David, Jake and I just finished hiking 25 miles for the day--- climbing 900 feet, descending 2,000, then up 1,000 feet.
In the morning, the boys sprint off like foxes sniffing out the trail. They're typically two minutes ahead of me. By afternoon, we are in a single file line and I maintain like the Energizer Bunny. "Maintain the strain," my dad taught me growing up. Jake calls me a trooper.
We can't walk to Idyllwild, our next stop on the Pacific Crest Trail, because it's closed in that section from wildfires.
When we hopped into Joan's truck, my hands were numb as the temperature dropped to 42 degrees. A storm swirled over us all day long. Thankfully we didn't get caught in any rain until the moment we got into the truck.
The woman describes herself as a gypsy. Originally from Ventura, California, she's lived in Idyllwild since the 1980s. She's changed careers five times from cutting hair to working at a hospital to starting her own technology company. Then Joan received her design certification ten years ago. She became a top sales rep for California Closets, which led to getting scouted by Pirch, a luxury appliance and fixture company.
Joan invited us back to her cabin because she didn't want us to sleep in the cold and wet conditions at the campsite. There we ate pizza and drank beer and wine. She demanded-- in a friendly, motherly way-- we take steaming hot showers, use her minerals salts to scrub our bodies, and soothe our blisters with Neosporin and Advil. Joan even washed all our clothes. Jake put on a bath robe and the next day we had to force him out of it.
I had Joan reach into The Rustic Cuff bag and blindly pick out a metal bracelet. It read "wherever you are, be all there".
She reacted by saying, "That's just part of my focus in life, is to stay in the moment all the time. It's really easy to go backwards or be thinking ahead and miss what's right now. It's part of how I live my life."
Joan encourages her daughters to do something crazy everyday. "I've said to them 'don't die with regrets'. Don't look back and regret. Try it, do it. Whatever is in front of you, grab it."
Her personality has always been to seize the moment. "My life has taken on its own path, not my path. Opportunities present themselves and I just take them. It's not like I'm choosing to go a direction or I'm choosing to do something. I just take advantage of what lands in front of me," she said.
I asked her what she thought about picking us up on the side of the highway as she headed home from work?
She responded, "I look at my life like it's an adventure... It's just one more adventure. You get to meet people and reach out. It's all the same thing to me, it's all just bringing new people in your life and paying it forward."
After all, the phrase "wherever you are, be all there" is what ultimately led us three to Joan. Numerous drivers didn't pick us up and we became impatient but still waited.