Sharing the Experience

I discovered last week that hiking with company can make the physical agony go by more quickly, and the triumph last longer. I was pleasantly surprised that the simple acts of chatting, of commiserating with audible groans and moans, and of sharing the experience with another can make hiking up a mountain even more delectable than before.

I used to be an introvert. I used to primarily enjoy solitary actions. I used to thrive off of engaging in my mental life–spending hour upon hour gleefully solving theoretical problems, reading and writing, and psychoanalyzing others and myself. But something has happened to me over the years, pulling me out of myself, causing me to seek out companionship.

I am not an extrovert by any means. I am not the life of the party, I do not fight my way into the middle of large groups, and I do not even particularly like seeking the friendship of strangers. However, over the years, I do find myself seeking out the company of others–in delightful small-group interactions.

Last week Dan and I took off giddily in his brand-spanking-new car to seek out the challenge of a mountain.

Seattle is shaped by mountains. From any direction Seattleites are visually confronted by the monsters that make the city as drizzly, green, and outdoor-obsessed as it is. With Mount Rainier to the southeast, the smaller Cascade mountains to the east, and the glorious Olympics to the west, Seattle is surrounded.

As a East Coaster, I have rarely had the opportunity to experience mountains of this scale. I have never lived in the shadow of a beast like Rainier, and never been able (or willing, for that matter) to seek out a mountain’s incredible solitude and endless demand. But now that I live on the West Coast (I still can’t believe it!) and, more importantly, in the lush Pacific Northwest, I am constantly itching to get above the tree line and survey the incredible beauty existing here from above.

Dan and I drove an hour, over large highway and one-lane gravel, to reach the trailhead. We suffered up Bandera Mountain, cruising through endless pine trees, scrambling up an impressive number of crumpled boulders, following switchbacks back and forth over 45-degree mountain fields, and battling the desire to stop after three brutal false-summits. We reached the top, took a great number of awe inspiring pictures, and basked in the glory of conquering such a mountain.

And it was all made better by sharing the experience.