I stared at the ground, my knees creaking with every stride. I had been staring at the ground for so long that I would catch a glimpse of the veins of dead leaves that I stepped over on our trail. Who told me this was a good idea? Whoever it was I was going to slap them. It had been three hours since a meal and six miles since I was happy. How was I going to make it up there alive?
“Hey, you okay back there?” the leader smiled at me as she pushed on her walking stick up the path.
“Yup,” I wheezed. I unlocked my eyes from the ground to see how far ahead she was. Three people in front of me, an unfortunately small woman led the group toward a peak that no one but her cared about. She turned back towards the trail that disappeared into the sky. The problem with the path was that you could never see the end. There was always just a little bit more till the top. I continuously thought we were about to reach the peak and then there was a slight turn to the left and the path continued upward.
“We’re so close guys. We can do it!” she yelled into the valley listening for her echo to remind her that she was correct.
“Are you sure this is the right path?” Hiker number two questioned.
“I’m positive. We’re almost there. Don’t worry.”
“And you’re sure we can’t stop and eat now?” I pleaded.
“Seriously, its right up here. Once we get to the top, we can eat lunch.”
I looked back down at the leaves under my feet. The tunnel of trees had at least created enough shade around us that I wasn’t dying of heat, but I was definitely sweating. Occasionally I would glance to my right past the horizon of trees, and into the valley below and get a peek at how high we had come. But then it was right back to putting one foot in front of the other just to keep up with the group.
“Look, here it is!” The leader pointed with her stick to a break in the woods, which had surrounded us since our departure from the parking at the start of the trail. “I told you guys we would make it.”
I pushed forward, thinking to myself, ‘it’s just a couple more steps and then you get a turkey sandwich.’ I bent and straightened my legs, just as I had done so many times before, but this time with a ferocity and determination to make it to the top. I broke through the trees and into the sunlight.
I pulled myself on top of the rock face that was the peak of the mountain. The air was crisp, and I could feel it rushing up from the valley. The whole world was below us. I could see the valley to our right, the next peak to our left and a whole range of mountains that weren’t even visible from our tunnel of trees. The green of the forest stretched as far as our eyes could see and met the blue of the sky at a horizon far into the distant expanse beneath us.
“We made it,” Hiker number three was in just as much awe as I was. I had spent so much time pushing my legs to their limit up the hill that I hadn’t noticed how high we had actually gotten. We stood on a peak looking out over a world of our own. A whole new perspective of all things below us made it feel like we were among the few clouds in the sky. We were soaring over the tiny details scattered around the mountain, so minuscule yet unmistakably real.
“Time to eat, finally!” I rejoiced as I opened the pack that I had brought and sunk my teeth into the sandwich that was my driving motivation to make it to the peak. I sat on the rock, as if sitting on the point a skyscraper, and looked over the vastness around us.
“I told you it would be worth it,” the leader sat next to us as we all relished in the fact that she was right. It was worth it.