10 September 2011
not quite a mountain
We set off to climb a mountain.
Except word was that the mountain we picked was not really climbable in one day.
Except some people didn't want to leave quite so early in the morning. (I suggested 5 am. The final agreement was on 6:30 am.)
Except there were forest fires in the area.
So we finally set off with half the number of people planned, on the trail at 7 am.
We hiked part of this trail, leading up to the mountain we intended to climb, and it was odd. I never expected to see that trail again, somehow. When I hiked it last year, I was still living in Gone West, and I didn't realize that when I moved to Universe City, it would be a mere hour and a half away. It looks much different in daylight and also when you do not feel like you are going to die from exhaustion. Less steep, for example. Also wider.
Our objective, once we settled the fact that four non-athletes were probably not going to summit the selected mountain in one day, was the saddle between Goal Mountain and North-of-Goal Mountain.
Reaching our objective involved a long, pleasant hike up through the woods, through a lava field and several meadows still full of wildflowers, thanks to a very late and cold summer, and then straight up the side of a rocky mountain face.
Not only was the mountain rocky and slippery, but large portions of the trail disappeared into snow fields. We trudged up and up them, digging our toes and poles into the snow for balance, and finally left half again our number on a rocky height two snowfields and two rock fields short of the saddle.
I climbed up the side of the second-to-last rock field, and the other person still climbing went around it through snow. I followed him up the last snowfield, and up through the last stretch of rocks.
I had to stop in the middle of the last bit to dig some sour Jelly Bellies out of my pack and put them in my pocket. I ate them as I climbed, two at a time, for some quick sugar.
And then, suddenly, there was before us the eastern half of this State of Happiness.
We took the long way back, through my very favorite meadow of all time.
It was not until the very end of the 12 hours and 18 miles that my feet, and only my feet, began screaming at me. I counted the feeling of endorphin rush at the end of the trip a victory, compared to the feeling of death that I had at the end of 15 miles a year ago.
I felt so good immediately afterward that I signed up for another hike tomorrow.
Don't worry. I bought some moleskin.