I used to get sick in the mountains when I was a kid. There are horribly embarrassing fainting episodes at the Trail Ridge Road Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park and at the top of Pikes Peak, and another involving spewing car-tripping snacks all over a gas station floor near Vail. Never made it to that bathroom. Really, it's surprising my parents took me along on any vacations at all.
But now, I start to feel sick when I'm down in the flat lands. I love my thin air, and early season snows, and special "high altitude" directions on recipes...even though I never follow them. I feel as I imagine fish do, out of water, when I’m below 7,000 ft.
The backcountry season is soon to close, and I feel its pressure as I try to squeeze a few more trips through the door. This winter, I’ll forget exactly what it feels like to walk through an alpine meadow of wildflowers, to stand at 11,000 ft. and cast out into a glacial fed lake, to hear thunder echo through a cirque, and to be reminded that nature really doesn't care if she kills me or not -- and somehow I find that reminder necessary to living. So come late June, I’ll head back up. To be reminded. To go on living.
Although, that’s eight months gestation yet -- the exact same as a moose’s…and no, I’m not sure how that relates other than being interesting – and I’m sitting here tonight depressed -- altitude is my high...the only one I get. I’m thinking about the alpine lakes and streams I visited. Noting which ones I want to check back on next year, and jotting new names down. Closest thing to an address book I’ve ever had.
Snow has already flown. The door is shut -- past curfew, but there's always the slim chance that the-parents-that-be might have forgotten to lock the door. So I'll give it a tug anyhow...just in case I can, after all, get in.