And yet I see landscapes now not visible to those younger hikers, because I’ve been hiking this trail for some 35 years, sometimes twice a summer; in the winters, when there’s enough snow I’ve skied up the road. This trail is layered with all the other times I’ve hiked it; image upon image, memories stacked up. It’s like looking through a prism, seeing not one landscape but 10.
When I see the waterfall that spills over the rocks, I remember the first time I saw it, after one of my college roommates urged me to get up here; I see it in its springtime fullness, obscuring the rocks that now lie exposed in summer, and in winter when it’s buried under snow, and in fall when the aspens on the hills above the falls illuminate the rock walls.
I’ve felt such joy on this trail that even during those times when life has felt heavy, seeing the hillside of flowers and aspens and, the water slowly carving out the rocks has lifted my spirits, taken my spirit to places I forgot I could reach.
But there’s a lot of sadness, too. I’ve seen changes over the years that have made me want to cry: pine trees felled by the pine beetle and now littering the hillsides; in the high meadow, three ancient bristlecone pines have died since the time I started hiking—trees a thousand years old gone in the 30 years since I’ve been coming up here; the streams, once so clear, have rocks covered with green algae; and most of the aspens in my favorite grove at the bottom of the steep rocky hill are now pale brown skeletons.
Even the trail has changed. The first part of the jeep road I once hiked is now flooded, after beavers dammed the creek, and the new trail now goes through the woods. It’s lovely in the dark woods, but a different feeling from being out in the open.
But as long as I can, I’ll still keep climbing up, past the old cabin now boarded up, over the creek that jeeps once forded, up the steep, rocky hill and past the waterfall. On top the meadow will be waiting.