By John Tallmadge
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At times we felt like middle-aged people gazing sadly at their own fat in the mirror. Complex emotions of alienation, self-consciousness, and longing marked the real start of our expedition. And the mood carried over into that first night on the trail. I hardly slept, giddy with altitude and expectation. The mountains felt both familiar and alien. I was eager to get moving yet fearful of the long climb ahead. And next morning, as I sweated and groaned up the switchbacks, I realized just how out of shape I was.
My friend hugged his parents and slipped behind the wheel. As we backed into the street, I felt our journey begin as smoothly as the launching of a canoe. We glided past large, elegant homes that showed no inclination to movefor in this town the money was as old as the treesand entered a thoroughfare clogged with rush-hour traffic. It was an unobtrusive beginning. The maze opened without a sound, and we entered intent on the path ahead, never imagining which turns would eventually give our journey its true shape.
No place was sacred anymore. Why travel, then? I hardly knew. I was tired of the Plains and oppressed by memories and dreams. I wanted more than anything else to get out of that car and take the second step onto the trail. I hardly cared where the journey might end. The road offered no escape, just paradox. But the mountains still beckoned, and the mountains had never let me down. Page 20 Chapter Two The John Muir Trail I stepped out of the car in a parking lot ringed by huge white boulders. It was four o'clock in the afternoon, but the sun had already gone down behind the shoulder of Mt.