The Day I Met an Instagram Stranger

You probably wouldn’t know that I wanted this day to happen for quite some time. As someone who is committed to the hiking community through a series of personal posts, inspirational quotes and nothing but hiking and camping photos; I sat back and kept myself from joining the large crowds and hiking groups. For years, I watched friendships emerge from sharing the simple passion of hiking and being outdoors. It was beautiful to watch; two or more strangers, meeting for the first time, crushing goals and having the time of their lives.

When I first started hiking, I very much enjoyed going solo. I could hike my own hike, at my own pace and no one could tell me otherwise. I eventually wanted to experience what I’ve witnessed throughout the online hiking community, a random meet up. For so long, I wanted to experience what it felt like to meet up with someone whom I’ve never met but, kinda know and had been double tapping their photos on Instagram for inspiration; to also create new and awesome memories.

If you follow me on any social media, you will notice that I am not shy behind the computer screen and I stand tall with my keyboard but, the truth of the matter is, I have let the fear and anxiety of meeting new people hold me back for far too long. I have missed out on countless opportunities of adventure and to simply grow as a person, just by stepping out of that comfort zone.

I have been following Tiffany (@followtiffsjourney) on Instagram for a few years now. She was one of the first female hikers I started following when I joined and I was very inspired by her and her adventures. Besides the fact that our schedules never matched, it was the simple fear of meeting new people that held me back from really meeting her. “Will I be able to keep up?” “What if we don’t get along?” Those were just a few of a million thoughts that would run through my head whenever anyone asked to meet up. And as much as I wanted to, I was just too scared.

Being the founder of an online women’s outdoor platform, I feel blessed to be able to read and share the inspiration of 19k women who crush their goals and step out of their comfort zones daily. As I read these stories, I am inspired and understand that it’s okay to be uncomfortable. A big realization and a chance to step back to reevaluate my own life.

On Wednesday, July 18th Tiffany messaged me on Instagram and asked if I had plans for  that weekend. She was able to find wilderness permits for a place that I too, had been wanting to backpack. This was it, the moment of truth. Would I finally break that comfort zone? After 3 years, are we finally meeting up? I knew that if I wanted something bad enough, the only way to get it was to make it happen. I immediately responded: “I am so down!” Sent it. Boom. There was no turning back. I am no flake. This was really going to happen.

We exchanged numbers and started to text. She explained to me her plans and I couldn’t help but smile inside. She was JUST like me. She had everything all planned out and I literally didn’t have to plan at all. It was amazing. Although, she did forget to check the weather and that was the FIRST thing I had checked. She planned 4 days and 3 nights in the Ansel Adams Wilderness and unfortunately, each day there was a high risk of thunderstorms.

By Saturday morning at 5 am, I was parked in front of Tiffany’s house, all packed up and ready to go. She got into the car, we joked about how our first hike together was not a local 5-mile trail but, rather an epic 4-day backpacking trip in the Sierras! She even made me oatmeal cookies! From that moment on, it felt like we had known each other for a very long time.

And then, we were on the road to Mammoth! My favorite drive of all time.

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Our hike consisted of a 25-mile loop with about 2,110 ft. of elevation change and we knocked that out in exactly 48 hours!

We lucked out with the perfect hiking weather on our first day. The sun was in and out, the clouds were dark and thick and the views were like nothing I had ever seen. Our first day, we hiked a little over 7.5 miles to our first campsite at Ediza Lake. We arrived to camp a little later than planned since we got a late start but, we still arrived with about an hour or so of sunlight and amazing views. There were many hikers camping that night and luckily we were able to get a decent spot. We shared a delicious turkey sandwich on the trail before getting to camp so there was no need to make dinner. The sunset that night was beautiful and the colors were unreal.

The day was coming to an end and I had survived meeting a stranger from Instagram. I had zero complaints about the entire day and couldn’t have asked for a better one.

 

Predicted thunderstorms for Day 2 were the highest; yet, we woke up to clear blue sunny skies. We had 8 miles and one pass to cross to get to our next campsite. The morning was already warm and the mosquitoes were out and about but it was pretty difficult to complain in such a beautiful place. The hike itself was a little tough for me. Did I mention that my pack was 29 lbs.?! I was a little nervous about this pass that we had to cross and hoped we’d make it over before any kind of bad weather. We climbed the pass and was surprised with great views of Garnet Lake. The water looked amazing from up above and I decided that I was going swimming! Unfortunately, I wasn’t wearing my swimsuit and it was more likely to be at the very bottom of my pack. I threw off my boots, soaked my feet anyways and it felt great. Two or so miles to our destination for the day and the clouds started to roll in.

