Weekly Peakly: Volume 9
Or: Becoming a Disney Princess
Boy, it’s been a minute since I’ve had time to write one of these out. How have you been, Peakers? Good? I hope so.
I have still been hiking, though I had a few things come up here and there that got in the way of hiking as much as I would have liked. I’m going to attempt to make up for lost ground in the next few weeks, so we’ll see how that goes.
These write-ups, however, started piling up on me. I’m going to try and rectify that immediately, though, so that we can get on with our weekly checkup on what it is that mountains are doing. (Spoilers: they’re being tall).
So, on April 14th I shoved my supplies in my pack and headed out for another wet adventure in the good ol’ Pacific Northwest. The trail on the agenda: Rattlesnake Ledge. A frightful name for what turned out to be an absolutely delightful place.
There was a lot of rain again. Both on the drive over and when I had arrived. I knew I was in for a soggy trip, but I didn’t let that deter me. I bundled up (this time WITH my hat) but then…TRAGEDY.
Sorry, no, not really tragedy. I had just driven all the way to the trail head before realizing I had forgotten to grab any earbuds of any kind. I remember staring out the window, wondering if I should just go back home. Anxiety makes it so that the smallest hurdles feel like an ominous sign that the day shall be ruined, and it usually takes me a minute to override that impulse. This one was strong, however, as the idea of climbing with nothing but my own thoughts to keep me company sounded like a good way to get lost in more ways than one.
Still, I’d expended the gas, and that was enough of a push that I needed to drag myself out of the car and start putting one foot in front of the other. I’d at least try to hike with no music and see how that went.
I was thrilled from the start by an encounter with two ducks, waddling their way to the lake. Animals are always going to be a good motivator for me to continue. Maybe I’ll see more! Maybe we’ll be friends! That definitely happens, right?
This hike started at the base of the mountain at the lake’s edge, so I got to stroll by some pretty scenery before making my way up.
To be honest, when it started, it didn’t seem all that extraordinary. It was steep, and there were plants and rocks. The leaves on the trees had started to unfurl for the spring into broad canopies above that blocked some of the rain, which was nice. I’d assumed that the lack of music would make it eerily quiet, but instead I found the steady thrum of the downpour to be soothing. It pattered against the stone and dirt, rushed through the cracks along the mountainside, and whispered reassurances as my pulse rate jumped the steeper it got. It was…not quite as lonely as I expected to be on a soundless hike.
I worked my way up and hit a wall of despondence I am beginning to become familiar with. There is always a point when I start exerting myself where my brain, in its stubborn moroseness, wants to just go home. Oh, there will be so many excuses thrown out to try and persuade me. I’m tired, it was a long work week, I drank too much coffee and kind of have to pee, it’s raining, there’s a funny twist to my sock. This feeling instills in me this idea that scaling this mountain is impossible, but I’ve come to learn that it’s a goddamn liar and shouldn’t be trusted.
I am pleased to report that was the case this time, as well.
I pushed through, huffing and puffing my way up. There was a point where I actually flipped off the mountain, muttering something about it being an uncooperative wretch. “Do you even want to be scaled?!” I thought, with as much petulance as I could muster. I feel like I got a knowing wink in reply, because mountains are snarky creatures who don’t reveal their secrets so easily. I was starting to get a bit cold from the water seeping into my clothes, and my thighs were convinced that my blood had turned to solid lava, but I kept on going nonetheless.
I must say, in the end, it was well worth the effort.
Reaching the top of this trail was like stepping into another world. A pocket of existence that was connected to but entirely separate from the one below. It rose above the clouds, a rocky outcropping lurching into the sky like a defiant fist curled around just a bit of timeless magic. It’s a great example of a spot that feels older than anything you’ve ever encountered before. Your feet are on the ground, solid and firm, and you can almost feel the energy of a million different things having passed over the same spot before, their traces washed away by hundreds upon hundreds of rainy days just like this one had been. It’s the kind of magic that transcends words and pictures, a thing you can only feel and understand once you’ve passed through it. You think you know it, but until you’ve found one of these spots and stood pondering the memories they held, then all of this will just sound like the pretty existentialism of a girl who’s read too many poems and fantasy books.
