Mt. Stuart looks like a cavity-riven incisor of a long petrified monster. The dark ridges birthed in the Late Cretaceous seem to rise sheer into the sky, ripping at the mid-morning blue.
FROM HERE, 2 or so miles away, Stuart looks deceptively sheer, flat almost. A torn piece of gray construction paper held against the sky. But as we wind from the scree hillock of Long’s Pass and pick our way through the scrubby valley where granite sloughs water into squishy acres of grass, the shape of the mountain reveals itself as thousands of angles and billions of rocks.
The proliferation of life’s forms surrounding us, the pines and meadow flowers, doesn’t slow our stride but arrests our minds. All this green thrusting skyward.
The going is steep. It’s one long rock slide that must be hopped, scrambled, climbed. The pitch rises until the summit is lost among the reaches of rock and dust.
The concept of walking up a mountain in a single afternoon still boggles my senses, even as my right foot finds purchase and lurches me forward.
This is the way mountains are climbed, one foot in front of another. One rock at a time. One glacial stream at a time. One breathe, one curse, one banged knee, one Power Bar, one reminiscent fantasy, one favorite chorus, 1 foot, 1 calorie, 1 second, bit by bit by bit.
The top is all endless views of Washington’s many mountains. The peaks and valleys look like frozen waves seen from the prow of an old row boat.
Rainier is a white behemoth shrugging off clouds in the distance. The mountain looks god-like and somehow swathed in magic.
But this isn’t magic.
Magic is lady bugs landing on your cheek then knee then foot. Magic is looking down at hundreds of nesting crimson shelled beetles. The insectile faeries crawl from the mountain top crevices to hover in erratic flight patterns.
The presence of the bugs moves me to laughter as the cute creatures crawl from cracks and cuddle in the sun. The mountain breathes lady bugs into the September air.