I had forgotten what a 3:00 AM wake-up feels like. I’m slow out of the gate but when there is no race there is no need to be concerned with speed. I’m out the door at 3:45 AM. I have my blueberty flax muffin and a cold brew for the road. Breakfast was espresso at home.
There is no clearing in the sky on my drive in, there are only those signature grey clouds blanketing my moon roof view. I flip it open on these early drives forever hopeful for a smattering of stars. With hope of clear skies diminishing, I settle in for whatever will be.
As I pulled out of the neighborhood in the morning I grabbed yesterday’s mail. A letter. It arrives as if a long beam of light thrown from a small flashlight hundreds of miles away. I stuff it into my pack to read later. I savor these letters like the last bite of something fabulous.
There is a single ribbon of light at Sunrise Point. I stop and take it in for a moment. It is a surprise in this otherwise colorless sky. I romanticize this return to Sunrise every year. I remember the picture perfect sky, the in-your-face mountain views and all the smells. A pinch off the end of a sub-alpine fir is like an aphrodisiac. I am in love.
Truly. Madly. Deeply. All over again.
I expect some snow but it’s mostly dusty trail all the way to Frozen Lake. The mountain is playing a sweet game of peek-a-boo as the clouds roll in through the valley and then swallow the mountain whole. At the point of decision, I abandon my plan for Berkeley Park. I know it will clear, but I love the drama when I feel like I am walking along the hem of Rainier’s big, wide skirt.
THIS kind of drama I live for.
As I walk in the early morning, I’m free to let my mind wander. I smile to myself when I remember I haven’t been obsessively checking the news. The last time I walked here I was fraught with worry. It was September. The world felt frightening in so many ways. Back then, I walked as an escape. Today I walk, well … because it’s what makes my heart happy.
My heart has always been my source of happiness. Just ask my 9 year old self.
A young man (still too young to vote I would guess) passes by on his way down with friends. He pauses, tells me there wasn’t much of a sunrise but that his app says it will be perfectly clear by 9. Sweet. Both that he stopped and that he shared a little optimism. I think he could be my son. Or grandson. Oh my.
On the way up, the clouds are moving faster than I can keep up with. Every ten minutes the view changes. God, I love this mountain. There are a handful of folks ahead of me, so I choose a spot for lunch off the path. I pull out my letter. My beam of light. My lamp.
It was beautiful. And timely.
It always is.
Eat when hungry, Sleep when tired.
Then yesterday, this:
Secret to Happiness
I am a happy man now that I know what the secret of happiness is, which, according to Buddha and Jesus both, is to give up wanting things. It’s just that simple. I’ve bought houses in hopes of happiness, taken vacation trips to Hawaii and Norway and Barbados, bought three-piece suits and shirts with French cuffs, and spent as much as $28 on a haircut, and felt vaguely dissatisfied after, but now I am 78, an age at which I expected to be cranky and of course there’s still time but now I discover I can’t get what I want because I’ve forgotten what it is. So there you are. Time solves another problem. — Garrison Keillor
I’ve stopped wanting perfect weather or the perfect drive. I’ve stopped wanting the perfect body or the perfect story. I go to the refuge and the trail without expectation. I won’t ever complain if the stars happen to align, but my days are not ruined if they don’t.
( For those looking for a trip report:
Bathrooms are open and mostly stocked (although in the wee hours they are still needing to be stocked and cleaned from the day before). The best time to get here is early. The earlier the better. Trail is snow free (well, maybe a few slippery spots, but most you can walk around or through). To Frozen Lake is about 1 mile. Another 1.5 to Fremont Lookout.
This is by far the biggest reward for a relatively short hike. The trail narrows up to the lookout and gets busy later in the day when this could be a challenge. Probably not the best choice for little ones. The views from the lookout are expansive. Grand Park, Berkeley Park, Burroughs Mountain and Skyscraper. The view of Mount Rainier is unmatched.
A few flowers, a few marmots and a dozen chipmunks. It really feels like summer. I saw no goats yesterday, but they seem to gravitate to the hills above and below this trail. Keep an eye out for them. The lot was packed when I returned. Seriously, get there early. Construction (paving) happening, so pack a little patience too. )