As dawn broke and the day’s first light peeked through the oval windows of our tent, I struggled to emerge from the warmth of my sleeping bag, slowly inching my way out, leaving a small trail of white feathers clinging to my long-underwear. Unzipping the tent, I quickly slipped on my boots. As my feet began to warm the chilled leather, I stepped outside.

It must have gotten pretty cold overnight. A small frost covered the surrounding willows. Taking a quick breath, the cool mountain air filled my lungs and sent shivers down my back. I looked up at the ridgeline on the horizon and began to study its edges. Outlining each little bump and tall peak, walking the slope all the way down to the foothills, I looked left and read the mountain again.

Memorizing each snowy bowl, each steep, gravel flooded draw, I followed each glacier until the met the mossy hillside. I pictured waterfall after waterfall, cascading from the glaciers’ tail, rushing into nearby creeks and flowing through the river a mere 50 yards from my feet.

Those ridgelines. So close, yet so, so far away. Mesmerized, I always imagine myself raising my arm up and out, easily touching the summit. Then I’d steadily sweep my fingertips across and down the ridgeline. Reading each shark-toothed peak and every saddle slope, like a natural braille, it was as if I was carefully unearthing some sort of secret message left in those ancient rocks. Then, with one giant leap, I’d simply hop up and stroll across the crest trail, in a matter of minutes, knowing fully that it would take hours of hiking just to reach a saddle, let alone tour the entire ridgeline. But I still imagine it, over and over, with each brilliant western range I see.

Hearing movement, I snap out of my trance. Billy and Pa were stirring and nearly awake. “I guess I’ll get a fire started for breakfast,” I think to myself. “It’s going to be a big day.”

“Have you spotted anything yet?” Billy asks, noticing my eyes on the mountain as he emerges from the tent.

“Not yet, but I gave the mountain a good sweep.”

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