He had needed some time alone. Really alone–not connected constantly to a network of people or streams of external information. It was about 9:30, cloudy (just how he likes it), and he hopped in the Honda and drove about 45 minutes straight east, the opposite direction of the Northwest’s biggest city. The road turned to gravel and there it was, the gated trail. After turning off the engine, the air was more quiet than it had been in at least a year. The sweet patter of breeze-blown trees echoed in all directions, and a faint bird greeted the day in the still-foggy haze. The gate awaited him.So often the hike begins so simply; the road is initially flat as the hiker prepares for the intense uphill battle to come. This is what he experienced. It only took a few hundred feet for the trail to bend upward quite rapidly… his legs began to burn. In an effort to pace himself, he would stop frequently to rest [how weak is the mind that the idea of quitting becomes an option?] Trees lined the single-file path, frequently stitching their roots into the dirt. In his case, he saw them not as trip-worthy annoyances, but rather foundations for footholds like stair steps as he packed down the footprints of thousands of prior hikers. It was definitely steep, and he could fall at any moment. All the trees jutting out from the middle of the trail were simply handholds necessary to alleviate danger, and he often found himself even too proud to use the help that stared him in the eyes. As the difficulty subsided just slightly, the terrain changed from packed dirt to a looser mix of bark, needles, and soil. He must now be getting close. How hard it was to stop gazing upward! As if he could predict the summit’s distance in the fog! All he had was the view down from where he’d come; although this was important to monitor progress, there was a deep temptation to turn in on himself, taking glory for what he’d done. Keep moving. He focused on the steps, as one wrong one could mean a damaged leg–at the least a time setback and at most a dangerous injury with no help around. As he trudged forward, the sky became closer to eye-level. He was peering through the trees into space now, not just a dense patch of more foliage. Suddenly, rays of white, misty light broke over the brown hill he had been climbing. Glory! The clouds themselves were pressing against the mountainside, illuminated by light. The path began to turn away from this scene–that was one side of the mountain; he was apparently going toward the other. The trail became dirt once more and the trees were less dense. He rounded a bend and as if dropped by a helicopter, there emerged an enormous field of boulders, covered on every side by gray-white fog. He could tell neither how high the rocks went nor if the peak was really very near. There was no way but up, so he began to climb. Oh, what a view would have existed on a clear day! The angle was a good 60 degrees; behind the clouds must have been an enormous valley, gaping pictures of mountains on all sides, snow-capped Cascade and Olympic peaks, and green-covered scenery in the foreground. It was incredible at this point; he could see the very air moving quickly sideways, for he was in the clouds! The faintest mist he had ever felt dripped cool beads of water on him. This must be how rain begins, he thought, before it is sped up by gravity and hits the ground below. He made it through the rocks, and yet another trail continued to point up the mountain. God had planted just enough signposts in this last leg that he was determined. The graces experienced already pointed outside of himself and filled his mind with wonder. What seemed like just a few more steps, and there it was: a white Mailbox stuck out of a small patch of rocks. There was nothing higher than that box; it was chock full of goodies, small trinkets, but mostly papers and journals full of names, dates, and notes exclaiming joy and telling others of what they’d done.