This past September, I was lucky enough to embark on an incredible journey with eight other Dinner Partiers from across the country. We had all signed up for a backpacking trip in the Sierra Nevadas, a new collaboration between The Dinner Party and Outward Bound. On my flight from Honolulu to LA, I remember wondering what it would be like to spend five days in the woods with a group of total strangers. I walked out of those woods feeling so supported by my new tribe, amazed by the power of nature and vulnerability to turn strangers into friends.
It is hard to put into words the magic of that trip; it was certainly intense, physically and emotionally. There were blisters (huge, huge blisters) and a crazy hail storm that came out of nowhere. Each of us had the chance to share our grief story, extended sessions full of tears, heartbreak, and unfinished business. But there was also so much laughter, over games featuring favorite vegetables and animal sounds. We bonded over the most delicious peanut sauce (seriously, thank you cooks!) and podcast recommendations. There were deep conversations at the drop of a hat, sing-a-longs, and a quiet that comes when you feel completely at ease. We were shepherded through meaningful exchanges and across the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness Area by two wonderful instructors who were there for us every step of the way. In our jam-packed final days, we summited Dogtooth Peak, held ceremonies honoring dear ones, gathered around the campfire, embarked on a personal physical challenge, and jumped into the freezing cold Courtright Reservoir as a crew.
Parting, of course, was bittersweet. As we made our way back home, nervous about returning to the real world, we all knew that we wanted to keep the party going. We decided we would try long distance and have reconvened as a Virtual Table spanning five time zones. We’ve continued to laugh, cry, and reminisce, bearing witness to the beauty and struggle of this journey together. I remain in awe of this special group of people who have turned their pain into gold and fill my cup with their presence, compassion, and honesty.
A heartfelt thank you to TDP and Outward Bound for this opportunity, particularly to our instructors Marisa and Elliot, and to Lennon for orchestrating this whole shebang and driving round-trip (twice) from LA to Courtright. Written By Katey Peck