The wind also whipped up snow, shaving the loose bits from the top of the snowpacks and flinging them about haphazardly. With the sun beginning its decent, I thought I should do the same, and hastily began down the trail.
What took me two hours to hike up took me half of the time to go down, and I only saw about 6 other travelers the whole day. I got to my car, shedded my wet socks and clothes, and blasted the heater on high. On the way back home, I stopped to get some warm coffee which helped as it seeped through my cold body.
I spent New Years Eve at a good friends house, one of the best hostesses around who spoiled us as we played Cards Against Humanity and the 5 second game and just talked about nothing and everything. Champagne flowed like water and our conversations meandered and we rung in the new year with lots of shouting and music and pizza.
I had a lot of time to look back on my 2015. It had begun in Southern California, with old friends and new, exploring Hollywood, L.A., and Oceanside. I had explored Seattle on my own, almost making it to Vancouver, BC. I had been to 3 weddings, all my friends growing up faster than I, attended the funeral of a bandmate that I sat next to and knew his family. Camped at the coast, backpacked for the first time, moved to Ashland and said goodbye to my old roomates, gained new friends and lost old ones, been to only one concert, finally got spotify premium, drank too much coffee to count, and begun working where I work now at the Y. This year was not overly dramatic, no great sea changes in my life, but lots of little steps and adventures and explorations and loves and experiences. I am not sure if I am ready for 2016, although to be fair I never really had a chance. I am glad that I have surrounded myself with good friends, and know that I am just collecting a string of memories so that one day I can look back on my life and not regret a damn thing. I have to keep moving forward, in perpetual positive motion, because I know that I am not searching for meaning in my life, I am creating it every single day. 2016 will come and go, just like any other year, and I’ll do my best to make memories and bonds and chase life.
Goodbye 2015, hello 2016.
Until next time, never stop adventuring.