Yesterday was Emma’s eleven month birthday, so to celebrate we left her with her grandmother and climbed Mt. Harvard. I guess I’m not really a helicopter parent.
The trailhead to Mt. Harvard is about a ten minute drive from our house. After a night of multiple wake-ups, including a two hour fiasco, we kissed Emma good bye, hopped in the car and started a six mile approach. The trail leads you up through Horn Fork Basin, what the guide book describes as a ‘beautiful alpine valley,’ and it’s right. For about the first four miles you are in western pine forest and the last two you are above the tree line in a valley, with the peak of Mt. Columbia to your right, Birthday Peak to your right and the peak of Mt. Harvard directly in front of you. Mt. Harvard and Mt. Columbia are connected by a pointy saddle, full of castle shaped rock formations. It’s this saddle that kept Columbia from being declared it’s own mountain for several years.
We started out talking about an upcoming job opportunity that Scott has, we talked excitedly about what we would do with our money, this portion here, and that portion there. The first time in our marriage where one of us would be making a solid salary has made us giddy with the possibilities. At one point Scott reached out and took my hand and we hiked holding hands. We have gotten out of the habit of holding hands (something we used to do all the time) because in Kenya if you hold hands with someone it means you are having an illicit affair. Which I thought was hysterical when I was pregnant. As he took my hand, inwardly my heart leapt a little, with a girlish inside giggle, I thought, ‘he still really likes me.’
Once we were out of the tree line and looking at the peak of Harvard we debated on what was actually the peak. There was a knob to the southernmost part of the top and several humps afterwards. As we got closer I kept thinking the third hump down was the peak, from where we were it looked the tallest. I steeled myself and saved my energy, I put one foot in front of the other, slowly, stalwart, tortoise like. When were probably about a quarter mile from the first hump over from the knob, the one I thought, ‘was not the peak,’ and Scott said,
“I think this is the peak, the guys on top are acting like it’s the peak.” Sure enough the men on top had stripped off their shirts and were doing hand stands. Not something you do on top of a false summit; usually a false summit gets an angry curse word and a deflowering of your hopes. The next hikers that came down I asked, is this it? Or is it that one? They smiled and said,
“It’s this one.” My spirits soared, suddenly I had so much energy I felt like jogging to the top. Not really, but I think I could have. Knowing that the peak was right in front of me rather than another mile or so to the right made me rush with renewed energy. We were at the top of Mt. Harvard within moments.
And that’s why I climb mountains, the top. The conquer and the view. The challenge, the success and then sitting at the peak of the world and seeing a view that few people have the privilege of seeing. We could look all the way down the tips of the Sawatch Range. The dark blue and purple tips of Princeton, Antero, Shavano, and Tabaguache poked the sky and reminded us of our small-ness.
After a few celebratory handfuls of trail mix and the discovery that my husband doesn’t really like pretzels, we started down. I hate down. Peering over the edge of the rocks that you just took in stride, realizing that you have to turn yourself around and traverse that all without falling flat on your face. I mostly go down on my butt. I know it’s not cool, but when in doubt use the largest part of your body, which for most women is our bottom.
For the remaining five or six miles of descent, we marched. We were eager to get home to our awaiting shower, and beer. Our post-hike tradition. This time I felt another strong pull on my nose to home, the pull to see my little girl. I did miss her, missed holding her and hearing her precious giggle. We strode along in silence this time, thinking about things to return to.
We called my mother in love on the way home from the trail, she was waiting outside for us, with Emma on her hip. Even though couldn’t hear her we knew that she was pointing to the car and telling her that Mommy and Daddy were coming home. Emma’s face turned from one of baby hopefulness and confusion to all smiles when she could recognize us through the windshield. As mom shuffle-ran up to the car we could hear her peals of baby giggles. I do love the mountains, but it’s good to be home.