I took a hike by myself today! I have had a lot of good ideas in my life, but this might have been the best.
Have I ever been so happy?
Probably, but it seemed incomparable today.
I had the day off, so I packed up Tess's little perfect-size-for-a-day-hike backpack with snacks, my journal, and a bottle of water; put on a little knee brace, since my knee has been cranky downhill and running; and I headed up toward Upper Dewey Lake. Tess had made the same hike just yesterday, and she said that you have to be persistent, because it's 2 ½ hours all steep uphill, but that it was worth it.
I had been as far as Lower Dewey Lake before, on the way to Sturgil's Landing. It took under half an hour to get that far, although it was steeply uphill already and I felt slow and out of shape. But I was happy to be hiking and happy to have a day to myself, and I was determined to make it to the top! It was drizzling a little, but I was mostly sheltered by the tree canopy, and what did make it down to me was cool and refreshing.
Thank goodness, because I got warm pretty quick! I took off my sweater immediately, although I kept on my rain jacket.
At Lower Dewey Lake, you take a turnoff whence you can head to Upper Lake (where I was going) or Icy Lake and Upper Reid Falls, where Meridith went a few weeks ago. Both are 2 miles past Lower Lake.
The walk up continued to be mostly very steep, although I was feeling better than I had at the beginning, since I was a bit warmed up. I still had to stop for about 15 seconds out of every minute, though! Most of the way up I was meeting up with a long, continuous waterfall periodically. Every time the path veered back to the waterfall, I felt like I was greeting a friend!
It turned out I wasn't as slow and out of shape as I thought I was. I kept passing people on the way up. After two hours, I took my second little three-minute break – but when I stood up and walked around the corner, there I was at Upper Lake!
I couldn't sit out on the rock promontory where Tess sat yesterday, because there was a group of six weird people hanging out there, and I really wanted to continue to be alone anyway. But I made my way as far as I could around the lake and up a hill, then back, around to a public cabin, and out to a little rock by the water, where I sat and ate my lunch and wrote in my journal. It turns out there's actually a path up there that leads another 4/5 of a mile to “Devil's Punchbowl,” but I didn't see the path or a sign, so I didn't make it up there! I would love to see it someday, though.
I stayed up at the lake for over an hour, then packed up and headed back down. The way down was much faster, of course, and I actually jogged a lot of it where it was safe to do so.
About three quarters of the way down, I came around a corner, and Skagway and the Lynn Canal and the mountains emerged before me, and I had to stop because I was so overwhelmed with it.
There's a Millay poem I pull out a lot, since I have the feeling of it a lot, but never have I felt it so powerfully as I did in that moment:
O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!
Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
Thy mists, that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
And all but cry with colour! That gaunt crag
To crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff!
World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!
Long have I known a glory in it all,
But never knew I this;
Here such a passion is
As stretcheth me apart,—Lord, I do fear
Thou’st made the world too beautiful this year;
My soul is all but out of me,—let fall
No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.
I just felt so, so happy to be exactly where I was.
I've now had three days in Skagway where I thought it might be the best day of my life. How amazing is that?