here’s to us

Non-fiction, 3/29/09

It was almost 1 p.m. by the time they left camp for Mt. Constitution. The sun sat high in a clear, cerulean sky, bathing Orcas Island and the surrounding Puget Sound in its vibrant springtime glow. Growing weary of their company and their company’s indolence, the six of them yearned to escape. For what good is camping when one remains rooted at the campsite, close to the food, the fire, the battery-powered iPod dock? Surrounded by nature, yet hopelessly isolated all the same—this is what spurred them to leave.

While driving toward the trailhead, piled into the sports-utility vehicle that wasn’t quite large enough for their number, they had all agreed: Today was simply gorgeous. The sunshine was a welcome respite from the dreary rain and clouds of late. Perfect weather for a hike, they said, late start notwithstanding. The young travelers were friends, hikers, nature-lovers, pupils, and thrill-seekers alike. Among them they counted a budding mycologist, a writer, a river-rafting guide, and a firefighter, but these were merely titles and occupations, irrelevant to the day’s endeavor: an afternoon constitutional to Mt. Constitution. Their individual paths, however disparate, would converge today as one path—a trail, moderate to steep grade, leading straight up the mountain. The view from the summit would be spectacular, they were told, especially on a day such as this.

They hiked through stands of mossy pines, papery birch and towering firs. They skirted the edge of a glittering, azure lake, glancing up as ravens croaked and cawed overhead. Toward the end of the trail they trudged through a two-inch smattering of snow. Eventually they summited the 2,409-foot peak, climbing the stone observation tower to take in the panorama. From this vantage they saw many of the neighboring San Juan islands, as well as Bellingham’s waterfront and the smokestacks of Anacortes. They ate squished peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches with apples and dark chocolate, wishing they had brought some beer.

Walking back down along the road, they saw so many deer—deer on the hillsides, deer in the distance, deer clopping across the asphalt—that the novelty quickly wore off. They reached the campsite by dusk, and were welcomed back with a raging fire and raucous merrymaking. Beers were cracked; wines duly uncorked. Smiling their contented smiles, each of them felt the deep-rooted fatigue of a day well spent.

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