South Sister - My Family Travels

Why was I doing this?

I couldn’t even see the mountain my dad, my sister, and I would attempt to climb that day.  My dusty hiking boots slid over the icy parking lot that was barely visible in the gray-blue glow of dawn.  Wasting no time, we started into the trees.  The forest was eerie so early in the morning.  The tiniest sounds – a tree creaking, a bird chirping – were magnified under the canopy of evergreens.  The path twisted in the darkness.  Just as I was beginning to think the forest would never end, the trees thinned, and opened to a meadow drenched with morning sun.  From there, I saw the mountain staring down at us.  It seemed impossible that later this afternoon, we could be so close to the sky.  The sun warmed my legs as it warmed the frost that still grasped the alpine flowers.  With newfound energy, my family and I moved toward a steeply inclined path that led to the summit.

This part of the climb was much more difficult.  My calves burned as we trudged through the dust in the now too-hot sun.  After passing the tree line, we stopped for lunch.  We sat on a boulder overlooking Central Oregon.  It was a view that could put anyone’s life into perspective.  I truly felt miniscule.

As breathtaking as the view was, we had to move on.  We traveled higher and higher.  A chill returned to the air around us, and the dusty path turned crystalline.  Soon everything was powdered with snow.  Then we were hiking on an inch of snow.  Two inches.  Three inches.  Four.  Five.  The path zigzagged up the steepest part yet.  My feet slid back with every step.  Finally, I saw it.  I raced to what I assumed to be the peak, only to find myself looking at the actual summit buried in snow and still half a mile away.  Disappointed, I sat down on an icy rock.  After my emotions calmed and my heart returned to its normal rate, I realized I was sitting next to the clearest, most untouched lake I had ever laid eyes on.

My dad and sister came over the crest wearing the same emotions on their faces that I had felt just seconds before.

 “We can’t go to the top,” my dad said, sitting down next to me.

We watched as another couple turned back.  We had come too late in the year.  There was too much snow.

I sat there on the rock, looking over the lake of glass and the expanse of land beneath me.  A wind that carried no sound pushed darkening clouds aside.  For a few moments, I was immersed in the most complete silence I had ever experienced.  There were no cars, no people, no phones, no noise.  There was only the soft whistle of a cool wind in my ears.

That day, I thought I would get satisfaction out of conquering the mountain.  However, as we drove back to Bend in the golden light of the late afternoon, I realized that getting to the summit was not so important after all.  That day, I saw the struggles of life reflected in climbing a mountain like clouds reflected in a motionless lake.  On clear days, I sometimes catch a glimpse of the South Sister, and it reminds me to never get so wrapped up in my life that I forget about that miniscule feeling I experienced on the mountain.  Whenever the noise of life gets overwhelming, I can always return to my favorite place – the South Sister.


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