The View from Up Here: Lessons in Happiness from a Sierra Teen
Step 1,427 felt heavier than step 1,426, but lighter than I knew step 1,428 would feel. I hadn't been counting each step the whole time, just since going off trail. Of course, there was no actual trail in Squaw that Friday, just lines of heavier packed snow. But the packed snow had started to bore me, it seemed that whomever made them lacked my enthusiasm for heights and had simply hugged the walls of the valley instead of exploring them. I wanted the adventure of exploration, so I turned upward. Walking straight up to Silver Peak made for a difficult hike; so to take my mind off my chosen route I started counting my steps. In each step I pressed my feet deep into the snow to avoid slipping. I was pleased with my decision to leave my skis behind, for they would have made the trek up much more precarious.
At step 1,435 I stopped. I wanted to reach the crest of the hill before my next rest stop, but I had something more important to do. I had finally risen high enough above the tree line to get a good view of Squaw’s backside. From where I stood I could see it all; the dramatic drops of Silverado, the gentle rolls underneath Shirley, even the lift lines I seem to always find myself stuck in. My chest expanded, feeling ready to burst with glee, for this is my happy place. It’s not just the views of Silver Peak or Squaw, but being outdoors in the Sierra. A selfie to capture the moment was absolutely essential.
Growing up in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada has shaped who I am today. It has fostered my passion for adventure and an understanding of my place in this great big world. It has taught me innumerable lessons, paramount of which is to love and nurture the area I live in. For no matter how many times I see it, a sunrise at Squaw will always humble me, views during my school lunch break will never get any better, and no matter how many times I hike to Loch Leven Lakes or into Desolation Wilderness, I feel the same sense of exhilaration as the first time I was there. This beauty is what inspires me to get out of bed every morning and it is what drives my aspirations.
As I contemplate step 1,436, I have but one thought on my mind: Whenever you, I, or anyone else has the opportunity to seize adventure in a place we know and love, we must take it. For if we don't, what were all those previous steps for?
Hailey Sinoff is a junior at Truckee High School, a weekend ski coach at Squaw Valley, and a full time dancer at Truckee Dance Factory. In her spare moments, she can be found sneaking into the Tahoe backcountry with her dogs, and of course her phone for selfies.