There is something competitive in the walk. Maybe it's really just something competitive inside of you. Today you embarked uphill at the MRS with no destination in mind other than upward. Knowing very little about the landscape, you did not know where you would arrive. Perhaps an unknown summit, maybe a scenic lookout over the wooded Rockies. You walked, uphill, battling the altitude.

You were alone but somehow still self conscious about how out of breath you were. Occasionally you stopped and pretended to be interested in a detail of the scenery, but were actually taking a moment to stop your heart from pounding through your chest. You are from Colorado. You grew up in the foothills of these mountains. This is your place, your home, and therefore feel you have no excuse for your breathlessness. But none of that is true. These are not your mountains. You can return to this environment again and again and it will treat you no differently. Do not confuse familiarity with comfort when it comes to thin air.

You keep walking. Trying to prove you are some expert hiker, someone who finds refuge here, in the uphill. Willing yourself to not grow tired. Thinking that you can make it around the next bend, to that next tree, past whatever landmark you encounter. Thinking, maybe, you'll find something but really proving to yourself that the mountain does not tire you. You are 20 years old. You can walk forever.

Until you turn. Around. And you start back downhill, down the same path you traveled up. Back to where you belong, where you're expected, maybe even needed. There is a finality in that turn. Allowing yourself to secede in the battle.

Sure it's possible to turn again. To continue up. You don't.

  • Haley Rae