The Sheep Lake to Sourdough Gap Trail starts out right off Highway 410 at Chinook Pass. It’s notched into the side of the mountain and traverses just above the highway for the first mile or so. The sound of vehicles reminded me of all the hikes along I-90 that had the same feature. But on those trails it never goes away. As soon as I entered the forest canopy the noise dissipated and the dust died down. All the way to the lake felt mostly flat. There was a slight incline to the lake but beyond that it was reasonable and well paced to the top. Sunday is low key, even in the mountains.
There were a lot of waterfalls on this hike but they all streamed liberally from my sorrow laden face instead of cascading down the mountain peaks. Life has delivered me some adversity and in short order. Time and again the mountains bring me back to what’s important but this time around nothing was going to keep my whirlwind emotions in check. Two miles in and I had less enthusiasm than when I started. I reached the lake and instead of swimming or at least soaking my feet in I stood at the edge of the water feeling lost.
I continued along the path around the lake and observed the content faces of the happy folks who made the trek to enjoy in mother nature’s splendor. As much as I still appreciated the lake I knew that I wasn’t experiencing that kind of joy. I didn’t linger long before heading off to Sourdough Pass. It was a little over a mile to get there but a mile can be so relative to the situation. If you’re having the time of your life and hoping it never ends a mile comes and goes in the blink of an eye. The other side of that is being faced with internal turmoil and having nothing but that to keep you company mile after mile.
We arrived at Sourdough Gap and took a quick break so Cookie could hydrate and relax for a bit. The warm streak in the weather is sticking around and we were both feeling it. Neither one of us eat much on the trail. We pressed on and hiked over to the overlook above Crystal Lake, the lake I swam in and had all to myself just a few weeks ago. I could see my swimming spot. It’s like nature’s puzzle and I was putting all the pieces together and seeing it from all angles.
The way down from the Gap is when the magnitude of the week had finally taken its toll. The loss had finally been realized and what was left was the remnants of a man who went from having everything and all the happiness in the world to being able to fill up my own mountain lake from the torrential liquid pouring from my face. I decided to simply let it happen and move through the emotions instead of fighting the inevitable. It’s not all glory all the time.
In that last mile and a half I had come across a guy walking up with a beer and said out loud how good that sounded. It wasn’t long after this that I passed up a solo hiker and commented about a loud motorcycle driving by. It was as if I was saying it to myself but happened to say vocalize it. We struck up a conversation and in that brief last mile I learned that him and I had more in common that either of us surely would have imagined by glance. Here’s a mile I could value.
He was just starting out and asked for some hiking tips. My spirits are immediately raised when I get to share what I know and where I’ve been. He mentioned a trail that he’s checking out tomorrow and it happens to be Lake 22, a hike I blogged about back in the fall. By the time we reached the parking lot we had exchanged numbers and he offered me a beer. A blue moon chocolate beer that was cold and crisp and the perfect way to end this hike. Now I have a new hiking friend and that’s the beauty of living life and pushing through the adversity.