Tuesday, August 5, 2014

I Have Been to the Mountain Top

The walking was not always my favorite part of backpacking - especially in the first few days of acclimating to our new routine.

Looking down at my feet for so long became dizzying. The woods were just a vague periphery of blurring green as I focused on not tripping over rocks. I had no concept of distance or time - I couldn't have told you if I'd been out for three hours or one. Even more difficult was reckoning how far we may have (or may have not) traveled in a certain amount of time. The physical exertion of carrying a load - particularly up steeper ascents - robbed me of coherent thought and the ability to converse. Even if I was not gulping for air, all the energy from the single granola bar you'd eaten that morning (how long ago was that?), was channeled into movement rather than remembering that you know how to speak.

In those first few days, the views from the peaks of the mountains were our little victories. They justified the climb, because any landscape looks more stunning when you can feel the height in your legs. The tightness in my calves screamed, 'I've earned this.'

On our third day out, we stopped to rest, looking over a view of rural New York farm land. We spent a long time pouring over the scene, pointing things out to each other. Molly waxed poetic about the rustic red barn that was nestled under deep green foliage. There was a pale blue farmhouse nearby with white railings around its porch. A flag pole stood behind it, which looked to be about the size of a toothpick.

We laughed at the scale of it all, and  grappled to wrap our minds around it. Conceptually we knew that if we were standing next to that flagpole, it would tower over us. The stars and stripes would be billowing far above our heads. Similarly, we understood conceptually that we could fit our whole bodies in the moving pinpricks which were actually cars on a country road. But at the same time, the notion seemed laughable.

I spotted a solitary white speck, moving along the treeline by the farmhouse. We postulated that maybe it was another hiker. We were ecstatic at the possibility that in the next couple of days we could become a part of this landscape.

Only a few hours later, I was shouting, "Look, look! The blue farm house!" We gaped at it in awe and turned around to look at the mountains behind us, guessing at which ledge we'd been sitting on before. We jumped up and down giddily filled with that crazy kind of excitement that demands to burst out of you. I knew exactly what I looked like from an aerial view! I was that tiny speck. The woods next to me were not as deep as they looked, but rather a strip separating this field to the next. To my right at a distance there was a small town with old cozy houses and ahead of us were the roads where those car pinpricks had sped along.

For days we'd been following the white blaze trail markers as if they were our glorified bread crumb trail. It was eerie to know so certainly where we were and what the context of that place was. I had never known before what came next.