A late summer day, clear and warm, offered the perfect time to visit Hurricane Ridge. There are many good hiking trails in the area and because we visited after the school year had started and summer vacation season had ended, we had the trails mostly to ourselves. After a short stop at the Visitor’s Center to find a map, we chose to hike an unpaved ridgetop traverse about a 10 minute drive from the center. The gravel trail was well-maintained but narrow in places and exposed enough on both sides that my spouse found it too uncomfortable to continue. He returned to the car. Since these conditions don’t bother me (some other heights do), I continued the hike, stopping to admire the many stunningly symmetrical conifers along the way. Abies lasiocarpa, Subalpine Fir, and a lesser amount of Abies amabilis, Pacific Silver Fir, are the firs seen in this area. Beautiful trees. The Silver fir, especially, is a gorgeous tree and it is a joy to come upon its sparkling blue/silver color nestled within a stand of the dark green of our Subalpine fir.
I hiked along the path without being fully aware of the larger surroundings until I realized the path was climbing enough to make me breathe a bit harder. At this point, I stopped and looked up and around, and was awed by the view. Elevation of about 5,500 feet; clear blue sky dotted with small clouds of silver and white; mountains of slate grey, blue, black, and white; such quiet broken only by a strong wind. I was alone on the ridge, no one ahead of me, no one behind. No sounds other than wind and birds and a lone chipmunk. I had heeded the sign “Stay on Path” and for good reason – one slip of the foot and the trip down the mountain side would be fast, painful, and final. I stood still and listened. Delight moved through me. I looked around. Odd that such a warm day contained such cold wind as this. To breathe in air so pure and cold jolts the mind into submission and sharp awareness. Thoughts dissipate on wind gusts and swirl away. Weightless and unhindered breezes supersede resistant material. Nothing human is vital here. An empyrean of molecules and atoms spins within and throughout. Time is small. Moments blend into past and present, and meanings change. Reason enfolds each picture in the mind’s eye in a struggle to capture the intangible. Reason fails. Time is infinite and immaterial. Nothing separates thought from emotion when both are inconsequential. Numinous sunlight warms the air.
Wind stings my skin and I return to the present. I look down and realize I am off the path, standing at the very edge of the mountain side. My arms are extended out slightly. I draw in a sharp breath and jump back onto the path. My heart pounds in my chest. I have no idea when I left the path or how long I stood at the edge of the ridge. I look around and see two people standing at the foot of the path. Had they been watching me? I could assure them that this one had no thoughts of jumping. I calm down and begin my descent. They remain in place and watch as I walk towards them. I notice that this couple is sporting some very fine hiking gear. I smile at them as I approach, mostly in response to the serious expression each hiker wears. As I draw near, within hearing range, the man looks at me and says, “Is it worth it?” I don’t entirely understand his question and fear that they did, indeed, think I was considering jumping off the mountain.
The man lifts his chin slightly in the direction of the ascent. “The hike up; is it worth it?”
I notice his serious, slightly impatient expression. His companion seems to share the same concern. Both look like an embodiment of the expression ‘Time is money.’
I smile. “Oh, yes. It’s worth the walk.”