Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Top of the Mountain

I felt It on the morning we pushed our kayaks on to the River of No Return. I felt It the day we pushed and paddled through the first surf on the Napali Coast. I felt It on the trail walk with mountains looming 2900 vertical feet before us.

The It is an almost tangible reverence for a great endeavor about to be taken. It's part fear, part vulnerability, part reverence. It's self doubt, quiet contemplation, and foremost--excitement. It's a confirmation of the human spirit and a discontent to remain static in a world so full of mountains, rivers and oceans.

The It, was a climb to the top of Snowbird.

When we reach the top, we can ride the tram back to the resort.

"Why is it free?" one of us asks.

"If you make it to the top, you deserve to come down free."

We dare to laugh.

On the first stretch, I'm already pausing to catch my breath.

Up ahead, a hunched hunched-over figure with hiking poles, seems to be a very old person. As we pass, we say "Good morning;"  he returns the salutation. He looks like a wise ancient Indian guru. His steps are purposeful and made at a steady pace, but I wonder if he will make it to the very top.  As we twist and turn on the pathways, I lose sight of him. When I am his age, will I be strong enough?

For three of us hikers, this is our first time hiking Snowbird, but we are in the company of two veterans who have made this pilgrimage before. Lisa tells us that when we reach the top, we must pause and make a goal, because goals are attained when made at the top of this mountain. She explains that after such a climb~~ anything is possible. Just a few years before, Judy made the goal of finishing a degree--which seemed impossible at the time. As we ascend, we all know that Judy, with a full time job as an ICU nurse, finished her degree last February. Maybe there is power at the top of this now sacred, goal-setting, mountain.

As we see the culminating peak, it reminds me of the ascent to Mt. Everest. I've never been there, except in the movies, yet I still feel like I have a little glimpse of what it's like.

"Twenty-five percent of the people will die who climb Everest," someone reminds us, and I warily look down the steep sides.

Our last steps require stops to catch our breath. The end is near and a kind of exhilaration is imminent. We reach the edge where Judy and Lisa make their annual goals. It is far from ceremonial but in my quiet mind, I know what I have to do.

Everyone is content. There is quiet joy in overcoming obstacles, in working hard, in reaching the top.

And the view...

is spectacular.

We have the luxury of sitting on the deck's adirondack chairs while waiting for the tram ride to the bottom. The bell rings signaling its departure. We stand, gather our belongings. I turn and see another beautiful sight: our ancient Indian guru has reached the top of the mountain--his steady pace, his never giving up, has paid off--the same requirements it will take to reach my goal.