Why We Climb to High Places

stafford Because the mountains are there, calling from where the sky meets the ridges.

Because we can. Because we stand upright and breathe, and have legs and feet that want to propel us forward and up.

Because halfway there we are hot and sweating and wanting to quit to hold still in the shade. But after a rest, we keep going.

Because when we reach the avalanche path, we can see tantalizing glimpses of summits through the opening in the trees.

Because we have run out of drinking water and need to get to the top where the creek comes down.

Because we are packing tools and we damn well don’t want to climb back up here to finish the job. As long as we’re here, we might as well saw and chop all the dead dry windfalls out of the trail and scoot a few of the loose rocks to the side.

Because the view gets better and better. The trees are twisted and gnarly from living up here, with sweeps of grasses and wildflowers under them. Now we can see down the valley and across to Teanaway Ridge. And beyond to the horizon where the earth curves away.

Because when we reach the top we can mercifully stop climbing. There is the delight of walking across a flat soggy green meadow to the rill running down through the brown rocks. It is lined with ferns and blooming pink shooting stars. Here, a person can filter a quart of cool water and splash her sweaty face. When that first quart is swallowed, fill every water container for the hike down.

Because when we get to the top, we find it unoccupied (for the moment) by other humans and we can look around without distraction. Looking up at the sky, we see that clouds are moving from northwest to southeast.

We climb to the top because we can. Because we don’t know what we’ll find on the way, but the finding out is worth the trip.


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