she led us up this mountain. my beautiful daughter, surefooted and strong, an exceptional guide, stopped in high altitude to allow me to catch my breath, to sip water. i wondered where the lake was…each step i took. but, following her, i stopped wondering if i would make it there. the confidence she exuded was both palpable and contagious. and so it was both thrilling and challenging to be high on independence pass, starting at the trailhead just a bit down the road from the summit.
she led us up this mountain and everything else fell away. far below us was the gravel lot, the highway. far below us was the truck that would soon take us away from these mountains, this heart-place. far below us were thoughts of leaving, thoughts of anything back home, thoughts of the pandemic and the election and real life and the worries embedded in all of that.
she led us up this mountain and we gained more than elevation as we trekked, our footfalls on the trail lost in the sound of the wind. we gazed around us, first below the treeline, then above, with fir and pine our hosts, the quaking golden aspen far below, unseen. the creek punctuated our thoughts and – admittedly, my puffing breath – tufts from mountain goats decorated thick branchy and leafless bushes.
she led us up this mountain and the less air i had left, the more it filled me. i wanted to hold onto every last second. i wanted to stand high on this mountain, next to this stunning pristine lake with my beloved daughter, and just weep. my heart needed this hike. my soul needed this hike. my body needed this hike. every other hike we had taken over our joyous days in these colorado mountains had led us to this hike. i was exhausted and cold and invigorated, hot-flashing and weak-kneed. and so, so grateful.
because mostly? because she led us up this mountain.