In 1993, I made the acquaintance of a vivacious, bubbly young woman barely 20 years old. Gina had already lived several lives, in the euphemistic sense of the word. She had had the unfortunate experience of having to give up a new born, being too young to care for it, but had found a loving home in Hestia House. I don’t remember how we met, but it seemed that we’d never not known each other. She was the kind of person who didn’t know a stranger. In August, 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 nonplused to get a call from her father a few days later. (I’d never met nor spoken with her father). I listened dumbfounded as he relayed the story of how Gina (with boyfriend and dog in the car) had been slammed by a Mac truck that had lost control on black ice while descending Mt. Hood.
I was stunned. Everything seemed surreal in the days and weeks that followed. How could everything be snuffed out in a moment, including the future of her unborn baby? Her dreams and aspirations were so strong; she yearned so to live a full life. How could such a one no longer exist? For years afterward, whenever I went to the woods, I thought of Gina. And felt her presence, amongst the dryads and wood nymphs.