Unhurried – this was our pace for a 2,000-plus-foot ascent that left a parking lot, register log and trailhead sign reminding us where we were beginning from and ultimately to where we would return in four day’s time.
An endless array and a variety of colors instinctively brought a pause for investigative fingering. Colors deciphered on an unseen color palate often used to pick wall colors in homes, offices and public meeting places.
Occasionally we would scurry forward at a renewed pace to again stop for study. Our willingness to slow the pace and to enjoy the preponderance of the free time moments were the rewards in outdoor play.
Switchbacks flowed long with rocks tossed underfoot as a balancing challenge. Trees dwarfed smaller until there were none and eventually transitioned to an entirely different variety of greenery to be observed at the elevated altitude.
New colors speckled the ground level landscape. Winds rustled through the tight canyons splitting one ridge from another. Greening grasses could be seen on lower meadow flats that seemed nearly impossible, and just beyond, reach. Still, we scuttled along. New attentions dominated. The growing length and depth of snowfields that threatened to stop our forward progression but only wetted our enthusiasm to study the flow of a fall, where to swim and how badly the stop may actually hurt. Cautious steps into snow well situated for holding kick steps proved that dedicated foot placement, efficient but unrushed movement could increase a heart rate but just enough to feel safe and alive.
The careful distraction of foot placement on steep slopes it seems mountain goats could only love, was broken up by guttural groans in the distance. Eyes focused on the ground moved to the skyline that had turned, less blue, more ominous with threats that would inevitably result in the throes of oversized ice pellets aimed squarely at exposed body parts – like heads and hands.
As it would happen, Mother Nature has a sense of humor. She waited to hurl her special icy concoction until we were fully immersed in the single concentration task of kicking first time snow holds on the edge of a rocky wall that eroded to rocky steps and a platform – what a gal.
Pulling off our packs it was time to pull on rain jackets and rain pants. The smell of burnt hair dominated. It is a unique scent when the skies become troubled.
Solid snowfields continued to interrupt the high elevation meadows that will soon turn green with lush grasses and marsh flowers. We meandered leaving as few footprints as possible until reaching a rocky outcropping where our tent would be hidden from passerby’s yet unobstructed with viewing opportunities. Snow pocketed our flanks. The skies began to lighten. So many new adventures to be had … starting again tomorrow.