Monday, June 17, 2013

Tall Like the Mountain

Photo courtesy of Melissa Morris.
The trees become shorter, but I grow taller. The pack digs into my back, my shoulders, my hips. I crawl on hands and knees, wedge the toe of my boot into a crevice. Stay low to the ground, pray I don't slip. We cross a rushing river streaming down from a waterfall. 

Photo courtesy of Melissa Morris.
One person crosses, extends a hand, and waits for the next person to go. We continue like this, extending a hand for each other. Cloud vapor melts on my face like cotton candy, rain drips down my forehead and plasters my stray hairs to my skin. The last quarter mile drags on forever.

Photo courtesy of Melissa Morris.
Finally we spot a chimney over the head of a tall rock––only 100 steps away from a warm hut and food. We are half right. The hut has food but no heat, so we eat to stay warm. Fresh salad with goat cheese and cranberries, chili and rice and green beans with cheese and sour cream and cashews. Warm pumpkin pie for dessert. Homemade bread to munch on. I fill up but still all I can think about is breakfast the next morning. 

Photo courtesy of Melissa Morris.
As an end-of-the-year celebration, my school does something called "Endersession," (it's a made-up word) in which every student selects an activity for the week. I chose hiking in the White Mountains. We set out Tuesday and stayed at a hut near the summit of Mt. Washington. Tuesday, I felt so invincible. We planned to summit Mt. Washington Wednesday, and hike along the presidential range and stay at another hut. Alas, the mountain reminded us who was the almighty. It trapped us in the hut Wednesday, forcing us to spend another night at our first hut, where we exhausted every card and improv game imaginable.

Photo courtesy of Corey Bova.
The next morning we rose to greet the first sunlight we had seen in nearly 24 hours. We rose at 4:20am, slipped on our boots and rain jackets, and trudged off into the morning mist. We raced against the sunrise (5:04am) and made it in a record fifteen minutes. We crouched behind a giant rock and watched as the sun's rays melted away the gray-blue of a foggy night, and then as it finally peaked its baby's bonnet over Mt. Washington. 

I was so happy to be there without my parents. Here I was, hundreds of miles away, taking life into my own hands and experiencing the world for myself. No cell phone or Facebook calling for my attention. No temptation to see who texted me back or who liked my status. Just me and no one else's opinion of me or expectations of me. 

I know I will find many more mountains to climb in life. Some mountains I will climb solo; some mountains I will climb with others; and some mountains I will carry someone on my back. 

Photo courtesy of Melissa Morris.

As I stood at the bottom of Mt. Washington on Thursday afternoon, I was humbled as I looked at the Cog Railway travelling the vertical distance of the mountain we had just climbed. I remembered when we had stood up there only hours previous, and I felt so tall and regal. Here I was, no longer tall like the mountain or with the mountain, but at the base, reminded of the mountain's majesty. I only have to close my eyes, though, and I will again be standing on its summit, feeling tall and capable of anything. 

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