by: Naomi Plasterer
Maybe you’ve seen this sticker around town. On the back of cars. On water bottles. On laptops. To some people, it’s a nice sticker of local Castle Peak or their favorite animal the wolf. I’ve had strangers at trailheads ask about the sticker. I’ve given strangers at trailheads stickers. But to me when I see this sticker it means a whole lot more.
At the end of May in 2018, I got a call from my best friend’s sister. Julia had passed on. The weeks following this news was a blur. Julia and I were a unit. We raced 50ks, 100 milers, even a 200 miler together. She motivated my lazy butt to get up before sunrise and summit mountains. We bushwhacked together, scrambled peaks in Colorado, and even dabbled a bit in some rock climbing. My last text I had sent her the day before she died was “I love you more than you will ever know” I meant every word of that. I didn’t know the true depths of grief till that day.
Two weeks later, her mom texted me a link. A week after she died they tracked a gray wolf to Donner Summit. The first time in known history a gray wolf had made it this far south and less than a mile from my house. The wolf was Julia’s favorite animal. It was clear, Julia had come to visit us. I took my notebook and a pencil and hiked up to Castle Peak. I sat on the ridgeline between Castle and Basin. I wanted that wolf to come to me. I wanted to look into its eyes to see Julia one last time. But it never came. I drew this picture while I sat there.
I know Julia is still with us. Roaming these mountains and watching us suffer at night during a 100 miler. Cheering us on through every DNS, DNF, and every finish. The sticker is a memory of her. Of her wild spirit and desire for adventure. For her love for these mountains and the people that run in them. Even if you didn’t know Julia I hope that this sticker brings you joy and inspires you to get out every day you can. Run through the woods, walk up the climbs, but most of all to just be present. And to know that even if this sticker doesn’t mean anything to you when I see it around town in random places it means a lot to me.
As for me, I lost a bit of love for running after Julia died. I failed to meet any new runners my age and never motivated myself for those pre-sunrise runs anymore. I DNFed a handful of races and then just gave it up completely. The dark nights of a 100 miler got 10 times darker and I couldn’t escape myself. That was until this year. My 27th year of life. The last year of life that Julia lived. I met a friend. A young woman my age who loves to run… And has a half wolf dog. Thanks, Julia for the years we got to spend together. And for bringing me a new friend who likes to run. I’ll carry you with me always in any way that I can.
If you see the sticker around town and want to donate to her scholarship fund you can do that here: https://www.sacregcf.org/donate/?DonorIntent=YCFMIL
More info about Julia Millon and her writings can be found here: https://linktr.ee/juliamillon