Spaghetti legs, tunnel vision and uncontrollable laughter. We'd jumped far past delirium and landed somewhere between utter insanity and pure bliss.
We. Were. So. High.
Sitting there some 12,635 feet above sea level Zach fired up his JetBoil, I broke into my Nutty Buddys and the smell of hazelnut beans swam in with the clouds. Still, all we could think about was shrimp.
But that's not even entirely true. A good summit clears the mind of nearly all thought. It filters your stress and harnesses focus. I attribute the shrimp cravings to acute altitude sickness.
Maybe that and the fact I'd so brilliantly consumed a breakfast of champions before our hike: Flaming Hot Cheetos and one Fierce Melon Gatorade. Somewhere past the timberline my body decided otherwise.
Zach and I are in pretty good shape, so we'd ignored all the advice to acclimate in Flagstaff prior to tackling the highest point in Arizona. As he put it, "we were just a couple flatlanders," way out of our element. But sometimes that's what makes the best story.
Somewhere outside yourself you find your norm. You find the element and you go with it and when it's all said and done you come out better. You're stronger. And you're happy.
I'm thankful for friends like Zach --dudes who only need one text to sign up for an 11 mile hike. The fact he brought coffee earns him even more style points.
We set out with the rising sun. Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and crew kept the beat. 50% chance of rain. Projected high of 50 degrees.
We couldn't complain.
Humphrey's Trail: The wildflowers swayed to greet the day. They danced in the field, a simple hue of blue and purple, mesmerized by the majesty of the mountain on its throne. The Aspen stood watch and the fog called us forth.
Hoodie weather is such a welcome sign for some dudes from the valley. The shadows darted from tree to tree as light punched onto the trail. The leaves cast their morning dew and the forest chorus began its song. It was a glorious day.
I resisted temptation at the sign in sheet. Barely.
I so wanted to put us down as "Frodo and Samwise headed to Mt. Doom," but figured I'd do the honest thing and just write, "TK and ZP headed to the top".
Onward and upward we climbed. We savored every water break. The abandon. The peace. The calm. The forest was our sanctuary. We were grateful to be a part of it.
My face hurt from smiling and there was hardly a 3 minute break without Zach cracking some kind of joke. I can only imagine how ridiculously giddy we must have looked to passerby. But it didn't matter. The entire community was working toward the peak. People genuinely wished each other a good morning. High fives and encouragement ran rampant. The support was sincere.
There was no way we'd give up at the saddle. Not even when the migraines hit.
Cast out among the coming storm, the true peak looked like some paper mache mirage. We gathered our wits -- what little was left of them at that point -- and rounded the corner. Volcanic remnants of times past crawled up the spine of the beast.
30 steps. Breathe.
20 steps. Regain vision.
30 steps. Check for lightning.
The trail disappeared, stealing our senses. Everything but the pain between our temples and the laughter in our bellies.
A collective chatter rang out. An American flag cracked with the wind and we reached the summit. We. Were. So. High.
To the North, the Southern Rim of the Grand Canyon splintered along the horizon like the cracked windshield on my Golf. Miles of Pine Trees ran to the West, dodging the volcanic rockfalls leaping across the valley.
I'd heard it said before, but it finally hit home. We don't climb mountains so the world sees us. We climb a mountain so we can see the world.
We climb to humble the heights of our pride. We join creation to see the world outside our own. And we walk in the company of friends.
Your mountain doesn't need to be made of stone. It doesn't need a trail. It doesn't have to be dressed in a forest.
What matters is that you rise to the occasion. What matters is our constant decision to climb higher. To think deeper. To try harder.
What matters is the laughter of friends. The camaraderie of completion. The decision to guide friends and rely on one another. What matters is honest conversation, the kind of discussion where you're not just talking but really saying something. What matters is seeing potential in your friends and speaking hope. What matters is commitment to effort. What matters is the journey.
Even if it's just an impulse to drive off down an unmarked road.
It's now Tuesday morning about 48 hours since the hike and I'm drinking an Americano with 3 shots. I've broken through the haze of the worst nature hangover I've ever had. In fact, I think if given the chance, I could probably finish the lunch the I almost threw up Saturday afternoon. The vertigo still comes and goes but my smile is static.
I'm not hiking but I'm climbing.
My mountain is work, today. My mountain is the choice to stay positive. My mountain is the challenge to pursue meaningful relationships with the people I encounter. My mountain is to write. My mountain is to pour out positivity despite my frustrations.
The world is full of mountains and I see climbers.
So, let's get high.