One night after we’d returned home, I woke up from a dream with some words echoing in my head and I scribbled them down. In the morning I didn’t remember writing them and in fact—since they were written in the dark—could hardly make them out: “If you see a distinction between the genders, it does not make you sexist.” I don’t know who said it; I’m certain I didn’t just grab it from the ether, but there you have it.
That was after.
My wife and I signed up for the REI Labor Day hike on the Western Trail to Mt. Whitney months ahead of time. As you probably know, Mt. Whitney is the highest peak in the contiguous 48 states, at 14, 505 feet—give or take, and depending on who’s measuring. And on the Sunday before the holiday we were to meet our group close to the Cottonwood Lakes trailhead. So we were there. We were on time and in the right place and looking for them.
We did see a group of women all gathered together with gear neatly stacked on an old grey canvas tarp at the pack station and there were horses and mules and a couple of cowboys hoisting duffel bags and heavy aluminum boxes. “Can’t be our group,” I said to Andrea. “Looks like some kind of women’s outing.”
A tall, young guy, lean and built like a rock climber—powerful forearms and sinewy legs—walked up to us. I noticed that his shoes were untied. “Do you guys need some help?”
“Sure. We’re looking for the REI group.”
“You found it. They’re all getting their stuff ready down by that big tarp.”
Was it too late to cancel? “Oh man; it’s a chick trip.”
Andrea stood silently for a moment and then her grey-green eyes went the color of a forest when a misty fog descends on it. She turned away.
I took her arm and faced her. “What is it?”
She nodded toward the group just below us. “No guys for you to hang with? I’m afraid you’re just going to hate this.”