Monday, February 21, 2011
This morniing I wake in my little cabin to the sound of rushing water. The creek down below is frantic, trying to carry away the rains of the last few days. From my bed, I can see the forested hillside on the other side of Lorane highway, as always. This morning, there is mist on the hillside, moving up, clinging to the trees, or so it seems.
This is a vision I’ve seen a thousand times in my life; mist in deep green trees, on steep hillsides. I make tea, and stand in the doorway of my little place, looking out at the hills, hearing the rushing water.
And suddenly, seamlessly, I have traveled in time. It’s twenty years ago, and I’m hiking the crest, on any one of a hundred trips through that high country. It’s September, and I’m camped at the edge of an alpine meadow, right at the treeline. There are low Jack Pine, and gnarled White Bark Pine here and there, but mostly, the country is open, populated by Bear Grass, Wild Strawberry, Lupine, and Huckleberry.
It’s cold, maybe twenty five degrees. A shallow layer of mist hangs over the lake. I am crouched over the tiny flame of a tiny stove, making oatmeal and tea. My pack is assembled, mostly. My breakfast done, the tea cup will go in last. Map in the side pocket, compass in the shirt pocket, the lanyard around my neck for safe-keeping. The day’s first bearings are taken; for now, I am found.
I walk to the edge of the lake, contemplating this day’s miles, and in a moment, I am consumed with a feeling of freedom that has me fighting back tears. Shoulder pack, climb the ridge. Soon, I’m above the ponderous clouds. Now they are an ocean of white below me. The sun is bright and cold, hard as diamonds. Cold, cold wind on my back, I turn until it’s in my face and start north, along a rocky ridge, high above the treeline.