To relive a moment
A different take on our year’s hiking, rather than a straight factual summary I wanted to write about a few different kinds of highlights.
The first was a question I posed to myself one evening. If I could return to any moment during the year, which would I choose? I thought about this for a few minutes and realized the answer I was seeking wasn’t so much about the best place or most spectacular scene, but more about picking a place and time, recognizing that simply revisiting that place on a different day might not be enough to recreate the same feeling.
I scanned our hiking destinations in my mind and thought about how I felt on each one, whether I was hot, tired, wet, or cold, in a good mood or not. Was there a moment that stood out from all the others? I seek peace and tranquility in the mountains, so it feels natural to me to think of a moment at which I had the greatest sense of each. A number of “nice places” came to mind, but none had stand-out special moments attached. To be honest, a lot of the hikes this year involved considerable physical and/or mental effort; hauling ourselves up steep slopes, digging deep to cover distance with an overnight pack, trying not to let the biting insects drive us mad. Would I be able to identify even one moment to relive?
My mind drifted and settled on one time, before continuing its journey back and forth over the kilometres hiked, the summits sat upon, the meadows revelled in. That one moment kept standing out, for reasons I still don’t fully understand. But it seems that my head would like to return to the high point of the hike to Church Mountain, in Washington.
Why Church Mountain? The best explanation I can come up with (if one is even necessary) is that our expectations for the hike were not particularly high. It wasn’t a bucket-list hike, and only really attracted our attention when we re-read the hike description in one of our guide books, barely a couple of days before we tackled it. The summit area was a perfect little flat spot on which to perch safely while admiring the far-reaching and spectacular views all around. That really surprised and captivated us.
What confounds me about this choice is that it was a busy place, and we were surrounded by people for most of the day. There were off-leash dogs too, running wild in the meadows and nosing into hikers’ backpacks for food (plus poop on the trail). These are things that normally detract from my experience, and yet on that day they barely registered. My memory of the moment on that summit is one of peace and well-being.
And then another moment
In writing this piece, another moment came to mind, that I realized was actually two moments merged from the same trip. On our Canada Day weekend trip to Hanging Lake, we ate on a heathery bump above the creek draining into the lake, about 100 m from our tent. From that spot we could see across the still partially-frozen lake and to the mountains beyond, the familiar peak of Tricouni standing out. The morning sun was warm and we enjoyed a relatively bug free breakfast with tea and coffee in hand, a worthy addition to my series of photos I call “terrible coffee in beautiful places”. Unlike Church Mountain, we had this place all to ourselves.
In the evening, after a failed attempt at Rainbow Mountain, the sunshine returned and we sat in the heather sipping a couple of hastily snow-patch chilled (and very well-earned) beers, admiring the same view across the lake, the ice having been pushed by the breeze to the far side. That same sense of tranquility from the morning returned and we savoured a long pleasant evening in the mountains.
Honourable mentions go to a couple of times on our backpacking trips to Ring Lake and Mount Assiniboine when we were curled up warm and cosy in the tent while the rain pattered on the flysheet, a surprisingly comforting sound as long as you’re not in a hurry to go anywhere!
To not relive
So those were the good; what about the bad? There were a couple of those I am definitely keen not to relive. And by “a couple” I am combining every second we were interacting with mosquitoes, black flies, deer flies, and horse flies into a single block of time. The bugs were really bad (again) this year, and we were very thankful for our bug shirts. Even then, there were times I was in danger of being driven mad by their constant attack. Not fun. And yet, as always, the itching stopped after a few days and I was ready to face the onslaught again.
The other moment I could do without was when I fell on the descent into Crown Pass. Sure, I hurt myself (thought not badly enough to have me turn back), but I was more shaken up than anything else by how things could have been so much worse if I had fallen almost anywhere else on the trail than where I slipped. Somehow I found the only soft muddy spot and escaped with just a few scrapes and bruises. Later in the day a fellow hiker was not so lucky and needed a helicopter ride home.
But the mind is good at smoothing over the bad so the times of frustration and pain fade to be dominated by the moments that mattered.