It’s already been a week since I returned home from my belated birthday hiking trip around Mt. Ranier and while the photos remind me of the inspiration of the Cascades, my words fail me. But if I don’t write about it now, I wont write about it at all, as I failed to write about last year’s bday hiking trip through Banff in Canada.
For weeks and days leading up to the rescheduled trip, I watched the weather reports and the hikers notes on All Trails. Sixties and seventies, they all reported. So I packed for 60’s and 70’s. Day one, it was 60’s and 70’s. Days two and three, it was in the 30’s and I had nothing but a windbreaker. No gloves, no hat. No thermals. But I came to hike so frostbite be damned. I managed to keep my digits and most of my dignity intact. The last two days of trudging were a bit like my military experiences: glorious and miserable. Learn to love the suck and feel pride that you endured when others would have said “hell, no.”
I had plenty of company on these hikes too for a change. I usually hike alone to avoid the pressure of keeping pace with someone else or the obligation of any schedule other than my own. But this time, I had friends and acquaintances coming out to meet me readily. My close Army friend, S, who’s sofa I crashed on, my long-time Marine friend “M”, both of who I’ve mentioned here previously. And an old radio acquaintance and true mountaineer who drove in from Yakima to accompany me on that final, snowy third day.
The first day was by far perfect in weather and scenery even if I was distracted by self-conscious feelings of inadequacy from the moment “M”, a stoic John Wayne type, stepped out of the car looking just as much a Marine as ever despite the face scruff and shaggy hair. “You look like a goddamned hippie” I said as I embraced him for the first time in a decade. We both had changed but time had softened and broken me whereas it further chiseled and hardened him. “S” in full wingman mode paved a baited path that went untouched and while I was touched by his matchmaking efforts, it made me hyper-aware of percieved rejection. Like a full plate of hot, salty fries neglected on the table. Who wastes it?
Many reasons why the opportunity may have gone ignored but of course I got hung up on the one: he’s not interested. Ten years ago, both in uniform, the timing was not in our favor when M admitted feelings for me. Now that the path is seemingly clear, he was no longer hungry. Maybe his dick doesn’t work, I inevitably wondered. Sad how that thought always crosses my mind now if a man catches my attention.
But otherwise, it was a long overdue trip that was better than I had expected, rejection and freezing rain aside. My rehabilitated foot held up over nearly 40 miles of rugged terrain while conversations bounced from serious debates to bowel movements to dating over the hill to Belinda Carlisle (which resulted in us =singing “Eternal Flame” up and down the mountain trails). And I reconnected in person with people that give a damn about me. There are still a few left. Even if the one I built up in my head didnt want me for dinner.