The trail up the mountain is rocky and broken. Washouts to climb up, over, and around that cannot be avoided. Stubbed toes plague you as you bump on jagged edges of boulders. You look for lost footholds from the previous trip, but that was a journey of different paths and has been removed with the summer rains.
The red clay covers you from your head to your seemingly broken toes as you make an idiots wish for long pants.
This feeling fleeting as the July heat soaks you with an intense unforgiving heat. You get through the washout and realize this is not today, or has it ever been an actual trail. This is an adventurers path to heavenly views.
You come to the boulder field filled with Kudzu, poison ivy, and abandoned bear dens. You must jump boulder to boulder to keep the uphill pace to make the peak and to base by sundown.
The trail suddenly flattens and becomes campsites that ranger signs tell of being a forbidden item. You see the mark of mankind thrown about. Cigarette butts, beer cans, and careless firepit remains.
Beyond is a football field size clearing of waist high grass. You put your fears of deadly snakes creeping about and Black Bears crouching ready to devour in your back pocket. You have only your pocket knife and hiking staff to give you comfort and at this moment you grip it ever so tight.
You reach the granite rock face going straight up and see a half foot wide rocky arrow of a trail leading at a 45 degree angle upward toward the sky. Your elbows scrape and bump as the climbing equipment you left at home, today will remain unused.
You take a glance down from time to time to guide your feet and are shocked to see your blood coming from several cuts, scrapes, and gashes. Strangely you feel no pain.
You reach a spot overlooking the gorge. It begins to rain and you take refuge in a outlying boulder cave shelter. The rain looks not to last, so you take out your mole skin notebook and a bottle of water. Scribbling thoughts and desires for life in a perfect July afternoon storm. You take off your shirt and lay flat against the cool dry cave protecting you. You stretch and lean and attempt to calm the soreness and pain soon coming.
Trees are slowly becoming scarce as you approach the tree line 30 feet above. A woodpecker turns and gives you a wink and goes back to carving away at a spruce, looking for an early dinner. He ignores the pelting rain, and you admit to yourself it would have been better to have done the same. Tiny lives living and protruding with the trees. You take note not to forget this moment.
The rain subsides and the blue sky comes into view. The sun ever so much hotter now for some reason. You take a last bite of a trail mix snack, sip your water, put your sweat soaked shirt on, and sling your pack securely to your back. You are ready and confident for your final mountain attack.
The trail from here is basically straight up. You tread now upon fallen trees to make it to the top. Your faithful hiking staff has become a hindrance and you lash it to your backpack and grip rocks, branches, and dirt with fingertips and nails long since solid black. Your lungs will soon burst. You feel it deep down to be true. The only thing you worry about is if your legs will be first to fail.
Suddenly you see it! The flat granite roof is within your grasp and you make one proud grab for strength and pull yourself up. You hunch over at the waist as sweat pours from every inch of your body. Muscle aches and a stinging in your eyes make it impossible for you to take in your victorious view. You reach blindly inside your pack and grab water and douse your face to remove the pain, sweat, and filth.
Finally here at the peak you casually stroll around taking in the views. Your legs are still quite wobbly and unsure to call themselves your friend. You take a seat upon a dreamlike vision of stacked 10 ton boulders. You are at the top of the world and are mesmerized by the mountains, gorge, and lake that lies far below in your view. You grab your tiny book of the Tao te Ching and whimsically read aloud ancient passages of strength, knowledge, and solitude.
Thoughts of peace and Mountaintops through pain, blood, and grief enter your soul. As you ready yourself for the descent you take out a head lamp and flip it on. The day will soon be turning to night and the preparation has served you well. The hike down is always easier on the body, but harder on the mind. A sprained ankle the biggest threat. The views at the peak were great. The day was tough. You keep the views close in your eye as you sidestep the traps you found on the way up. You realize your life like never before.
Realization comes that the Mountain top hike is much like life in general. The view at the top is always beautiful and easy on the eyes. The true story of your life lies not in those views from above. Life is about the pain, anguish, triumphs, and pure determination to survive the journey and look peacefully back on it with a smile.