The best views are not seen from the peak of a mountain. Of course, the top is the destination, the reason why we woke up at 2:00 am and started hiking at 3, but the breathtaking view from the top didn’t compare with what I saw in the hours leading up to our final push to the summit.
At the top, we saw clouds that seemed to be just in our reach, mountains that expanded for hundreds of miles and faded to a deep blue, calm rivers, still glaciers, boulders that appeared smaller after having climbed up them. The euphoria of peaking the mountain was unlike anything any of us had felt before. Our noses and cheeks were red from the wind brushing past them and our lungs were hot from the altitude, and yet we didn’t feel anything except for pride and relief. However, although we triumphed that day, my most vivid memories come from our journey.
Around 4:00 am, while it was still dark, we stopped for a break, and instead of continuing our conversations, we stayed silent for one minute. We looked at the sky with its enumerable stars. I thought about how many people the sky might have seen at that moment and about the stories of all those people. I thought about the people in my life, how they were distant like the stars, yet how close I could hold them. The world felt so vast in that moment and I felt so small. I looked around at everyone else and wondered what they might be contemplating, but as I looked at their faces, I saw complete awe, serenity, and wonder, and knew that regardless of what thoughts ran through their heads, they were taking in the moment in its entirety. We were all here, on this vast earth, together. There is something so comforting and profound about being with others in complete silence, even more so when amongst the mountains. All at once, I didn’t feel so small because I was with my closest friends, experiencing something that I could never know at home in my busy life, and I knew that even across the distance, I held those important to me in my heart. After the minute was over, a small voice broke the silence telling us that it was time to go.
That sight of everyone sitting in the dark looking at the same stars and sky, everyone being totally present, was beautiful and will be forever imprinted in my memory. I cherished the time we spent at the peak, but I treasure every moment between our beginning at the trailhead to our finish at the top even more. The conversations, the smiles, the laughs, the challenges, the falls and pickups, those are the things that give substance to our lives. The journey, not the destination, fosters our most valuable experiences and creates our fondest memories.
Later that morning, after the silence but still hours before we had summitted, we watched from the middle of a drainage as a bright red sun slowly ascended over the horizon into a sky of yellows, oranges, pinks, and blues.
Post written by Grace McCaffery