Read Part I here.
The best part of the hike, was not the top of the mountain, the waterfalls, or even the wildflowers. It was the people we met on the way. For example, the seventy-six-year-old man and his grandson that lapped everyone. We met him as he was going back down, just beyond the meadow where I had stopped before. Full of energy and life, he grinned and said, “The hardest part is just ahead.” Seriously? Couldn’t he have lied and said, “You’re almost there now.” Can you see him as a childbirth coach: “You think that one hurt? That was nothing for what’s still to come!”
Then we met three gentlemen; the eldest was eighty, the other two not far behind. They were not in a hurry. We saw them stopped and talking together from a distance. When we passed them, they were in the same spot. I’m not sure when they turned back, but when we met them again on the way down, they cheered us across a snowy slope, then tossed us up two of their walking sticks to help us across a slick, muddy incline. They were having a great day, not worried about the time, or the top of the mountain, but enjoying themselves immensely for simply being on it.
Just below the summit we joined two other young couples. The first moved slowly because he had reached the places where his fear of heights overwhelmed him. Places where we could see the flight of a hawk at eye-level and a cloud can drift through you. A strong breeze could blow a person away into the vast emptiness between them and a valley far below. That young man made it through those fears, across the saddle ridge, and up the vertical talus slopes to the top, arriving just before Ashley did. They took our picture for us when I arrived.
The second pair that followed just behind me stopped frequently because she had a large pack on her back in which she carried her two year old son. I can’t begin to imagine how hard that must have been! However, not only did she maintain good spirits and keep going forward, but they chose to descend by way of sliding down the glacier—something I was not brave enough to even think of doing.
Finally, on the way down, we met a young man with a snowboard on his back. He rides the glacier about once per month. To me, that is just cool! (For him.)
All in all, we met people who were having their own victories, triumphs or celebrations. Everyone had separated themselves from the life below. They were all “on the mountain.”
Good things do end, my right knee crippled me for a day or two afterwards and I have a severe patch-worked sunburn that looked just silly at church on Sunday. But I also have pictures that remind me of a place where only the important things matter and everyone is a friend.
P.S. I have to tell about one other incident. Coming down we were nearly the last ones off the mountain, meaning there was nobody around to ask which trail to take when it became confusing. Once I wandered into a thicket of willows, following the matted branches and worn dark earth (I wasn’t the first one to choose that way). Just when I’d completely disappeared into the tangle, I heard Ashley scold: “Mom, come back out of there right now!” I came out laughing and feeling like an errant five-year-old. My husband’s comment later was, “It’s because we all know you.”