It loomed ahead. Baldy1 was glorious. It was vulnerable to the whims of nature, yet it towered over nature itself. Spiraling rows of lush green halted at a distinct point, where, seen from miles away, it transitioned to stone. Only the very top had peaked over the horizon, catching the cold glimpse of medusa and branding its name—Mount Baldy. It was immense, it was all-powerful, and it was ours. The journey up its veins–its small, winding footpaths–was strenuous. The incline accrued almost exponentially. Though others had been with me at the time, my crew of eight, the expedition had been extremely solitary. Each of us had within our own motives to reach the summit. It had been an expensive trip, yes, but the feelings it evoked were priceless.
Every human being should have the natural right to experience the world in all its glory. That morning, my crew had awoken at the crack of dawn—four o’clock AM. Though the darkness was thick, a deep and celestial purple seeped through the sky above. Our headlamps cut through the frigid air. The artificial light reflected off a stream adjacent to the stony trail we would follow until daybreak. After few breaks for water and photographs, we happened upon an endless grass field of ethereal beauty. Its splendor was hidden in its simplicity at the base of what appeared to be the top of Mount Baldy. A small gap in the trees had opened a portal to this unimaginable realm of wonder. From afar, we had only seen a linear transition from green vegetation to orangey stone. This secret field was exclusive to those who had persevered this far up the mountain. It was veiled by the courage and endurance needed to reach the field itself. A photograph would not do it justice.
Being in its presence had been godly. I was one with the clouds. I had slowly taken off my backpack while attempting to soak in what I had been completely and unexpectedly exposed to. I was astounded—feeling like a small child thrown into water learning to swim. At first the child is overwhelmed, but the only escape is to flail one’s legs about and be propelled forward… and that’s exactly what I did. I had taken to the fields with full force. The horizon was a gazelle, and I a lion. Once my breath had escaped me, I kneeled down to regain it. Now I was truly on my own. The others had taken to their own coping with nature’s sheer power. At that moment, I looked up and saw the moon. It was humongous and genial, a gentle giant resting on his expansive throne of the sky. At that time I had not realized this amicable stranger was the same I spied on through my bedroom window. This simple fact had not occurred to me. There is only one Luna.
The sky was now a glossy blue. Out there in the Rockies, light pollution did not exist. The menial glow of a hiker’s flashlight did not disturb the heavens as did the towering epicenters of the city. This gave the stars great respect and granted them the power to humbly shine even in the midst of the morning as they had that day. Moments later, the group had reassembled. This time, we were on the other side of the field. A distinct line separated the ambrosial greens against the lifeless, cold sea of rocks. This sea was far from any sea one would consider normal. It was inert, though rippled with the carefully placed footstep of each man. Being an able young man, I raced to the top. Though I struggled as everyone else, I had hiking poles, wide eyes, and a rush of adrenaline propelling me forward. Only later did I feel bad for not aiding my crew advisor, Jeff Pritchet, on the undoubtedly hardest part of the journey. Though this was not his first time up Baldy, he deserved to relive its greatness on every ascent. He had helped us traverse eighty miles up to this point in the week, and at the climax of pure adventure, his knees were giving out. How selfish had I been to gaze out above everyone and everything, only to notice the stumbling Mister Pritchet and not do a thing.
I stood as Captain Morgan on a feeble, proletariat rock, and absorbed the sun’s ample rays with great pride. The light was unadulterated and raw. No clouds stood in its path. The atmosphere was substantially thin, but psychologically massive. Every soul to have ever lain a boot on this pedestal of the cosmos is instantly and utterly devoured by something greater than himself. Questions of one’s place in the universe and one’s relative size and importance as a cog in the machine tumble about in the mind. Baldy was certainly unique—it had a dual summit. This camel back shape is not easily distinguished from afar. The two peaks are within a stone’s throw. I tramped upon them both with stark blitheness and fascination. Until now I had forgotten the frivolous stone that rested in my pocket for the length of the ascension. There existed a silly tradition on that mountain dubbed rebuilding Baldy. The goal had been for every hiker to carry a rock from the base to the very tip. It only took a glance to spot the tiny mountain upon a mountain. Though they were still rocks, they differed greatly from the rest. Each held the story of its bearer. My fingers fumbled around my pants pocket until they clasped around it. My crew members had gathered around and pulled theirs out as well. This gathering was almost sacred. We were monks as we each set our stone atop the pile and watched it tumble down until it found its place.
In a way, we were akin to that which we contributed to the pile. That day, we had hiked Mount Baldy, as did the rock. We had each had our chance to bask in nature’s glory on the top of the mountain, as did the rock. Later, we too would tumble down the mountain until we found our place amongst the rest of the world. We would question our placement there, yes, and we would sometimes be unhappy that we fell where we had between the other rocks. This is so, yet at the end of the day, the rock is content. It has a place, a unique place, and without it, that tiny mountain would crumble. As I took in my last sights before the descent, I thought of my size compared to Baldy. I thought of Baldy compared to New Mexico and New Mexico compared to the world. And I thought of that tiny rock I brought with me to the top, that tiny action that could change the world.