Climb That Goddamn Mountain.

So when you're sad or stressed about that student loan or feel weird about turning 30, it's time to hike.

Is it possible that depression is a problem for people that can't hike? I'm starting to think so. I've been creating a nice routine where the weekends are filled with the outdoors: a magical land with which I can ignore emails and schedules and alarm clocks and unanswered phone calls. Sorry, I'm in the mountains and they don't care about wifi or cell phone coverage. It's out of my hands.

The weekend of the 4th, Paul and I set out to meet Eve and Alex for a backpacking night on the Rim Trail. 175 miles around the lake. Incredible views, sharp ascensions up those mountains and spectacular backcountry camping. Eve and Alex started the Rim Trail last summer and planned on finishing the last bit that weekend. We decided to join them for their last night, so we hiked from Grass Lake trailhead to Armstrong Pass and back. 14 miles round trip with elevation inclines of 1300 feet and 15-30 pounds of weight strapped to our backs.

We were so excited the night before that we couldn't sleep. We planned on making a really good breakfast, packing the last of our supplies, feeding Oatmeal and heading out. Grass Lake trailhead is south of South Lake Tahoe, so it would take us at least an hour to get there. And once we parked the Jeep, it felt like a holiday.

Strapped into our packs, we headed out and the incline started right away. We started out at 10:40 a.m. and didn't plan on meeting Eve and Alex until 6:30 at Armstrong Pass trailhead. It was 7 miles away and we allotted 7.5 hours, 1/2 hour for lunch and hiking around 1 mile per hour to account for our weight, altitude changes and plenty of water breaks. (It's easy to get dehydrated around here. I've done it laying on the couch.) So I sucked it up and leaned into my hiking stick, taking short steps, pausing slightly when I needed a drink from my Camelbak, and plowed through.

If you are not a hiker, maybe you don't get it. I will show you why....

The first vista.

With every new step, there was another incredible view around the corner.

We passed scores of polite mountain bikers asking where we were headed. "Toads" was on the way to our camping spot so all the bikers were inevitably headed there. 8 miles of downhill insanity, "Toads" is a trail named after the Disneyland ride "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride." I watched as some of them flew down that thing with marked intensity. I relished the fact that I was not on two wheels and kept on cruising.

We started getting into a rhythm and the miles melted away. Adrenaline pumped as the excitement of what was next increased. My shoulders stopped aching. My mind quieted. I was completely enamored with the mountains and trees and climbing life partner. This was amazing.

The map showed us way ahead of schedule and nearing our campsite soon. We picked up the pace, excited about killing our first hike and inevitably saw Eve's Big Truck hat sitting at the Armstrong Pass trailhead. I couldn't help but yell, "HEY!!!!"

My watch read 3:30. We were 3 hours early.

She was obviously surprised to see us so soon as they had just arrived from climbing the tallest peak in the Basin, Freel (it's for real). I was giddy to unload my pack but as I sat down for the first time since lunch, I realized how completely exhausted I was and that my feet were on fire.

We planned our campsite out just before the edge of a drop. The site was incredible.

Our "kitchen" stayed quite a ways from our sleeping quarters and before we planned on dinner, Alex volunteered to show us how to hang a bear bag.

So bears don't eat you.

Just kidding.

So bears don't nose around in your tent or pack for food, you place all of your food or any scented items in a bag and hang them from a tree limb that bears won't be able to reach. Alex instructed us to find a baseball-sized rock to tie onto one side of the rope in order to throw it over a limb. He tossed his with perfection and double-dutched the other side of the rope over a tricky part of the limb with tons of tinier limbs obstructing his pulley. After a couple more maneuvers, Alex's rope hung down with equal parts at arms length. It was Paul's turn to throw his rock and Alex and I watched with excitement as he baseball overhanded it......completely over the limb. He threw it so hard the other end went with it. He just threw it too good. It eventually got twisted around tiny limbs that we gave it up and put all of our food into one Blackhawks drawstring bag.

Next was water. We needed to find a source of water as we needed cooking water and drinking water for the hike out the next day. Paul went on a short hike down and found a great little stream with a perfect tiny waterfall within arms reach. After filtering it, the water was still so cold it felt like it came out of the refrigerator. Fresh mountain spring water is so good.

After cooking up our Easy Mac and Ramen, we changed into our jams and retired for the night. I don't ever remember being so tired, and sore, and tired.

Night got dark, quick. It was so quiet I could barely fall asleep. And, bears. Every crackle of sticks, or the tiniest break in the thick quiet, I conjured up a bear alert in my head. I didn't sleep well. Sunrise came quicker than the sunset and we were both up, exhausted and hungry.

Eve and Alex brought a percolator, thank God, and with a camping pot full of coffee, I was ready to go. The next 7 miles were harder than the first. We were tired, hungry, dirty, and ready to eat all of the things. We all talked about our post-hiking meal: an epic eating binge at a local eatery, MacDuff's. Paul would have pizza. I would have nachos. We would just eat. It was getting us through an early morning.

We set out around 8:25. Save a few breaks, we were on a pretty fast hike. Two hours in, we stopped for a short water break. Alex turned on his Jawbone speaker and cranked out Daft Punk for some morale boosting. It worked. We danced-hiked our way to the end, and at exactly 12:45, we marked the beginning of our backcountry camping in Tahoe, and the end of their long 175 mile section-hike of the Tahoe Rim Trail.

And MacDuff's was epic in all ways. We ate all their food and happily lounged on their patio until we were certain it was time to take a nap.

Two weekends ago, we decided go "car camping" which means "put all of your gear in your Jeep and park next to your tent." We have two sets of camping gear, lightweight and "it's okay if it's heavy" car-ready camping stuff, which seemed really insane living in Ohio but makes absolute perfect sense in Tahoe.

Paul's coworkers boasted beautiful camping trip stories one Monday morning from a place called Blue Lakes, south of South Lake. We set out on a Friday morning and with fresh groceries, we landed here.

This is what perfection looks like on a Friday afternoon. Real talk.

After fishing and starting a new book, we were eager to get dinner going and have a nice campfire as campfires are not allowed without having a fire ring. How is it summer if your hair and favorite hoodie don't smell like a bonfire?

(This is Paul's favorite thing to do: sit around a fire and chop logs into smaller pieces and then carefully find a stick to poke the fire with, which he leaves for the next campers.)

After lots of veggie dogs, chips and passing around a bottle of sangria (it's our camping tradition), we played a modified version of the Celebrity game and listened to our camping neighbors huskies fight each other with a mild sense of danger. But there is something about sitting around a fire, dodging the smoke and getting closer to it as the night inches in. With our heads back, feet up and eyes towards the billions of stars, it was hard to even imagine having half of a worry. This was all ours, if only for that night.

Nature is magical. It heals, it prevents emotional scarring and it has the ability to force you into being in the moment. And in the words of the mighty Jack Kerouac, "Because in the end, you won't remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that Goddamn mountain."