Losing Gina

In 1993, I made the acquaintance of a vivacious, bubbly young woman barely 20 years old.  Gina had already lived several lives.  She had been forced to give up her new born several years prior, being too young to care for it, and had found a loving home in Hestia House. I don’t remember how we met, but it seemed we’d always been friends.  She was the kind of person who didn’t know a stranger.  In August 1991 we decided to hike the Rae Lakes Loop out of Cedar Grove, a challenging 41.4 miles long, and ascends 6943 vertical feet to 11,978′ at Glen Pass. High water at stream crossings can be a problem in May and early June. Glen Pass may be impassable to hikers until mid-late July and even later for stock.

The last real hike I’d done was in 1981, when I led a 130-mile, 10 day hike at Camp Unalayee.  I was a rookie counselor in Hiking Tribe, and remembered doing an 80 mile, 4 day “gonzo” hike as a 12 year old to Grizzly Lake and back from Mosquito Lake in the Trinity Alps.

We had some heart to hearts during those 3 days on the loop. Gina was pregnant again, and this time planned on keeping the baby.  She was in love with her boyfriend whose love of rock climbing was infectious. They planned on starting a family.  I loved the climbing wall they’d built in front of her childhood home, an Eichler on Ross Road in Palo Alto. Her bull mastiff weighed in at 120 pounds, considerably more than her petite 100 pound frame.

Gina loved to boulder, and scampered up the granite rocks like a native.  Her birthday fell on the 11th of August, during the annual Perseid meteor shower, and we were in the great outdoors celebrating both.  The bulk of the meteor showers always occur after midnight, and we did everything but use toothpicks to keep our eyes open.

A few weeks after returning from the trip, I left a message on her machine about getting together.  I was confused to hear from her father a few days later.  (I’d never met nor spoken with him). I listened dumbfounded as he relayed the story of how Gina, her boyfriend, and mastiff had been killed instantly while on the drive down from Mt Hood they hit black ice, and collided with a truck.

I was stunned.  My life suddenly seemed unimportant and my surroundings intangible.  I was 31, and still young enough not to have lost many people other than grandparents and a few other folk. How could their lives be snuffed out in a moment?  Her dreams and aspirations were so strong; she had shared her yearning to live a full life. For many years afterward, whenever I went to the woods, I thought of Gina.  And imagined her presence, as dryad or Devi.


6 responses to “Losing Gina

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