I forget that there’s a mountain in the middle of my home town. It sits in a corner of the city, rather rotund, not ominous in the least- just there. Mount Helena is an omnipresent part of the landscape, a token rise in elevation, a constant in my view of the city. Apparently, it has so much presence I take it for granted and forget to reconnect.
While I spent a good deal of the summer running on the lower trails, many of them unmarked social trails, I had not actually made it to the top of Mount Helena in years. Literally. I can count the number of times I’ve made it to the top on one of my hands. Feel free to send me mental waves of shame.
Well, it just increased by one more. After a casual suggestion that I didn’t take seriously enough, AK and I set off walking towards the mountain, through downtown, past locked doors and dark stores. While he was wearing entirely appropriate clothing- Goretex shoes with treads, waterproof gloves, two layers of practical jackets, and pants- I wore leather boots with no treads, a red wool pea coat (another possible post- why is it called a pea coat?!), cashmere/wool gloves with a few holes and no waterproofing capabilities, and a leather bag to hold my camera. I looked, quite frankly, like a moron. Or somebody from out of town. (To be fair, I hadn’t packed boots, actual pants, gloves, or any sort of practical coat for the weekend.)
I went first. It was probably best- I didn’t have to match a pace, but was rather able to set it. A hobbled pace, to be sure- the boots were very good at keeping away water, but terrible at making me feel like I could stand up and stay on the trail. I slipped, slid, and had to engage in all manner of balancing moves that made me feel more like an amateur trapeze artist than a walker of mountain trails. (Note to self: Toss hiking boots in the car, you may need them in the future). I led us down a trail that was entirely erroneous (my apologies!) for a bit, too, to add to the utter ridiculousness.
The top was rocky and icy. A 360 degree vista of trees, valleys, faraway hills and mountains made my breath catch in my throat for a few moments. I have resented this landscape, felt violated by the isolation, and have loathed Helena as a backwater town of little to offer. Little by little I forgive this town, realizing that these feelings of hate are ill-placed. When I can see for miles on the top of a long-neglected mountain with a worthwhile human being and breath the crisp air and feel more vital than I have in a long time, things are clarified, life is simplified, and my caustic feelings turn less acidic.
As we descended, AK led us through drifts where the wind erased the trail for some yards, led us back down the mountain, and occasionally turned around to wait for me when my shrieks and curses for fear of falling grew too common. In the end, we hopped a fence and got hot food, a good afternoon spent outside in my own little-traveled backyard.
Here’s the path we walked, courtesy of AK’s smart phone: https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=208866538666354606641.0004ce418d59a12300060