We sat at the ledge of the mountain, looking across the vast forest below, to the lake at the foot of the behemoth of earth and rock across from us. A biting, frigid wind blew at us from the valley, yet there we sat enjoying the song of a bird whose voice carried in the wind from some far off place behind the clouds which hid the rest of the range. Our thoughts, while unspoken, were one. This moment was created for us. The mysterious beauty all around was but a sign that we had almost reached the right place.
I looked at her. She nodded. We stood up and kept moving upward on the thin ledge. The ground here was either muddy, or covered with patches of melting snow, in some places both. We were the only human souls for miles, trekking thousands of feet up on a day when we should by all rights have been at ground level spending yet another hour in front of our altar to that modern goddess, the Internet. But today was not for rituals. It was for adventure, a day which we promised each other we would live.
As we continued up the mountain, the sound of our footsteps on the mud and snow marred the quiet symphony nature’s amphitheater provided. The path grew narrower, so that now for steady passage we clung to trees which clung on to the steep mountainside with serpentine roots.
It was during this continuation that we encountered our first true obstacle, a deep patch of snow which covered the path. As we started to look for ways we could cross it without putting our lives in more risk than they already were, I realized that the idea of time had almost no meaning in this place. Coming from a world where milliseconds make the difference between Olympic history and a footnote, and where people complain of not having enough time yet spend countless hours in front of a screen, the idea that only the torpid pace of the sun’s traversal of the sky truly mattered, while for all its control over modern life minutes and seconds here didn’t, ultimately meant that this moment was both fleeting and eternal; that for one cosmological instant neither the immediate future nor the immediate past mattered.
Suddenly I felt both very small very much at peace.
We found a set of tracks in the snow and decided to use them instead of forging our own path in order to cross. Once on the other side our path would be clear for some distance, although there were other patches of snow ahead. We continued our journey, and the bird continued its song.
The path once again widened so that we no longer needed to hold on to the trees at our flank, though it was still too narrow to walk side by side. I took the lead. Before we arrived it had been drizzling, and looking down at the muddy path, I realized that the only steps to follow would be our own, all others having been washed away by previous rains and melting snow. Still, we pressed on.
Whenever there was a break in the density of the forest foliage, we took a moment to meditate upon the mountain across the lake below. Despite the sunlight breaking through clouds, the day was still overcast, and the top of the mountain still hid. We were able to see the silhouette, but in varying degrees, as with a face behind a veil, where visibility is possible only when light hits it at just the right angles. Nature continued its serene symphony, and though the bird’s solo eventually silenced, a continual crescendo accompanied our increasing altitude.
Once more, we found ourselves in front of a icy roadblock, taller than the last, and which extended a fair distance through yet another narrowing of the path. The snow was virgin, with no previous footsteps visible, and that’s how we decided to leave it. Our goal had never been to see the top of the path, only to walk it. That we got as far as we had, hearing the voice of a timeless world, watching the majesty of the land, and existing for a little while in a fleeting eternity was another reward entirely.