The first thing I noticed when I arrived (aside from the ethereal quality) was the beautiful vista spread out in front of me. It was breathtaking. You could see for miles in any direction, and far, far down below the lake was placid beneath the steely skies. The wind whipped most of the sound away, so there was a hushed wonder that hung around the heights.
The second thing that I noticed was that the spot was not unoccupied. I don’t mean the other hikers, of which there was a handful. I mean the wildlife. The area was full of chipmunks and birds, none of whom seemed to have any fear of the people milling among their ranks. In fact, they seemed pretty keen on flitting just out of our reach, watching us with curiosity as though we were strange for being so tall when just a few inches high seemed to do them just fine.
I spent some time gazing out at the wondrous sights, and all the while the little friends would gather around me. They gave the people such curious glances I found myself wondering what it was they were thinking about. They seemed to expect something of me as I looked back at them, and it instilled in me a desire to meet those expectations, as ludicrous as it was to want to avoid disappointing a bird.
Now, I am probably (read: definitely) not the first hiker to have had this idea, but I was the first one that day to have it occur to me. I pulled out my backpack and shuffled through my things until I located a bag of granola that I’d been saving for the return trip down. I dumped a bit into the palm of my hand and held it out to the nearest bird.
Sure enough, it flitted over to me, landed on my fingers, and took the offering.
The sounds of surprise and delight from the others on the ridge was wonderful. A kind of magic that is so hard to come by in a world full of people who have already seen everything somewhere before thanks to the internet. I continued to give the birds the granola, and they continued to land on my hand, and we all continued to laugh and smile as we watched together.
I kept this up until a Japanese family with about six small children in tow made their way up onto the ledge. There was a little boy with them that clambered over the rocks faster than the others, and when he looked up to see what I was doing, his eyes got so wide I thought they might pop out of his head. I had used about half of my granola, and it didn’t take me more than an instant to know what I was going to do with the rest of it.
The father followed the son, and he saw what I was doing and gave me an appreciative nod. I grabbed every ounce of granola that I had in my bag and handed it over to him, explaining that I thought he should use it to let his kids feed the birds. You guys, I have never seen someone so grateful over such a small gesture. He thanked me in what must have been three different languages.
As I walked away to head back down the trail, the delighted shrieks from the kids followed me.
I like to think that everything happens for a reason, and that sometimes you find yourself in the exact spot that you needed to be. I think that was one of those moments. I was there to give that granola to those kids, so that they could have a magical experience that they wouldn’t forget. I think that kids should have as many of those moments as possible, and I am humbled and honored that I got to help facilitate that.
My friends say this moment was my graduation to becoming an Actual Disney Princess, and I don’t exactly hate the title, so I think I’ll let it stick.
Mistakes and R E G R E T S:
1. Water is wet. I know we’ve been over this before, but man I really need to stop taking it for granted how cold I get when it rains. Something waterproof needs to be purchased as soon as possible if I want to keep rolling around in the wetter weather.
2. Pack extra granola. Always and forever.
Hot Takes for Hikers:
Share the Magic
I think my biggest recommendation after this experience is that you should look for opportunities to share what magic you find on the mountains. Give a bit of granola to a small friend. Point out a beautiful view to a passerby. On your way down, stop and encourage someone who’s on their way up. The little interactions with the people that flit in and out of your existence can make a big impact on your mood, if you’re open to them and you decide to make them positive ones.
And I haven’t had a negative encounter yet, so that gives me hope that this Hot Take is a worthwhile one.
Song of the Hike: NO SONG THIS TIME. I thought about recommending The Sound of Silence because I’m a cheeky brat, but in the end, I think this time we’ll leave off the song entirely. This hike was about the not-so-quiet silence of the trail.
Animals Seen: 2 ducks, 3 doggos, dozens of chipmunks, and several birds.
Mood: Irritation leading to true magical awakening.
Trail Rank: Tough but fair, rewards you with the best view yet and actual animal friends, would recommend to all aspiring magical princesses.