A four day weekend is pretty rare in my world. The stars have to align “just so”. So when it happened THIS weekend, I vowed not to squander my good fortune. I wrote a friend yesterday about thinking I could do three hikes over these four days. Ha !
This morning I rolled over at 2:15. Nope, not dragging myself up yet. I decided to ditch the alarm and trust my body clock. At 3:50 I saw the numbers flash on my fitbit and my thoughts turned to coffee. I decided to bail on the shower that might rouse me out of sleepiness. I dressed and ever-so-quietly slipped downstairs, grabbed my coffee and then headed for the car.
3/4 of a tank of gas should be plenty to get me to the mountain and back. I turned up the radio and hit the highway at 4:35. Sunrise was iffy today. Well, not the actual rising, that’s pretty much a given. But to witness it’s changing color palette on the mountain, THAT was a big maybe. I squinted as I drove past hundreds of headlights, straining to see stars or an outline of clouds in the black sky.
I thought I saw a star, but with dozens of cars whizzing past I figured I should probably keep my focus on the striped lines. It’s a familiar drive. Farmland, White River Ampitheater and a small town with sidewalks and trees. Rounding the last corner you pass the big Safeway (which has never seemed to fit) and head past Charlie’s Cafe and what used to be Pete’s Pool. On 410, the headlights slow to a trickle and I can breathe.
As civil twilight cast its first glow, I can see that the sky is full of clouds. The MRNP forecast had called for clearing skies after sunrise so I resigned myself to a cloudy beginning.
Then THIS happened !
I parked at Sunrise Point as the sky began to come alive. I enjoyed what I could of the brightening sky in the valley, and then headed up to the main parking lot a few miles up the road.
Then THIS happened !
It’s a gorgeous morning after all. I walked over to view the mountain above Emmons Glacier. Lovely.
I grabbed my backpack and took off for the gravel-lined trail at 7:20. This trail I’ve done a dozen times and it always shows me something new. I don’t think I”ve ever seen so many chipmunks and birds. I am mindful to pay attention to everything waking my senses today. Smells, songs and the squeak of the pika.
It occurs to me early on that the clouds will command center-stage today. After just fifteen minutes on the trail the billowy white pillows drift in and out, rising and sinking in the valley meadow below.
So often I find myself without words. Sun and shadow seem to have a lexicon of their own. As I walk, the sun behind me casts a shadow ahead. I am here in the company of self. I have an eye on me as I move swiftly along through columns of pine and alpine fir. Pockets of cloud and sun.
As I navigate the scree along the side of the mountain, my mind turns to Sam Sayers. Today will mark one month since she was last seen hiking at Vesper Peak. She is experienced, but like me, I’m imagining she was distracted by the stunning wilderness. I think how easy it would be to misstep. My heart aches as the days go by. I say a little prayer as a pika begins to squeak …
I reach (un)Frozen Lake after dawdling along the trail. I head toward Skyscraper Mountain with my eyes and heart lifted.
Heading down into the basin, I am painfully aware of the trip I will make UP on my return. In the early morning there is just enough moisture to make out clear tracks in the usually dry and dusty path.
(What IS that ? )
Most of the flowers are gone but the trail is dotted with reds and gold as the colors of fall begin to emerge.
( I’ve hit 10,000 steps before 9 am. I know for sure it will be an amazing day ! )
In places, the trail is like a trough. I cut through the valley and come to crossroads for Berkeley Park and The Wonderland Trail. I head toward TWT and prepare myself for the climb UP.
The seasons, with the obvious exception of winter, are dramatically short up here. Spring run-off, blooming flowers and layers of fall color. I feel like I experienced three seasons on one hike while looking up at the fourth. Sigh. Whatever I’ve done to deserve these moments, I hope I can keep it up.
After spending about 30 minutes alone on the peak of Skyscraper, I was joined by a woman from Chicago on her 7th day on The Wonderland Trail. Bucket List trip she called it. We had a good visit and took photos before she headed toward White River to camp for the night. She shared that the creek crossings were the scariest part and that today was by far the clearest, most beautiful day.
Gramps was with me today. I glanced at my watch at 11:11 and then again at 1:11. I always know he’s lingering in my sacred spaces when those numbers show up.
Here was the rest of my day …