It wasn’t the longest drive we have ever done. Only 13 hours. Meager compared to the 30 hours we’ve driven 5 times in our lifetime. My mom in the passenger seat, and me at the wheel, I was captaining this epic road trip to Squaw Valley, California. Never hearing of this place before, I had no idea what to expect. All we really knew was its’ proximity to Lake Tahoe and promise of a break from the 100 plus degree weather in Phoenix, Arizona.
Along the drive, we encountered intriguing scenes. From a desolate, tiny, abandoned motel, wild donkeys with a lackadaisical trot to our car window for a brief petting, to an Alien 51 information center including an alien brothel. Of course, we had to get information for the storm happening this year! All in all, the drive was well worth our time, and we got to bring as much camping gear as we desired. If we had known what all to bring!
Upon arrival, we were fatigued but with overwhelming excitement we scoped out the area fairly quickly. Lugging our items to the information tent, we find where to check in, and head to the gondola, or air trolley, to High Camp. Our first time on a machine like this, we were a bit fearful of going to an elevation of 8,200 feet in the air suspended on a pulley rope system. Walking out to the camp, winds were at a high of 50 miles per hour. With our fatigue, and our small amount of experience setting up a tent, it took us screaming matches, multiple tries, and 8 boulders to get the tent secured to the ground. Unable to blow up our air mattress due to dead batteries, we throw our belongings in the tent and go in search for long-awaited libations and a hearty meal. We quickly decided that the nearby restaurants were way too over-priced for our budget and would not be our choice for the rest of the trip. Our first night in the tent was a little rocky, literally sleeping on the rough terrain, but the expansive views we saw in the morning of surrounding mountains, wildflowers, and Lake Tahoe, made all our pains melt away.
The first day we had at the festival, we planned a late morning hike to Shirley Lake and further to High Camp. Right from the start, there were tall, looming trees emitting the fresh scents accompanied by waterfalls every few minutes. The group was practically running up the mountain, so we kicked back and went at our own pace. We played in cascades, climbed on fallen trees, and got lost numerous occasions. There was a point where they give a warning. “If you are tired, out of water, or out of snacks, turn back now.” Apparently, the elevation increased quickly and heavily after that point. Although we were apprehensive, and pretty much associated with every warning on the sign, we kept going. We aren’t quitters.
Stumbling back into camp a little over 6 hours later, we trudged to the pool party. The pool party had snow-capped mountains as a back drop, a House DJ, a bar, and people doing acroyoga in the pool. This was the best pool party I had ever attended. Good thing they had one every day at the festival! The rest of the day consisted of scavenging for food solely because we hadn’t explored the grounds enough yet. That night, Above and Beyond was playing on the main stage. The night came alive with flow toys, dancing bodies, and water bottles filled with wine. The laser show was phenomenal, even projecting a blue sky with clouds and words in the mountain behind.
Reality hit us like a brick the second day using the club bathrooms and showers. The breakfast didn’t include any meat, so mom was distraught. She had also gone to sleep in the velvet room, the name we dubbed a random room in the clubhouse. This was after our tent was practically broken. She also felt the need to sneak beef jerky in the tent. Our tent neighbor, Shelly, decided to take us under her wing. We all went to the food co-op. We would’ve never found that. Around noon, we attended a journaling yoga class which consisted of 2-minute journaling in between flows. This was an introspective and personal experience. My mom did her best in the yoga sequences like the champ she is. I have to admit a bit of inner hilarity ensued while watching, but it’s all about doing your best and what serves you. After that, we shopped around and went to a coffee house acoustic session featuring a woman who was on American Idol apparently. She had pipes like all the famous people on the charts and it was a blessing to hear her belt them out with impromptu, freestyle verses.
Later, we of course attended the pool party where we got body painted and danced for an hour or two. Somehow lost mom along the way. But, we found her again soon after. She is a trooper for sure. That night we somehow made it to watch Thievery Corporation, although sitting the entire time. Shelly left that night back to San Francisco. My mom and I straggled to the air trolley.
The next morning we realized that we had to have our camp packed up by 5 PM… We thought we had another night until we saw everyone packing up their tent. In the morning, we attended a mother/daughter hike intended to connect daughters to their actual mothers or mother Earth. Hiking through wildflower meadows, we were instructed to hold silence for the entirety of the hike. We were told to look for a flower that encompassed the spirit of our mothers or daughters. Walking through, looking at the faces of the flowers, I went through a few until I found one that reminded me of my mother. A bold, bright, bodacious red wildflower. It showed her never-ending stride in life, the perseverance, compassion, and willpower she held. It showed her commitment to being who she was no matter the circumstance. These characteristics and thoughts made me realize how much I respected my mother and how I didn’t always show it. When we got to a certain point, we were told to find a spot on the ground to sit back to back. I found us a shady shot in the grass. Back to back, I could feel the stable, grounding, connection of nature and my mother. From here, we did a listening exercise where we got to hold a rock we found nearby and speak for 2 minutes each and pass it on with a minute reflection in between. We shed tears of happiness, sadness, and understanding. By the end of this hike, I had never felt as close to my mother. We had chipped away at our walls and differences and closer to understanding each others viewpoints. Getting back to camp, we were holding hands, as we often did, but with more conviction.
Our last event was a yoga session to Above and Beyond’s new yoga DJ album. Surrounded by around 500 people doing yoga was an indescribable experience and connection. There were men, women, children, exuding happiness. The music consisted of light tones of nature and beats, perfectly in tune with the challenging yoga flow. Leaving the session renewed, we packed up our tent. It was way easier than getting it up.
Driving away was bittersweet. It was one of the first experiences my mother and I had together. Not only did we get closer to each other, but we were more rooted in community and consciousness in the present. The Wanderlust festival in Squaw Valley is a life-changing experience that I hope to attend again.