High Higher Highest

We started the climb where the rivers divide, where the waters must decide if they are West Coast or East Coast material.

For more than two hours we hiked, crossing creeks like seasoned tight-rope walkers. We talked to scampering chipmunks, looked for elk scat, counted wildflowers in every color of the rainbow. To my surprise, the kids needed little more prodding than an occasional, “Ooh! Let’s see what’s around this corner!” More often, we were shouting after them to wait for us at the next turn.

We found a perfect picnic meadow, complete with smooth boulders that improvised as chairs. There was oohing and ahhing and even some off-key singing.

At the hardest part of the climb, the kids finally pulled out the “How much farther?...When can we turn back?” questions. Then Rascal, who was leading the pack and right in front of me, crested a steep hill and gasped. “Snow!!!”

­There, atop a rocky field high above treeline and unprotected from the sun’s rays, was a huge, defiant patch of snow. The big kids jumped the trail and sprinted toward it while Smiley twisted around in his backpack, demanding to be set free.

And without warning I found myself blinking back tears. I stood there on that rocky spot, looking down the mountain toward a blur of impossible greens and blues and up at my chattering, delighted kids and I could not have felt happier. I don’t say that lightly. It was truly one of the sharpest feelings of joy I can recall.

I was in my happy place, surrounded by my most important people, feeling the goodness of my life pouring through me with energy and abundance. It was absolutely electric.

And then…because life is what it is, I eventually had to get down the mountain. We all did. And sometimes that part is not as electrifying or gratifying or somehow even as scenic. But I shot photos. And I wrote this. Because if there’s one thing I want to hold on to, it’s that moment at 12,150 feet. I have climbed higher before, but I’ve never felt closer to the sky.