Who is Sina and why was I planning a hike with her?
When we lived on the Elsoff place, I went to school with Sina during our first and second grade years at Young Elementary, a 4 room, 4 grade school in rural Bend, Oregon. When we moved to the Walker place, also in Bend, Sina became my best friend. We lived across the pasture from one another and rode the bus to Pilot Butte Elementary together. When I was not at her house, she was at mine. We rode horses, waded in ditches, walked, balancing precariously, on top of our swaying corral poles, created a make-believe (but very real to us) farm community with plastic animals and blocks, and played tag in the tops of the trees in our front yard—until Sina nearly fell out and did rip her arm open. (If you see her, ask the see the scar. It is still gnarly.) We were best of friends and almost inseparable…until my family moved from Bend to Madras the August before I entered 7th grade.
Kindred spirits stay connected. Except for a three brief visits--when my basketball team played hers in 9th grade, when we stopped in Reno on the way to a family reunion and when she stopped in SLC on the way to Moab—we have not seen each other since my family moved from Bend. But we have stayed in touch via Christmas cards, frequent Facebook likes and rare emails. More significantly, Sina continues to occupy a very special place in my heart.
A permanent resident in my heart, Sina was also a frequent occupier of my thoughts earlier this year. Knowing that she is an avid hiker and that Lisa, her soulmate and hiking companion, passed away last April and hoping she would welcome an excuse to get out of the city, I invited myself on a hiking/backpacking trip with her in the Reno area this summer. And she said yes!
Then the doubts began….. We haven’t seen each other for years and lead very different lives. I am in education; she is in the medical field. She is single and lives in a spotless house; I am married with children and live in chaos. She does not participate in formal worship; I am completely immersed in my faith. After we caught each other up on our families, what would we talk about?
I prayed about my concerns. Later, in the Book of Mormon, I read Alma 58:11 "Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord our God did visit us with assurances …. yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls….." And He spoke peace to my soul, giving me the assurance that it will be alright.
And it was alright. Much more than alright actually. It was totally awesome. I am a reluctantly social person; honestly I am more comfortable being by myself than I am interacting with others. Turns out Sina feels like I do. Though we both do well alone, we also did great together. Great! What did we talk about? Everything. She knows my Grace is learning twi (and why), Chick works the graveyard shift (and why), Tanah lights up rooms (and why), and Miles has a razor-sharp tail bone and is spoiled (and why). She knows I love Lance and why. I know she loved Lisa and why. She and Lisa did 60 miles hikes like they were a stroll around the block, could sit on a bridge and chat for hours, and shared a love for cleanliness, hard work, the medical field, and morning coffee. I know she works with “kids” (20+ year old young adults who frequently cause her to shake her head), that her neighbor Tim is a diesel mechanic with a separated clavicle, and that her nephew is a train engineer and has 3 gun cases.
While the most delightful part of my visit with Sina was the conversation, we also had some great adventures. She took me to the Lakes Basin in northern CA where we backpacked into and hiked around stunningly crystal-clear lakes and, the first couple days, enjoyed crystal-clear, bright blue skies.
The second night, as we fell asleep, she said “We’ll probably have a bear tonight; we usually do when we camp here.”
Yep. We had a bear in camp. A little after 1:00 I awoke to a loud snap, caused by the breaking of a large branch. Judging from the size of the sound, the branch had to be at least the size of my calf. The branch snapping sound was followed by several other large-creature-walking sounds. I was lying on my back and didn’t move, not wanting to draw attention to myself. In my peripheral vision, I would see Sina, who was lying beside me, watching the situation. We had not put the rain fly on our tent so, through the mesh, she could easily see what was happening and watched the bear amble past. She did not seem to be alarmed so I was not either. “When she starts to freak out, then I will be concerned,” thought I. When she rolled over and went back to sleep, so did I.
A couple hours later, I awoke with a start when Sina said my name. I thought the bear was back. “We might have to pack up and leave now,” she said. Smoke had moved in. We could no longer see the lake, the moon was blood red, and the silhouette of the trees was shrouded by smoke. “I am not sure I will be able to find the trail in the dark if we leave now, but it might be worse if we wait, and we won’t be able to find our way out in the morning either. What do you think?” Remembering how I got lost in the Grand Canyon when I hiked in the semi-dark, I told her we should stay in bed until dawn. She agreed and went back to sleep.
We got up at 5:30 and easily had enough light hike out. We could not see across the lake and the mountain tops were entirely obscured but seeing to hike out was not a problem. When Sina’s mother learned that I was coming to visit she said to Sina, “Be careful. You and Teresa get into trouble when you are together.” Thankfully we were not in trouble--not with the bear, not with the smoke—but we did leave so as NOT to get into trouble. Turns out two big fires in the area had converged so we exited the mountains, returned to Reno, ate some fabulous food, watched a 13 year old win an Olympic gold medal in street skating, and walked the “Four Sisters” in her Reno subdivision, all in the hazy, smoke-filled skies of fire season.
Sina said things might get tricky because of fire season. I dismissed what she said but learned for myself that she was right. Her warning was relevant; one could say “largely” relevant. Fire season is real. And so is friendship.
Thank you, Sina, for being a real friend.