I start to climb. She is gentle and graces me with warm encouraging breezes luring me with scenes unseen by those who are not seduced by her beauty. Her gift of a tiny oasis complete with spring and a dozen bright butterflies greet me. I pause for a while to reflect on this tiny slice of life isolated from the barren, but beautiful scape. I move on leaving this tiny island of life behind.
The gentle turns and twists in her trail grow vague and misleading. Her trail becomes more camouflaged with the rest of the scape and confusing the higher I climb. I've seen this game before. Ah yes: tread carefully with this new beast. The trail seems to disappear. I stop and look around her desolate landscape and notice how nothing sings, flies, or cries. I search for a patten in the strewn rocks and flakes up the moraine, but all I see is more of the same. I'm slightly unnerved and feel mildly threatened. She calms me with a little red flag. Ah ha! Now the game is on!
I scramble towards the red marker; small rocks, and stones sliding beneath my feet. The trail appears once more. I must watch her more carefully and go easier on her back. Her stoney trail to her jewel develops tighter and sharper turns. I'm developing an eye for her moves, but remain cautious sensing that she will present me with more challenges if I get too sure. And I was right.
The path falters and stops. I hear her gently rumble, but her warning quietens to a gentle whisper. Is she teasing me again? I hear desolate places can play tricks with deprived senses. It had been four to five hours since I had any contact with another person. It dawned on me that this was the longest time that I'd ever been without another human being around me. I found that invigorating, but also slightly unnerving. My senses were heightened as I viewed my surrounds much more carefully. The whispers grew louder, I stopped to listen, but couldn't make out words... I continued convinced that I was heading towards the voices rather than away. They must be on the trail.
I see another flag of red..., only this time she is talking... I call. The figure in red stops... I see her and she waves and indicates where the trail resumes... This cunning, but majestic beast has placed yet another obstacle that stops me in my tracts. A boulder field looms ahead. I scrambled across the boulders keeping the red clad figure within my sights. Eventually, after a relatively easy scramble over the rocks and boulders, my savior showed me how the trail resumed meandering up the side of the moraine and along its ridge only a little steeper... I smiled as I watched her glide down and disappear like an apparition into the field of boulders that had obscured my view of this stark, but beautiful beast's writhing trail.
I felt relieved and grateful of my mystery traveler. I wondered how I ever would have found the trail without her. Going forward, the beast's trail was easier to follow and she rewarded me with spectacular panoramic views that made me feel on top of the world. I climbed a little more as I wanted to reach the pile of rocks neatly stacked indicating the trail. My breath was being taken away by her dizzy heights of about 9,000 ft and I still had another 1,500ft of climbing to see her jewel -- a once in a life-time sighting. Breakfast was hours ago and it was more than time for refueling. I found a comfortable spot for my lunch of trail-mix, mozzarella cheese stick, and a protein bar. I again pondered at the desolate landscape and the fact that now I truly was alone on the mountain. I had never been so isolated from other life. I felt privilege to experience that. I surveyed her desolate, but serene landscape again and felt at peace. I had no anxiety from the possibility of running into other less accommodating beasts like mountain lions or bears which kept me on edge below the timberline.
Lunch was over, and I looked forward to finally catching a glimpse of the once in a life-time sighting of her jewel. I felt honored and privileged that she would reveal all. I came across her first snow layer left discarded like a lace scarf she'd thrown off from her peak that now laid before me at my feet. There were a few more turns and twists to navigate. I was close. Many before me had not even been allowed here without a battle against her unforgiving elements. Finally, I reached a thicker whiter mass and looked across the glacial whiteness. There was her jewel... a small piece of aqua blue stood out among the whiteness -- I had reached the jewel named Helen Lake and was witness to the first time in 50 years of her showing off this gem - a small pool of water in this dessert of a mountain peak. I was close to this amazing jewel as I could possible go without risking falling into one of her possibly hidden crevasses never to be seen or heard of again. She tempted me with this sight, but I withdrew back down the trail promising her I'd be back to climb her peak next year.