Six days until my Alaska departure. Thus far I had scribbled my name across divorce papers, cashed CDs and traded my lavender Toyota truck for a trailer-towing V-8 Ford. Beauty for brawn. Packing boxes choked off my mountain view as I checked Verizon coverage in remote places. I roused, stepped onto the balcony and gazed at distant Sharkstooth Peak. Enough already! I hopped around a cardboard box, grabbed my pack and headed one last time into the Colorado high country.
The air was eerily warm for early June. Up, up I climbed, through the virginal green of newly-leafed aspen; across rushing streams of snowmelt and mountain meadows lush with marsh marigold. Then just like that, tree line ended and I emerged into barren expanse. Exposed. The air thinned as exhilaration took hold. Ah yes, there it was again, that invincible woman-alive feeling, the connection with infinite possibility. I stared up at the twelve thousand foot saddle and caught my breath. Two-hundred feet to go – almost there – the trail disappeared under snow. I treaded gingerly across the sun-softened drifts, ten steps from solid ground when I sank through to my crotch. Mountains were ripe with metaphor. I struggled free with my hiking stick and trudged on up the steep slope.
I set my soggy self below Sharkstooth's craggy point; beheld familiar peaks south to New Mexico and west to my beloved Sangre de Cristos. I opened my water bottle, gave the first drink to the mountain and took a swig. Then I stood, feet apart, arms upraised and faced northwest, to Alaska and the nameless future before me. Praise be, I uttered, here I come.
Quests have no itinerary. I didn’t know if my tracks heading north would be there to follow when I returned south. Perhaps, like this day, they would melt into the earth, diminutive amidst nature's grandeur. Of this I was certain: a quest was little about reaching the door and everything about walking through the doorway. Stripped of the roles and rituals born of habit and protection, one traveled naked as a newborn. Light and darkness shaped the shadows, illuminating the way, one holy, hell-bent moment at a time.