I like early mornings in Seattle because of the quiet, empty streets. This is a treat normally reserved for post season Sundays during the football season, and for the second time in a week I am able to enjoy the city while it still sleeps. I wish this happened more, but more often than not I turn the alarm off and opt for the comfort my bed. That wasn’t a problem this morning, I was awake and ready. In the half hour before leaving I made two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, filled a Nalgene with a liter of water along with two cycling bottles for when I returned to the car. I made a cup of coffee with two packets of Via to tide me over until I can make real coffee.
There are four other cars in the parking lot when I pull into the Ida Springs trail head. I was here last Saturday, driving and hiking slowly, unsure of where I was going. On the trail that day I made a mistake and didn’t follow my intuition and ended up lost. I had to turn around by the time I found my way and returned home covered in dust and feeling deflated. That’s how my adventures go sometimes. The way is clear now, and I set off at a pace I know I can manage, without my mind wandering in other directions—even visions of one’s “success*” can be a detriment when they cross into fantasy. That was my true downfall last week. I had a time I wanted to beat, and that’s what I held in my mind. Today I am content to move, letting three songs play on repeat in my head as I follow the switchbacks up and up.
The temperature rises with my elevation. It will reach the nineties today, but I’ll be long out of here by then. I’ve given myself a grid of discipline this time. I’ve decided I can stop and drink only at certain points along the trail, allowing myself only a couple hundred milliliters at a time. There are fewer times where I can eat, half a sandwich once I’m out of the woods, the rest on the summit. The second sandwich is for the car ride home. I miss this kind thing. Not just the being alone—some of my most cherished memories are from solo adventures—but the discipline; simply sticking to a plan.
I slow considerably as I climb the ridge proper. The wind picks up and tosses my hat off my head and into a bush. I carefully pluck it from a nest of green pine needles. In my hands again, the hat goes into my bag, and out comes the wind jacket. My hair is longer than it has been in years, and now it blows in a tangled mess around my head. The trail ends in a block of stone. It’s an easy scramble, but I ascend slowly, out of practice.
On the summit I shoot a couple of videos, and snap a few pictures. I point the camera at myself, and immortalize the moment, send it to the world. Right away I notice the lack of a smile on my face. I am happy, but my face is a near scowl. Would it kill you to smile Bob? I ask myself. That makes me laugh. I take bite from my sandwich, frame Tahoma in the bite and post another photo (“That was whimsical.” a friend tells me later).
On the trip back to the car I take sections of trail at a near run. I want to make it home and hang out with my wife and daughter before going to work. I’m an hour behind my original time schedule—too much time on the summit. Back at the car I send my boss a message telling him I’ll be in around three. At home my wife and I give our daughter a bath, then I shower, and I lay her down for a nap, also putting myself to sleep.
Eventually the time comes for me to leave for work, these things are unavoidable. It’s no big deal. I wish everyday could be like this, but then, they too would become tedious—common place and unexciting. The memory will have to tide me over till the next time.