I know my limits better these days than in my youth, although some who know me may beg to differ. I’ve always liked to push myself as far as I could– both physically and mentally, and have learned best by my own mistakes. It’s something I’m hard-wired for, and changing that would be like asking a fish to stop swimming.
One of the ways this shows up in my life is through hiking. I love to hike, and enjoy hiking solo. It’s a time of quiet reflection surrounded by nature, allows my soul to catch up with the rest of my life, and is a vital time for me to regain a center of calm, like slipping into the eye of the hurricane my life feels at times. I began almost 20 years ago with short hikes on a local, well-travelled trail. Over time, this new hobby became an opportunity to explore the expansive trail system in my area; and now that we’re spending time in the mountains around Lake Tahoe, my hiking has expanded into bear territory, and paths more than 6500 feet above sea level.
Yesterday, under the recommendation of a well-meaning friend, I attempted a hike at Squaw Valley ski area that leads from the grassy base of the mountain, up rock-filled paths, and sheets of granite boulders, to Shirley Lake. The guidebook I tucked into my backpack labeled it a moderate hike, and compared to getting to base camp on Everest, I’m sure that’s true. It was grueling with the thousands of rocks I traversed, blue lines painted on rocks along the way to point me to the trial, as I scaled approximately 1500 feet over 2.8 miles (depending on which guidebook you read). Closing in on my goal, I realized I wasn’t going to make it to Shirley Lake. I was navigating up a series of gigantic boulders slanted at a 30-degree angle with a few other people I met on the trail toward what we thought (hoped) was the final ridge. About 250 feet short of the ridge, I stopped to check my GPS. I could see I had a short bit of climbing ahead of me, and that I was close. But upon checking in with my body, I was forced to acknowledge my tired legs and fatigued body. As I peeled a banana to refuel, my strong desire to reach Shirley Lake battled with my awareness that I needed to have enough energy to safely make it back down over literally a mountain of rocks. I ultimately made the decision to turn around for the two-hour scramble I knew was ahead of me to get back to my car.
As I began my descent, fellow hikers urged me back, and said I couldn’t turn back now when I was so close. But one of the things that occurred to me was that in a world that rewards those who attain their goals, and drive themselves to their limits — that all this charging seems out of kilter with what draws me to hiking. I would have loved to have seen Shirley Lake, but I hike more for the journey than the destination, even if it’s a rocky journey. Shirley Lake isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and maybe next time I’ll actually get there. But if I don’t, I’m still going to enjoy the day spent in glorious nature.
Today as I rest my legs, I wanted a dish to make me feel pampered, and this one did the trick. It’s easy to make, and can be served as an appetizer for a party or for a satisfying lunch.
Fig, Ricotta, and Honey Tart
- 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, store bought
- 4 tablespoons ricotta cheese
- 1 tablespoon goat cheese
- 2 tablespoons your favorite Boursin cheese
- 1 1/4 teaspoons honey (I used wildflower honey)
- 2 1/4 figs, stemmed and quartered
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- small handful of argula
- 2 slices proscuitto (optional)
Thaw the puff pastry according to the package directions.
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. Place the puff pastry on a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Fold the edges of the puff pastry over on itself to form a 1/2″ border along all four sides of the sheet. With a sharp knife, gently score the puff pastry along the inside edge of the folded over border, and prick the pastry inside the borders with a fork at 1″ intervals.
Bake until puffed and golden brown in color, about 8 minutes at sea level; 11 minutes at 6500 feet above sea level.
In a small bowl, combine the cheese and 1 teaspoon of the honey. Mix well with a fork to form a smooth spread. Spread the cheese inside the borders of the puff pastry, and arrange the fig quarters on top. Return to the oven for 5 – 6 minutes at sea level until the cheese is very soft and the rim of the pastry a golden-brown; 8 – 9 minutes at 6500 feet above sea level.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle the thyme over the tart. Tear the proscuitto, if using, into small long pieces and arrange on the tart. Add the arugula.
Drizzle the remaining honey over the tart from the tines of a fork.
Slice with a pizza slicer so there is one fig quarter per piece, and serve.