Wednesday, October 3, 2012

the way it feels at 10,000 feet

I always forget how hard this trail is. Climbing 4,000 feet in four miles, it snakes its way up a mountain. It is eroded and harsh, little scree pebbles underfoot, no slacking off allowed. Once I saw two guys running this trail. How they did it is a mystery. It is an effort just to hike.

There's something about being at 10,000 feet that you just can't get at sea level. It's both a feeling and a truth. Gone is the security of rescue, the serenity of warm temperatures and easy breathing. Even in summer, there is still a hint of uncertainty this high. Things could turn in a minute. You have to be more careful, more self-reliant.

People once stayed near here, trying to pull copper from this mountain. There are adits and the remains of a makeshift cabin farther down, but you know they ranged all over this country. Though it's not legal in wilderness, I've often thought about finding a place to stay out a year. I'd pick a place like this, high and lonesome. I'd stack in the firewood and a whole mess of books. I'd pack up rice and beans and skis and snowshoes. I'd bring a dog or two, for warmth.

Of course in the end, I always head down to a lower elevation. You have to be social and responsible, at least that is what everyone expects. I suspect the reality of snow piling up and sub-zero temperatures would not be as romantic as it sounds. Still, I have a twinge of envy as I pass the old cabin ruins. Their lives were tougher than we are bred to be these days. Most of us couldn't hack it. But I bet they had moments at 10,000 feet when they knew how lucky they really were.

1 comment:

  1. I've always thought the same thing about the early miners in Alaska. Makes our lives feel easy and cushy, but wow, what a view! :)


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