No one really knew why we were doing it other than it just felt like the right thing to do
at the time. We'd all lived in the village
our entire lives, small insignificant people in the shadow of the great mountain
. Our parents always told us to stay away, they told us stories about ghosts
that walked the slopes in an effort to keep us away. But as we got older, we saw through these stories and our curiosity
began to grow. We decided to climb it, we were young and we hadn't yet learned that we couldn't do anything
We left late one evening in the early fall, none of us told our parents what we were doing. We walked all night, it was a good 20 miles to the base of the mountain and we wanted to get there by dawn. You could feel the energy in the group, we were all young and stupid and full of confidence. We were grinning like fools, laughing and telling jokes all through the night. It was the picture of innocence, probably the last time we would ever be like that in our lives.
The next morning we reached the base of the mountain, all of us still in high spirits and looking forward to the journey ahead. It was a beautiful day, sunny and clear without a cloud in the sky. We started up the path, joined by a few fellow travelers around us. This part of the mountain is fairly well traveled by tourists and we laughed at them from a distance. They were just sunday travelers we thought, we were the only ones with big dreams of heading to the top. We were invincible and we knew it.
We made pretty good time up the mountain, that afternoon we reached the top of the tourist trail. There was a restaurant there which served drinks and snack foods with a beautiful porch giving a great view of the plains below. It was nice, looking down on the village where we had lived all our lives. The air was clean and cool and the view was spectacular. We'd been walking for 20 hours already and you could see a few of us were not as strong as they thought. Some of us didn't want to go on, they had seen the view and smelled the air and they were satisfied. They tried to talk the rest of us into heading back with them, but we were determined. I wasn't going to head back now, I had to know what was at the top. The view here may be good, but it is only a small fraction of the beauty we knew we would find higher up.
Our group, smaller now, headed out late that evening after resting for a few hours. Our legs were fresh and our stomaches full and once again we found ourselves in a great mood. The path here was steeper and less traveled, but still easy enough to follow. There was a full moon to light our path and a sky full of bright stars shining in the sky, with beauty like that around you it is impossible to think you could ever fail. We walked all night and stopped at dawn to have some breakfast.
You could feel the air getting thinner with each breath you took up there. The trees were getting thinner too, but we were still doing ok. A few more of us headed back down after that, but most of us stayed on determined to make it to the top. We walked all morning, and the path gradually became steeper and steeper as we went. In the early afternoon, we reached a ranger station where we stopped for a rest. The path almost disapeared here, it was nothing but a thin overgrown dirt trail leading upwards. The view here was spectacular, even better than at the previous rest area. The sky was clear and you could see for hundreds of miles over the land on which we had grown up. Most of us were satisfied with this, we had come to see a great view and beat a challenge, but we had lives to get back to. When it was all decided, there were only two of us left who were determined to travel on.
Kathy and I left a few hours later, following the narrow path up the mountain. For a while, it was not too bad. Though it was overgrown, it was easy enough to follow. For a few hours, we walked along the path before it became too steep for us to continue on at our brisk pace. The thin air didn't help either, we found ourselves stopping to rest every 15 minutes or so. But we kept going on, it was too late to turn back now. After a few more hours, the path ended and we found ourselves on a barren and rocky mountain. There were no more trees up here and the wind was strong and cold. We walked along the rocks for a while in silence, both of us determined to go on.
For the first time on this journey, I was afraid. Up here, walking along the loose rocks and narrow ledges, you touch death every few steps. One wrong move or one careless step is all it will take to send you tumbling down the steep rocks. But the summit is in sight now and nothing is going to stop us from getting there. We reached the top by late afternoon and marveled at how far we had come. The view was breathtaking and the air had an energy to it that we had never known before. We sat there for hours, looking down at the land all around us. Looking down on the village where I had grown up, it seemed foreign to me. It was like looking into my past, a life I had once lived but could barely remember.
We set up a tent and sat outside watching the sun creep into the horizon. As night fell, we built a fire to keep us warm and gazed at the stars above us. Every now and then, a comet would flash across the sky. The moon was huge, looming over us and lighting the summit even in the depth of night. Kathy turned and looked at me for a while, finally letting out a quick laugh. When I asked her what she was laughing at, she told me that she had been here before. She went on with me, never telling me she knew the way, all because she had wanted to see it when I figured out what it was all about. I smiled back at her, we had a secret few people would ever knew and I was grateful for that.
The next morning we knew we had to head back. Some people may take this journey and think it is over when they reach the top, but it isn't. You still have to go back down, to take this experience and go back to your life. When we started out, we all thought this would be an incredible journey that would change us for the rest of our lives. Perhaps that was true, but the real importance of a journey is not to have a great experience that will change you. Standing on top of that mountain, I realized that every moment of my life was full of change and this was just another moment. I realized this trip was just one small moment in a much longer journey, that I didn't learn anything from this trip but rather I remembered things I had forgotten long ago. Sometimes it takes a great journey to realize that you were already where you wanted to be before you started, it's just a matter of perspective.
After one last look around, Kathy and I smiled at each other and headed back down the mountain.