“White-out conditions and 70 mph winds before you reach the John Muir Base Camp at 10,000 ft,” we overheard from the guide behind the desk. “We don’t recommend going up the mountain unless you have experience in these conditions. Stick to the trail because 200 ft to the left is a drop off.”
I look down at my rain pants and hiking boots. What are we getting ourselves into!?
“Maybe we should wait and see if it clears up,” I hear my small voice quiver.
“If we don’t do it now, we never will,” an answer replied. It made my stomach sink even more.
Begrudgingly, I pull my backpack on and step outside and into the snow.
The base of Mount Rainier was crowded with tourists wading through snow drifts on rented snowshoes. They happily frolic, taking selfies and laughing at their small adventure. We hike past them, leaving their lighthearted fun as we struggle up the trail.
We hike and hike and hike, trying to stay in-line with the other footprints in the snow and hoping the boots that made those prints knew where they were going.
The trail rose almost vertically. We climbed hands and feet as the wind ripped through our bodies, knocking me to my knees often.
We didn’t talk. I had nothing but fear to speak of anyway, and my words would have been whisked away by the mountain winds.
It was one foot in front of the other, until…
We were there.
I couldn’t stand completely up because the wind was too forceful. I couldn’t take a picture because the snow and rain were too thick in the air. We could only look at each other wide-eyed.
A mountaineering group had caught up with us,looking at our minimal gear as they passed right on by, continuing up the mountain.
That’s right. We weren’t at the top. We weren’t even that close to John Muir Base Camp. But we were at 8,000 ft of elevation and this was where we would stop. This is what we had come to do.
I sat down in the snow. I picked my feet up, and I started to slide.
I slid faster
Wind in my smiling face, laughter echoing off the snowflakes.
Sometimes, the summit isn’t as important as the climb.
Sometimes the climb isn’t as important as the release.
Fireflies Aren’t Meant to Live in Jars. Break your Jars.