My younger brother Robert is the kind of person who uses epic as a verb. Bare-chested and howling atop a 10,000-foot peak, cigarette in hand, flask at his lips, wearing what appears to be one of those undersized swimsuits favored by European men, he’ll say, "We just epiced that mountain, bro!" And I’ll pant, "Yes, brother, we did."
And then we"ll go down, and up again, until we can say it once more. Our plan is to do this for almost two weeks, hiking 165 miles around the largest alpine lake in North America, finally returning to where we’d started. At least geographically. Mentally, the goal is to arrive at an entirely new place. Twenty-three years old, recently let go from his Yosemite food-service job, and one credit shy of a college degree, Rob is at a crossroads. To be more precise, our parents think Rob is at a crossroads, and I’ve been charged with asking him the tough questions, like: What are you going to do with your life? No easy task considering Rob’s holy trinity is composed of Jim Morrison ("I believe in a long, prolonged, derangement of the senses in order to obtain the unknown"), Herman Hesse ("The truth is lived, not taught"), and climber-mystic Dean Potter ("Part of me truly believes I can fly, like somehow my mind can figure it out"). He instinctively trusts people in dark alleyways and camps in unsavory places, believing that the universe is basically good. This is inspiring, except when we’re camping together in unsavory places.