I was alone. Just me and the mountains. I hadn’t planned to hike this far. I hadn’t planned to be here. In fact, I wasn’t even quite sure where ‘here’ was. I didn’t have a map, I didn’t have phone service, but the mountains ahead were calling to me, so I kept marching towards them. The thought crossed my mind that if I took a wrong step, I would die here, but it seemed a good place to die, so I continued on.
There was a trail, but the more I walked, the more the trail blended into the surroundings. There were boulders to the left, boulders to the right and boulders straight ahead. It was hard to determine which way was actually the way to go, so I just went up, scrambling over rocks and crossing little streams. My eyes were fixed on the summits above me. They had captured me and were pulling me closer and closer to their snow-lined peaks. On my right, what had once been a series of puddles, was now almost a river. Occasionally, I would pass a rock large enough to break its flow, creating a delicate cascade of water that sprinkled down its face.
My heart was beating in my chest – from exhaustion, from excitement and from fear. I’ve spent plenty of time alone in the wilderness, but this was different. I was under the spell of the mountains and there was no telling what would happen. I had lost control, my heart was leading the way. I continued on until the mountain face became too steep. Even using both hands and feet, I slid more than I climbed, and eventually, I retreated to a place where I could rest. I was surrounded on three sides by rock and snow, and in the distance, far far away, I could see the sun creeping towards the ocean. It cast its golden rays across the surface of the water and shone orange and red on the clouds above. It was time to go back, or I would be lost here in the dark, possibly forever.
When I reached the base of the mountain, I sat down in the grass to watch the final moments of the sunset. I took a deep breath and exhaled out all the fear, joy and excitement of the past few hours. What was left, was stillness and peace. I settled into the moment, enjoying the calm feeling in my heart. It was a feeling that I recognized, but not from my adventures. It was a feeling I had felt only twice before in my life. Once when I was a teenager, and once during the month just prior to my hike, both times nestled in the lap of a man that I loved. It was in this moment that I realized, sometimes, the feeling we are seeking doesn’t have to be found through adventure; sometimes, the feeling we are seeking is waiting for us at home, and all we need to do is take a deep breath, find stillness and peace in our hearts, and let out the things that keep us from appreciating what we already have.