Once two dearest friends decided to climb a mountain together. One of them had brawn and the other had bravery. Between the two of them, they could do anything.
They met up on a rainy Sunday. A sign at the base of the mountain said it was 2.9 miles to the top. In 2.9 miles they would be 4000 feet up in the clouds. These two friends knew they could do anything, but they also knew this mountain would be an enormous challenge.
They set off. They clambered over rocks and roots. They heaved their packs over boulders and weaved between the trees. They pushed their bodies up and up and up. And all the while, rain drizzled down. The rain slickened the rocks and softened the moss, like a sugar glaze. The gray light intensified the green life around them and heightened the sense of awe inside them. Clouds were level with their heads and came speeding towards, through, and past their bodies. They understood they were very little and the world is very big.
After a mile or so, they reached a clearing. The wind ripped across the clearing, knocking over anything that dared to traverse the exposed ridgeline. They struggled to stay upright, but several times they sunk down to the ground to clutch the earth. The wind's force frightened them. All the trees looked like they were driving in a convertible with their hair blowing behind them. The northern wind forces the tree trunks to tilt south and the tree branches to grow only on the southern side. The friends became tired, then mopey and depressed, then hysterical. Then they became feirce and determined. And then, on their very last legs, they reached the hut.
Inside the hut (a solar and wind powered cabin), they met "Bisquits" and "Gravy". "Bisquits" was a compassionate activist, and "Gravy" was a straight-faced comedian. Combined, they made delicious company. So the four hikers talked and laughed loudly that night, and they were sad to separate in the morning. But such is the traveling life. It's all only a sample, and a traveler must be satisfied with that much.
So the two friends, the two heroines by this point, packed up and saddled their packs (their packs saddled them), and they set off back down the mountain. Hiking down a mountain is as intense as hiking up, it's just different. They needed many rest breaks and many dark chocolate m&ms. When they rested, they would keep their packs on, because it took too much energy to muster them off and on again. So they'd just roll backwards onto them and lean on them like a reclining back rest. Towards the end of the journey down, the brave friend got stuck belly up, held down by the pack. A large group of children and parents walked past while the brave one was fighting with her pack. Someone said she looked like a beetle. And there it was, Becca's trail name, "Beetle".
"Beetle" and I made it back to town. We found a coffee shop with a couch, and we moved in. The rest of the day we spent reading, writing, and eating pastries on the couch. We camped out another night at a local campground, and early the next morning set off on a bus to "Beetle"'s house in Boston.
We compiled a "To Do List" for the rest of the week:
Go to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston
See "Eat. Pray. Love."
We accomplished everything.
I had a wonderful stay with "Beetle"'s family, and I particularly enjoyed their kitchen. I can earnestly say of all the things I miss, most of all, I miss kitchens. I miss the warm spaces revolving around sharing food and conversation. If I get my way, my future house will be mostly a kitchen.
Then on Friday, I called home and was shocked to hear my cousin Lydia was in labor. Her delivery was sooner than had been expected. I impulsively booked a ticket for that day (luckily they were on sale), and flew into the Milwaukee airport that night. I visited Lydia, her home companion Matt, and their new baby, John Lambert Doyle in the hospital yesterday and at their condo today. I head back to the trail the day after tomorrow, hesitant to leave my cozy, happy home (and its great kitchen), but also looking forward to this coming month.