First Solo Hike of the Summer

Age is simply the number of years the world has been enjoying you.


Author Unknown

Most of my hiking this spring has been with friends, which is a wonderful way to spend time, a celebration of the mountains and the trail with people I care about. We had a cool spring here in the Okanogan Highlands of northeastern Washington with lots of rain. Snow remains on the Kettle Crest not far from where I live, so hiking routes have been limited. Then there is this: I spent most of the winter in a funk, and when cool weather and snow delayed getting out onto the mountain trails, it simply dug me in a little deeper.

So it was a couple of days ago that I climbed to the summit of Maple Mountain along with my usual hiking companion, Lulu, my standard poodle. It was not a long hike, a little over five miles round-trip, but strenuous, gaining 1750 feet in two-and-a-half miles. The trail guide describes it as a route with “no silly switchbacks.”

I admit I was a little apprehensive. With so much snow and ice here in the winter time it is hard to get the exercise I need to maintain cardiovascular fitness. It did not help that I spent most of the winter indoors feeling sorry for myself.

But winter has ended. The rain has at last stopped, and in the words of John Muir, “The mountains are calling, and I must go.”

We saw only one maple tree on this trail to the summit of Maple Mountain, but a large stand of larch, Douglas fir, and pine makes up the forested slope. Gradually the tall trees gave way to open meadowland, the views opened up, and my spirits lifted. I was hiking, perhaps my pace a little slower than usual, but steady and strong. I thought about the events of the last few months that caused my spirits to plummet, and was reminded that whatever happens in my life, I have strong legs and a trail nearby that welcomes each footstep.

The assurance that comes not so much from my surroundings as from my own strong legs reminded me that, at seventy-two, I am indeed an old lady, but that is not all that I am. I am a mother, a retired nurse with a satisfying career behind me, and a hiker, and I have been a hiker longer that most of my other roles.

I made it to the summit, found a rock on which to sit, and ate some lunch while Lulu rested happily in the shade not far from where I sat. I wondered how many hundreds of times I have been in that very same position, feeling the same kind of satisfaction I felt in that moment in the sun, even eating the same kind of candy bar, a Three Musketeers, which has always been my favorite.

Obviously much has changed since I first scrambled to a mountain top and ate a Three Musketeers in my late teens, especially in the last few years. We are reminded by the sages that change is a constant, but I was reassured that this moment on a mountain top remains much the same; I am still strong, and the trail never fails to bring me healing.

Published by Colleen Drake

Colleen Drake (AKA Teacup) has over sixty years of hiking exerience (yes, I'm really old) and has seen some pretty big changes over those many years. Join her on the Solitude Trail & share some of these adventures while exploring with her the value of solitude in the wilderness.

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