Wednesday, September 1, 2010


I’m a mountain-top kind of girl. Give me a summit. You can have the moist green divot bejeweled with a tumbling creek. I’ll take the top bunk, thank you very much.

Seems I’ve been that way as an adult for a very long time. The Tetons, Big Horn Crags, Seven Devils….these were the rock stars of my twenties. Jarring blocks of granite, that’s what I wanted watching my back. I used to lead trips into the exhausting trials of Heaven’s Gate, opening up the wilderness of the rugged range just east of Hell’s Canyon.

To entice the naïve folks who signed up for my annual “Seven Devils Torture Trip,” I’d stash fifths of Jack Daniels and tins of smoked oysters. On the last climb out, after nearly nineteen miles and a couple of thousand vertical feet, my hiking buddies would be vengeful. I’d have to bribe them: “Just around this bend, just above this crossing, just below that summit."

Then, when they were convinced I was demented or satanic, I’d suggest we take a break. I’d wander in the brush and come back with treats! The last quarter mile was not so tough, with a couple of swigs of Jack and some oysters in the tummy.

Peaks. That’s what I like. My late husband and I had our first “real” date among the Seven Devils’ peaks. An incredible storm swooped down upon us and we huddled in one of our tents, hoping that the lightning zaps would spare us. He told me that this was a good sign: our love had been tested in the crucible of that storm and it held. He was right.

Peaks. That’s what I like. When looking for a spot to camp, I like the summit or, at the very least, a saddle. Surveying what’s out there is important. Nineteenth century landscaping protocol dictated having a fine vista, a spot where one could survey the expanse of her holdings, could monitor the work of her grounds crew, could ruminate on the wild spirituality of Nature Untamed.

We always sought such spots out when rambling in our truck and camper unit. One summit in the Escalante region of southern Utah was particularly impressive: we set up lawn chairs to watch the sunset. Wild turkeys surrounded us at dusk. Elk moistened our windows with their hot breath before dawn. Sunrise was an incredible sacrament, marked with the taste of strong steamy coffee and the deep smiles of gratitude.

Peaks. That’s what I like. My daughter and I just hiked around on Mt Hood. Oh my goodness, what a creature, that mountain! We took the ski lift up, disembarked, and scrambled above the tree line. Clouds sifted through the rocky top of this volcano. Sun tried burning all mist away, but failed. Wind slashed across talus slopes, hardly fazing the tiny tundra blooms of pink, white, yellow. Hiking out to Zig Zag Overlook, we traversed an incredible conifer forest scrambling to hang on, a deep vee canyon littered with the debris of spring run-off, and lush greened meadows, musky and ripe. A trek this high was worth repeating and we agreed to tackle a trail on Mt. Rainier in the coming days.

She and I may not make such a trip, given the soggy forecast in front of us, but we know quite well the joys to be had near the summit. We know of the sacred pleasures offered by peaks.


  1. You make me feel like I was there, but I just wish I could have been. Andrea

  2. Very cool article. I also love the new background wallpaper!

  3. Speak to me of mountains. That is what has been coming from deep inside me these days. Thank you for doing so. Besides, you speak so beautifully.