I got up super late that day. By super late I mean sometime between 8.30 and 9 a.m., so, technically, many people wouldn’t call it late.
I was not going to hike that day, no way – only day and a half before I’d hurt my foot during a race. And even though it didn’t hurt that much anymore, rest was recommended by the medics there. Also, maybe it didn’t hurt only thanks to the amount of ibuprofen they had to give me…
But it was clear about an hour later that I simply couldn’t stay at home. The sky was clear and deep blue, the sun made all the colours so vivid, so alive… and then I learned that there was snow on Mt Saint Helena! It was decided then and there; I was going to go hiking. I still didn’t want to, but I just had to. Does that even make sense?
Two hours later, I found myself at the trailhead. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who thought that the weather was very hiking-friendly and that it’d be a waste not to head into nature that day. Finding one last parking spot along the road, I started up the mountain.
The trail was broken, then muddy. The sun shone and it was almost hot outside. And then, halfway up the mountain, like by some magic spell, suddenly, there was snow everywhere. There was snow on the fire road, there was snow on the trees, there was snow… not in my shoes because for once I didn’t forget my gaiters! Yay!
The mush of snow soon turned into a thick layer of a fluffy white blanket covering everything. For every three steps I took up the hill, I slid one back down. Several times, my trekking poles saved my butt, quite literally.
There was ice on the trees and bushes, some of them burned by recent wildfire. I couldn’t believe that I’d literally hiked from spring to winter. There’s just something special about traveling on your feet from one season to another within only an hour.
All the trees and bushes and burnt, black vegetation had ice flowers on them, seemingly formed from pure light. The wind started to pick up and together with the sun reflecting off the snow, it made my eyes tear. Or maybe they were just tears of joy…
The last stretch before reaching the top was pure ice. It was an act of art to get to the very top. Strong gusts of wind ripped the ice off of the tower on the top. One of such pieces hit my head. I was really lucky that it was one of the smaller ones. Be it like the other pieces, I’d be hospitalized now with my scalp sewn and dealing with a concussion.
By the time I reached the top, the temperature had dropped about twenty degrees compared to what it was at the trailhead. The wind was so strong that it almost blew me off of the mountain and I was surprised that there was any snow left, that it hadn’t all blown away with the fast-moving air.
Nonetheless, it was beyond beautiful; clear blue sky above me, pure white snow all around me and nothing but the hustle of the wind in my ears. Even though the parking lot was overflowing when I arrived, there was nobody on the top. Lassen Peak stood tall in the far away Lassen Volcanic National Park, reminding me of the time I spent there.
Solitude was my only friend here, my own voice humming a melody that was carried far away. It seemed like my eyes couldn’t even take in the beauty that was surrounding me, my brain not comprehending what I saw. Other peaks to the north were covered in snow, standing tall, adding to the overwhelmingly beautiful landscape.
On my way back, the snow slushie that I was sliding through on my way up was frozen solid. Where there was mud before on the trail, the ground was hard and where there were puddles, I could basically skate across the trail.
It looked and felt like if the winter was coming down into the valley from the mountain with me. Or rather, like if it was leading the way.
On the woodlands below me, I could see the blue shadow of the mountain stretching, growing, looking bigger and a little bit more ominous with every minute that passed, with every step the sun took down from the sky, with every step I took down from the mountain. It seemed like the snow was going to come down the mountain with us – with me, the cold, and the shadows – but it stayed up on the top; it was time to leave that little piece of winter wonderland…
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