“Excuse me, but did a teenager with long hair and a colorful shirt zip past?” I ask the lady and her dog. I’m heading down the Tecumseh Trail, she’s heading up.
“Oh yeah,” she says, “she yours?”
“Yup,” I say, “just want to make sure she’s still ahead of me.”
“She is,” the lady says. Then, she adds, “Waaaaaay ahead of you.”
The day is fine, there are no turn offs on the trail and Tough Cookie is dancing down ahead of me after the two of us successfully summited 4,003-foot Mt. Tecumseh. This is not a mountain that creates epic campfire stories. Poor Tecumseh, the lowest of the 48, the least respected. Next to a ski hill. One mile of leg numbing, rocky up. This mountain is often either one of the first or a quick one-off on a peak-baggers list. Tecumseh is a mountain to get out of the way.
But not for us, not today. It has been two years and two months and a handful of days since Buffalo and Tough Cookie high-fived atop a 4,000-footer. Sure, we’ve had adventures since then; frozen lakes and overnights at AMC huts and other peaks and valleys. But we’ve also had a new baby, and school track and a book tour. And somewhere in the haze of life, the high peaks have eluded us.
So, this was a day that hurt. Our trail legs were flabby and lungs ragged. We cooked in the humid air, and hydrated poorly. We slipped on loose rocks and looked up at the one mile of up and felt every second of that time away. But accomplishment rarely happens without pain.
And today, we talked of our new lives, of boyfriends, and changes around the corner. We watch butterflies and wasps. Janelle dipped her hands in the freezing mountain stream and splashed her face and I thought to myself, My God, she’s no longer a child, how did that happen?
And at the summit, we ate our traditional BP&Js, joined in the celebration along with 20 other summit wanderers and watched the lazy views north toward the Tripyramids and beyond. But we didn’t stay long today, didn’t feel calm and at peace with the mountains, not after all this time. Janelle tagged her third 4,000 footer. We agreed to begin her list in earnest.
And on shaky, tired legs, we headed down. But I can’t compete with a 13-year-old’s knees. And why would I? I let her go and silently declared the day a success.
Finally, as I reach the trailhead, I see her sitting on a rock, her face to the sun, looking up at the distant peaks. And for a split second, I can see the little girl again, but that’s just my rueful memory.
I shake that away, and move to the present. “Hey,” she says, seeing me approach. “Hey yourself,” I say. “Good hike?” She nods. It is. It was. There will be more.
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