Yesterday’s mountain was wet, slippery, and cold. Travel bloggers had described it as scorching at its grassy peak, but they had not gone there while a storm brought rain to most of the country. Clouds obscured the view from the summit. All we could see was a blanket of white mist.
I didn’t mind. Each mountain experience is unique, and Sembrano chose to be mysterious yesterday. I had no idea where my feet landed as I walked through its over six feet of grassland covering the trail on top. The fog hid the peak from our eyes and triggered thoughts of horror movies. What if your hikemates started to disappear one by one, and you find yourself all alone in this eerie whiteness? Fade in creepy, evil wail from crevices unknown in Sembrano land.
As always, I feel a great sense of achievement and gratitude for having conquered another summit. Conquered…I’m not sure if that is appropriate. It’s more accurate to say that I experience the mountain.
Nothing beats the cool forest air and the sight of trees. They bring a sense of calm in the way they stand the test of time. Birds call out to each other and all cares are forgotten in anticipation of the next sound. Rivers and waterfalls invigorate the body after a long hike.
Lately, our treks have been punctuated by rain. It is messy to be sure. Shoes and clothes and skin get all muddy and drenched. Every step quakes in the soft earth and perilous rock. Yet I prefer the rain somehow. There is sweat but no exhausting heat. I drink less water. The soil is wet but, ironically, my battered hiking shoes have a better grip on the trail. Give me damp ground anytime over dry, loose soil and I’m a tiny bit faster on the way down.
There is also something liberating and nostalgic about walking in the rain. Fade in that scene from ‘Shawshank Redemption’ as the heavens pour down on Andy Dufresne after he breaks away from prison…Nah, nothing that dramatic. Maybe it’s all about childhood days playing in the rain and the mud, back to those uninhibited times when the spirit was unshackled by perception, insecurity, and fear.
Those grown-up things are what I do conquer in the mountain. Before climbing I always wonder if I can make it to the top, if I can get past a steep slope, if I can scale that huge chunk of rock, and if I can trust the rope, and myself, enough to get down from it.
Mountains have taught me that fear and doubt ferment from thinking too much. When I hit the brakes inside my head, I am able to let go and do scary things like boulder rappelling. The paralyzing fear becomes silly, and I realize that if I want to conquer myself I gotta go back to my carefree childhood and just do it.
And I gotta do it with far less than what I’m used to. Mountain trekking uses up a lot of energy, and if I carry more than what I need it’s going to get tougher. Being on a mountain has brought me back to the basics–all I need are enough food and water and a fit body to survive. It takes little to live and be alive. Focus on the important stuff and leave all the other baggage behind.
So nobody disappeared from Sembrano’s foggy top yesterday. No creature appeared to snatch us one by one from the mist. Everybody got back down safely.
Days from now, we go back up again.