July the twelfth is Renée’s birthday, so, in conformation with family tradition, we ventured into the mountains on a hike. Our destination was the Fourth of July trail, which we reached despite being trapped behind an obstinately slow-driving sedan picking its way up the dirt road. We had wisely selected an easy hike to save ourselves for a 5K race the following day; upon arrival we learned that “easy” meant an 1,800-foot elevation gain over three miles to Dorothy Lake above tree line.
We began in the solemn douglas-firs, serenaded by saucy kinglets and their out-of-control whistles and warbles. As our elevation ticked upward, the trees shrunk until they tempted abduction as house plants. The kinglets gave way to White-crowned Sparrows as the dominant species. Finally, vascular plant life all but surrendered, leaving us exposed among rock and lichen, the domain of Pipits and Ptarmigan that we did not see.
Unaccustomed to high elevation, I felt dizzy, as if mildly drunk. Joel and Marcel forged ahead; I plodded behind, attempting to correct for the rocks that spiraled underfoot. Finally I reached them at the lake. I gave a triumphant shout and facetiously yelled, “Who’s jumping in with me?” The frigid lake leered at us, caped in ice that I had to convince myself was not blue.
Upon hearing of our planned tomfoolery, the parents disapproved. “What will you do, jump in your underwear? That will be wet and miserable for the hike down,” Renée interjected.
“Exactly. That is why we will take it off.”
It was cold.
Our unclothed adventures distracted us from the gathering gray clouds to the west. Afternoon thunderstorms are about as regular as defecations on a fiber-rich diet; thus, we decided to flee the tundra, where we towered as fleshy lightning rods. We hurriedly packed up and made it to the stunted trees before lighting began striking. I doggedly slid-walked down the trail, my hood up and my head down, occasionally tossing back a handful of chia seeds from the flask that Dave lent me.
We reached the parking lot thoroughly drenched.