Weekly Peakly Volume 13
Or: The Most Bob Ross Place I Know
Ah, welcome back to the latest installment of my mountain-based follies! Today’s Peakly will cover the sunny, sappy journey up a mountain to Talalus Lake, an idyllic scene that was well worth the battle against the UV rays.
It was a sunny and summery day when I dragged my rear end out of bed. I was very tired, and on top of that very angry, for a number of reasons totally unrelated to the early hour or the hike itself. It was a moody time for me, and therefore a moody morning, and there was not a single part of me that actually wanted to get up and move.
I did anyways, and I was furious about it. I was furious as I got dressed, malcontent as I brushed my teeth, agitated as I chewed my breakfast, bitter as I drank my coffee and drove to the trailhead. I stayed irritated as I stuffed my feet in my hiking boots, threw my pack over my shoulder, and stomped out to begin my trek.
The trail seemed prepared for this, as though it had anticipated my dour countenance and was prepared to fight that with everything it had. It was a gorgeous, sunny day, which made it difficult to stay completely miserable. There is a particular shade of green that the leaves turn when sunlight is passing through them, and I find it impossible to see it and keep a frown on my face. My bad mood put in a valiant effort all the same, however, and as I headed upward it made for difficult going.
The trail itself wasn’t particularly remarkable. Much of the beauty seemed to come from the weather as opposed to the location, which was a bit of a letdown. I’d seen trees like this before, I’d passed rock like that on other mountains. I wanted something to distract me from all the thoughts whirring around my head, and this was not doing the job. I pumped my legs, carrying myself up the steep inclines, waiting – daring – the mountain to make it worth my while.
I found some respite farther up when I encountered fields of a broad-leafed, fragrant plant. I have no idea what it was, nor could I accurately describe the scent they poured into the air. It was flowery, though it had no flowers. It reminded me of something, though to this day I’m not sure what. The memory is strong, assuring me that I’d smelled such a thing before, but for the life of me I can’t recall where. I paused to look at them, breathing deeply and trying to fend off the rest of my grumpiness. It helped, but there were still a lot of things weighing me down emotionally, so as I moved on all I could do was heave a beleaguered sigh.
I think I stayed in that sour, agitated state until I reached the first of what was supposed to be a two-lake hike.
Talalus lake appeared almost out of nowhere. I turned a corner and then suddenly, through the trees, was a placid sheet of blue that reflected the perfect sapphire of the sky. It was nestled between higher peaks that cradled it gently, keeping some of the breeze from disturbing its peace. I sucked in a breath, held it for a second, and then as I exhaled every negative thought rushed out of me with the air. In its place I was filled with a deep, unshakeable serenity. Between one blink and the next, all my anger was gone.
I clambered closer to the lake and found a spot by some fallen logs to serve as a vantage point, and I stood and looked at the scenery with a sense of confounded awe that I hadn’t quite had on any prior hike. It was such a peaceful place that I couldn’t believe it really existed. It was like I had stepped directly into a Bob Ross painting, every color filled with the same positive energy he put into his work. I am absolutely convinced that it would be impossible to be unhappy in a place such as Talalus lake. No mood is so sour that arriving there could not heal it, or at the very least ease it.
I’m not sure how long I remained at that point, taking in as much of the calm as I could stomach, hoping that maybe if I absorbed enough of it the mood would remain when I returned home. Eventually I grew restless and decided to head further up the trail, towards the second lake that was ahead, Ollalie.
The path forward was just as steep as the one I’d left behind, and when I combined that with the heat of the midday sun it became a difficult trek. I was quickly burning through my water supply, and my legs were starting to tense in that way that heralds the limits of my strength. Still, though, I pressed on, eager to reach that finish line.
I made it to a point where a sign indicated a divergence, one path leading to Ollalie lake and the other to another lake called Pratt, which I hadn’t been aware was attached to this trail. I pulled out my phone to check out the GPS situation, and was more than a little dismayed to discover that Ollalie lake was at least another mile upward, which was, unfortunately, farther than my strength was going to allow. Pratt, however, appeared to be maybe a half mile, possibly less, and that seemed far more approachable.
