The world wakes slowly here. I stand on the balcony of the hostel and take in Mt. Rainer, as she glows faintly behind the pink bedsheets stretched taut across the sky. The sun's rays too, are subdued behind the morning haze until it seems just a fiery ball, resting on the ridge. The mountain is beautiful in this light—her gleaming snowbanks, the changing colors of the exposed rock—black at ten, blue at noon, grey at in the early evening, purple at dusk. She is so like the moon in majesty, but close enough, almost, to touch.
It’s quiet. There are many kinds of quiet in the world, but this particular quality of stillness can only be found above the tree-line on a summit. It’s the kind of comforting solitude that comes with knowing that you are the only human for a hundred miles,
The journey here was nearly impossible, as all journeys worth taking can seem. Had we known how difficult it would be to get where we were going, we might have rerouted, and missed the best views I'd ever witnessed in my life. In fact, I had tried to mutiny and abandon the hike multiple times as angry horseflies bit my ankles and bees circled my heads while we fought our way up the loose gravel mountain-road—four miles through the dust and heat.
But when we reached the top and I saw the grandor of this summit, I could only be thankful that my mutinies are never taken seriously.
The lodge is airy with gorgeous hardwood floors and modern appliances. The kitchen has a range and oven and is stocked with various instant foods and nonperishables for the guests. The livingroom is comfortable and inviting, with large leather couches in front of the fireplace, and bay windows with larger-than-life views of the mountain. The upstairs is two rooms—one large, the other small—and can sleep eighteen people. This place is part of a cross-country skiing route, one in a chain of four hostels, but now, late summer, we had it all to ourselves.
There is no Wifi, or cell signal here. No chaos—other than what you might have brought up the mountain with you. It’s just us here—and everything. It's easier to breathe.
Every morning, I make coffee and watch the dawn break over Mt. Rainer from the front balcony, then walk the ridge to see the surrounding peaks still pink with sleep. There’s Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens—I see the side of her that erupted, the hollowed bowl with the ominous bulge growing yet again in the center.
In the heat of the afternoon, we take off our clothes and stand below the spigot of the bright blue rainwater tanks. The shock of the cold makes me gasp and laugh. I shake the droplets from my hair and dry quickly in the sun, and we leave our clothes behind on the bench, as the complete solitude of the place makes clothing seem cumbersome.
The path along the ridge leads to a clearing with a firepit and picnic tables. A meditation hut with wrap-around windows sits on the far end of the clearing, at the edge of the cliff, and looks out towards the point where the sun lowers into the cobalt hills. Peace flags fly above our head. We sit on its porch and listen to them flutter softly as they release their prayers to the Universe.
The eastern peaks are painted as the sun casts its rays horizontally across the landscape. The receding hills and the striped sky above become a canvas of color—smokey-greens, cobalt, deep purples, warm pinks, with a reverent haze over it all, and I feel a hardness melting within that I didn't know I carried.
The sun slips away in the quiet, and a ribbon of glowing orange rests on the ridge, the last strip of light between the hills and the poignant darkening blue above, already glimmering here and there with the first shy stars. The sky deepens, absorbing the light slowly until the world is ebony, and the stars emerge and sparkle with breathless brilliance. They light our path back to the cabin, as we walk in silence, unwilling to break the profound quiet.
It was the most beautiful place I’d ever been. There was a piece of me that stayed when I left, to watch the dawn, and a piece of that place that goes with me wherever I go, and whispers to me in moments of chaos and unrest that there are places in the world where peace can still be found.