I enjoyed their story. But even before I heard it, I liked what I saw. I had hiked up to 7,000 feet on Mt Rainier’s southern slope — slightly higher than Panorama Point and just below the Muir Snowfield. There, above the treeline and far removed from the comforts of a restaurant table, two people were sharing a bottle of champagne. They had even trekked up the mountain with glasses and berries.
What were they celebrating? I’ll answer that in a moment.
He was born in Seattle and worked a summer at Mt Rainier more than 40 years ago. Among other things he helped build the Kautz Creek Bridge (pictured, below left). These days he lives and works in Hawaii. She lives in Sacramento, California. Theirs is definitely a long-distance relationship. “We’re making it work,” she said. “Four years now.” They’re both well-traveled. Indonesia, New Zealand, and Peru (among other countries) fill their passports. They meet briefly in various places around the world. The only continents they didn’t mention during our long, high-altitude conversation were Africa and Antarctica. (I asked them to email me when they reach those places. I’m sure they will get there.)
They told me that long, late-night phone calls typically involve dream destinations and end with airplane bookings. They meet, enjoy each others’ company, and share the exploration of a new place. Or in the case of Mt Rainier, a beautiful place revisited.
So what were they celebrating with champagne at 7,000 feet? They are fortunate to have health and the means to travel. If you ask me, they were celebrating life. And each other. And by the looks of them, “life” and “each other” may be the same thing.
(Mt Rainier Panorama, September 2014)