Sadly, it was not to be. I headed in the direction that the signs indicated, but that led me to the edge of a creek. The water was deep enough that I was not keen on wading directly through it. I could have attempted to hop across some of the rocks, which might have been what the trail implied, but after slipping on the beach I am not super enthusiastic about taking on more wet stone.
Above that, though, as I glanced across to the other side, I couldn’t tell where the trail picked up. I couldn’t see any clear path that would mean hazarding the water would be worth it. I was tired, overheated, low on hydration, and I know that I’m not the strongest navigator at this point in my hiking career. It would have been too easy for me to get lost if the trail got confusing or muddled, and I wasn’t confident that I could find my way back with my current overheated, depleted energy levels.
I’d met my match on this day.
I turned around and started the journey back, and I was surprised to note that I wasn’t particularly disappointed. I was braced to force-feed myself positivity, assuring myself it was okay to know my limits and not climb to the very top of every mountain, that I’d still put in a hell of an effort and I should be proud. Generally, this is an argument I have with myself when I don’t hit whatever arbitrary goal I’ve set, but this time when I readied my optimistic ammunition, I found that it wasn’t needed. The sense of disappointment or shame just wasn’t there.
I had done my best and I knew it, and I didn’t need to waste any energy trying to convince my anxiety of it. That might have been the most novel discovery of the day.
The trek back was hard going because I’d pushed so much to go further than I probably should have on the climb, and by the time I reached my car I was half convinced I was going to pass out directly on the hood. I stayed upright long enough to switch my shoes out to my regular sneakers, then collapsed in the seat and cranked up the AC. I spent a few minutes staring at the trees near where I parked, soaking in the strange mood this hike had left behind.
It wasn’t quite victory. It wasn’t quite optimism. It was more like…balance. I was at peace. With my circumstances, with my efforts. I was content with the knowledge that my problems would eventually resolve, and until then I would endure.
I have had some time to reflect on that, and I think it brings to light a realization that I hadn’t really thought about before. It seems that, while I don’t always find what I expect on these hikes, I usually find something that is needed. The revelations I come to as the wheels turn in my brain beneath the exertion of the climb, they are always what was most important for me to find at that moment. Sometimes it’s proof of my own strength. Sometimes it’s to highlight my own loneliness so that I can come to terms with it. Sometimes it’s a brush with victory that I needed, so that I know I could still have a win.
These things are not always what I want to find. I’m chasing bliss every time I set out, but I’ve often found something entirely different. Yet, no matter what, I’ve never been disappointed. In the end, whatever I take away feels like a special treasure. A gift given to me by a Universe I could not possibly comprehend or understand. There’s a lesson in that which I’m going to do my best to remember. A lesson that I want to hold on to when the going gets rough.
Life may not give you what you want, may not give you what you desire, but if you hold on and keep climbing, you will always find something to help you get further.
Mistakes and R E G R E T S:
1. Water levels. I knew that I would need a bit more water than normal because of the hot weather, but I underestimated just how much more. On my colder hikes I usually didn’t stop for hydration until the midpoint. I don’t like hiking with a stomach full of water, and I usually didn’t need to replenish my stores until I was halfway through. This time, though, I found myself growing thirsty far more often, well before I’d reached my destination, and my water was nearly gone by the time I was halfway. This resulted in a hell of a dry downward trip. In the future I’m going to try and stuff my bad with as much water as I can fit, just in case it’s needed. I don’t want to be caught without again, as I know dehydration is a dangerous state to start flirting with.
Hot Takes for Hikers:
Commune with the Skylakes
If you’re hiking to a lake, I recommend bringing a swimsuit in your pack. Especially on a hot day. I made the mistake of not doing this, but I wish I had, because it would have been nice to take a swim in that peaceful haven. I think it would be a good idea to prep for those kinds of spontaneous urges. After all, if you’re going on an adventure, you might as well be prepared to deal with your adventurous spirit, right?
Bring supplies to commune with the weirdness in the back of your head. You never know when it might have a good idea!
Song of the Hike: 99 Problems, the twangy cover by Hugo. The whole way up I felt like this song was an appropriate accompaniment to the journey, and equally appropriate when the lake made me forget about all my problems at once.
Animals Seen: None, except some lazy ass bees.
Mood: Furious fury followed by the calmest of calms.
Trail Rank: The most Bob Ross place in existence, would visit these happy little trees again.