Each step delicately placed, one than the next, a journey upward into the clouds or perhaps above them. These days are those which recenter my entire being. With each toe balancing inside my boot as it hits a tree root, a rock, fallen pine needles, or even a mud puddle, my soul is rejuvenated just a bit more. Today is special, I kept thinking, today will be a milestone, for good or worse. At home, I left my sick pup alone. It was the first time since his surgery and while guilt waded in the forefront of my thoughts, I wandered past to discover the symbolism. Raja had journeyed with me through this country; gliding up mountains, frolicking through fields, leaping into lakes, and wandering through honeysuckle bushes. It is sad to think he will never climb this peak with me, I repeated over and over, but why am I acting as if he has passed? Why am I so focused on his inevitable fate? He is still fighting for his time here on Earth and as long as he fights, I will too, I concluded. In that moment, my spirit was lifted and felt almost euphoric as I channeled his energy into my pursuit, for the snow covered peak.
The trail was well worn, covered in freshly fallen leaves, and steadily sought its way up. The warm breaths floated into the chilled air reminding me how thankful I was to have put on my wool toe socks. I was quickly distracted from this thought as my face broke through several delicate webs, ‘I hope they haven’t found a new residence in my hair’ I thought. Sweeping my hands across my face and over my hair, we continued forward with a slight lean as the grade steepened. There again, a rush of emotion as my girlfriend and I pressed upward, through a challenging section.
I reflected on her quest for the summit. It too is monumental and feel our colliding energy meeting, in perfect harmony. Her journey fueled by the anniversary of when her Mom had been diagnosed with what would eventually claim her life. Cozbi’s trek, while our path is parallel, our emotions, and goals vary vastly. I thought, what am I here for, what do I need out of this? I want to make sense of my best friend’s fate. I want to know how life will be with out him. I want to know if he will still be there with me somehow in the wind, in the waves, in the snow flakes as they hit my face. I want to know I gave him the best life. I want to know if he knows how much I have needed him. Through the times of distress, the times we had no home, escaping life, figuring out how to love after being deployed, he is my constant. I need to shed the guilt and celebrate this companion and chapter in our lives. Cozbi is conquering obstacles she imagined existed, her journey to the top to feel the insurmountable energy from above – a presence. A Peace. A realization of life after and the balance of energy. Both adventures filled with emotion and determination.
Around mile 4 the air became a bit thin and the temperature continued to dip. 6000 feet. I stopped to nibble on a few pistachios and took a few swallows of water. Looking around the bend we could see the tall rocky mountain we needed to summit to reach the lookout. The snow began to fall, sticking to the ground disguising the trail. Looking around every 50 yards or so, to see markers left from previous hikers. Occasionally, Cozbi would source additional rocks to add a little bulk to the existing marker. The crunching of the snow and ice beneath our feet heightened my senses and added yet another layer to the experience.
An hour later. Our eyes are wide with excitement as we gazed upon a lake hidden to most. Only those who take this trek can see this majesty. Just another 200 feet to the summit. Our goal was in sight and while the trail was hidden, we traversed the last 200 feet over boulders and tip toeing along the talus slope. There it is, the lookout house built in the 30’s, situated on top of this incredible peak.
Unloading our packs filled with our lunches, we settled in to bask in the views which enveloped this house. 360 degrees of windows and the most spectacular scenery. We sit in silence, a warm comforting silence, watching the clouds billow up from behind a ridge off to the right with the still lake to the left. Cozbi picked up the journal used to record notes from travelers past and began to compose her own message – a message to future travelers, to herself, to her Mother, to God. And with closed eyes, the picture of the mountains reflected on my lids, and the memories of Raja and I together in the woods, I extended my hands out to feel the gusts and the snow hit my skin. I could smell nothing, the crispness of nothing but wilderness. A moment to make a complete memory. A moment to revel in for years to come. A moment to appreciate all that is wonderful in life, with Raja’s energy wrapped around me. These moments are those I have come to realize are the stitches of every memory. A fascinator in between all the good, complacent, and bad. They keep every facet of my life connected – snippets of hope, love, and adoration for the world we embark a life within.
And with that, I share these a snippet of our memories made. Cozbi, you came into my life swiftly and fiercely. Your friendship is one I treasure so much as you are the calmness and comfort I have needed in recent months. Your determination in life and love for the outdoors has folded seamlessly into my world and am ever grateful! Now let’s summit Rainier.
And one of the herd: Dr. Dudley, Ms. Matilda Moose, and Ever Stoic Raja