Snow crunches under my feet as I look in the direction of Muir Base Camp. It wasn’t the best idea, just walking, just going. I don’t think my dad thought I was serious when I woke up that morning and declared that my 15 year old self was going to get at least that far on Rainier, but I did.
I walked, and I walked, and I walked. I was by myself before I reached Panoramic Point. I took in the beauty of the mountains that I adore, and the wilderness I love. The silence was amazing, I cherished it along with my waterproof boots that kept my feet mostly dry until I slipped on a rock and thankfully submerged only my feet. If my socks hadn’t gotten wet, they would have remained dry, never mind that, it was worth the wet feet.
It never occurred to me that I would need more than one application of sunblock. I was young and invincible, and that mountain has always been a symbol of home and love in my heart, nothing would happen to me. I wanted to see as much of him as I could. To look out and see the world as only he did, to kiss the sky and hold the moment in my heart.
I pulled my Tampa Bay Lightning cap down over my eyes, readjusted my gators and kept going, saying a rosary when I started to wonder if I was ever going to make it, and then I was there. I had time to stand atop a rock for no more than two minutes, holding that image of beauty, life, the world in my heart and soul. Accomplishment, completion filled my being as my love of that mountain filled me with a joy so complete, that even now I can close my eyes and feel it.
Then the altitude sickness hit me, I had no idea that was even a thing. To this day the idea of going into a portable toilet is not one I will entertain unless it is an emergency of an extreme nature. I collapsed on the rocks, sleeping with my face exposed to the sun. My father woke me a few hours later and down we went. That night at home a fever set me to shivering. The next day I was covered in blisters, and I just hugged our dog whimpering, wanting to die, and hoping the blisters would go away, but it was worth it. Love sometimes comes at a price, and the price paid was worth it. No once could take that moment from me.
18 years later, I hear my sons, ages 6 and 9, call to me to keep up as our dog runs with them up Mount Nittany. I hear leaves crunch under well loved hiking shoes, and the sound of laughter and rejoicing as they pass me the way I had passed my father, which is amusing since I am now the same age as he was when I decided to go for my walk. I wonder if they feel the same sense of accomplishment, the same sense of I can and did do this, and I wonder if they will hold it in their hearts the way I hold it in mine. Climbing their mountains, making their memories to share with their children.