 

As soon as we reached the outlet of our destination, we heard a lot of thunder. The sky immediately got dark and we knew we had to set up our tents before it started to rain. I dropped my pack in search of a decent spot for both of our tents. As soon as I had the freedom to roam, I quickly found our home for the night and it was a pretty epic spot.

I have never seen people set up their tents as fast as we got ours up. All within about 5 minutes, it started to drizzle and everything was getting wet. We climbed into our tents to let the rain pass but the rain only got stronger by the minute. I was able to keep my rain fly open to watch the storm as it passed; just until it started to HAIL! The lightning was so close and bright I literally saw flashes through my tent. The mixture between the hail hitting my tent, the loud cracking of lightning and the loud rumbling of thunder, there was NO way I was getting out of my tent until the storm had passed. I’ll admit, I was scared since I had never experienced such a storm in the backcountry but, I had to be strong for the both of us. I kept reassuring Tiffany that we would be OK until she yelled out from her tent that she was getting flooded.

 

As soon as the storm allowed us to transport her gear into my tent, we did just that. I would say that the storm lasted about 25 minutes though it felt much longer. As soon as Tiffany got into my tent, the storm settled down and no joke, the dark clouds passed and the sun immediately appeared. People from all over camp yelled out in joy that the worst of the storm was over. We had just about an hour in a half before sunset and we needed to collect water from the lake for dinner.

 

Slowly, but surely we made our way out of the tent. We were surprised with a small blanket of hail covering the floor! I went down to the lake to collect water and we prepared Mountain House Chicken & Rice for dinner as we watched the dark clouds behind us and the sun reflecting off Banner Peak. We finished dinner and prepared to watch the sunset. The sky was already changing colors and hands down, was one of the most epic sunsets I have ever witnessed. The lake reflection basically doubled the sunset and the sky had never been so colorful. You wouldn’t even imagine what we had just experienced with that thunderstorm, the lake was just so calm.

 

Tiffany ended up sleeping in my tent that night. There was no way her tent would have dried in time. It was the end of the second day and the stranger I met from Instagram, was no longer a stranger to me.

I’m not sure why we didn’t stay another day, it would have been great to explore more of this magical place, especially without a pack. But I truly believe after what we experienced with last night’s thunderstorm, we were both ready to pack up and get a head start on our biggest day, 9ish miles out to complete the loop, but first…we swim! That’s right, we were not leaving until we jumped in! It was so perfect and just what we needed, a little refreshment for the hike out. The water was perfect! Okay, maybe a little cold, but if you think it’s going to be the coldest water ever, it doesn’t turn out to be too bad.

 

To complete the official loop, we connected with the High Trail and hiked out. The entire time we were hiking, we were the only ones (so it seemed) to be hiking the loop in the opposite direction. By doing this, we were able to see just how far we came since Day 1. The views from the High Trail had us feeling like we were hiking in another country! Although I am not going to lie, when we passed the junction to continue hiking along the flat River Trail, I was slowly dying inside. I just didn’t understand why we would continue hiking uphill when we needed to go down. From wildflowers to alpine lakes and not to mention, the majestic mountain range that surrounded us, I am so happy we chose to complete the loop via the High Trail.

 

We officially started hiking Saturday around 2 pm and we officially completed the Thousand Island Lake loop on Monday around 2 pm. The day was early and though backpacking came to an end, our road trip had not… for it was time to relax our tired bodies and soak in the hot springs!

 

For the longest time, I sat back and watched people come together, crush goals and have the time of their lives all because of the simple fact that I was too scared to put myself out there. After just one experience, I can say I am ready to venture out a little more as I prepare myself to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

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Vanessa is an outdoors enthusiast, hiker at heart, and the storyteller behind Forever She Wanders; a women's lifestyle + travel blog inspiring all to get outdoors, seek adventure and live an active lifestyle. As an avid hiker of nearly 7 years, Vanessa has found passion in being outdoors while backpacking, camping and hiking. Living in Southern California, she is lucky to able to enjoy the great outdoors right in her backyard.

5 thoughts on “The Day I Met an Instagram Stranger

  1. Such a fun story! It all came full circle! This is what I love the most about outdoor activities, they connect us to amazing human beings (let’s cross our fingers it remains this way!)

    Thank you for sharing this story and keep connecting to amazing and beautiful beings!

    Gaia 🙂

    Like

    1. Thank you for reading Naomy! I am so glad I found the courage to get out a little, looking forward to hiking with you someday!! ; )

      Like

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