Letters From a Son: About A Hike

I saw my first butterfly of the season last Thursday. It was mostly yellow with black dots and a black border around the edge of the wings. Strange though; I seldom see butterflies in the city—let alone 32 stories up on the roof of a commercial office building. Of course, I smiled when I saw the butterfly. I smiled because the timing was perfect.

Yesterday morning was an early one for me. My friend Lonny and I decided to take a hike up the mountain. We did this last week, only this time we decided to go further, which is good because I’ve been trying to push myself lately.  We started a little after sunrise and headed up the mountain on the yellow trail, which is steep in the beginning.

Early in the trip, we came to a large crossing where the trees cleared and saw a beautiful doe standing there. She was staring at us. She didn’t move. She swayed her tail and then she leapt away.

These hikes are good or me. Aside from the conversation, which absorbs the time and helps keep my mind from the fact that my legs are strained and my breathing is heavy, there is something spiritual to these walks through the woods.  I can think clearly here. There is nothing around to disturb or interfere with the serenity of nature. There is no noise of traffic or people. All there is on the trail are the tall trees and a dirt path, which becomes rocky at times. There is no noise here except for the sounds of birds and the breeze of Mother Nature.

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It’s beautiful up here in the mountains . . .

By the time we hit the first viewpoint; I stood beside a large rock and gulped down a stream of water from my water bottle. The sun was hot, which is why we began our trip early. Aside from the trails being perfectly empty at this hour, and aside from wanting a little privacy with nature to feel connected and spiritual, the sun is less intense in the early hours.

The climb is not an easy one. There are reasons to pay attention and things to be mindful of. Nevertheless, the sights make the trip worthwhile. I love the views from up there. I love looking out and seeing the waves of green trees rolling in swells across the neighboring mountains. There is nothing around that is man-made. There are no cars up here to drive by with loud engines.

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After we took a break at one of the overlooks, I followed Lonny up to a higher elevation. This time we passed another viewpoint that was even more extraordinary than the other. I took a few pictures. I took a deep breath and then I whispered the words, “Thank you.”
I said thank you because I felt grateful. I said this because I pushed myself to make it to this point and silenced the little voice in my head that says, “You can’t do it.”

Moving closer to the sky, we climbed up even higher than I imagined. My legs were certainly tired. I suppose the beauty of my surroundings and the rush of adrenaline was enough to push me to go further.

We were closer to something and I knew it. After a small rock climb—after a few steep trails, and trying to find where the white trail intersects with yellow, we took off into a different direction. We came across an old pipeline that ran along the rocky hills. The pipe line was to an old water source, which meant we were close to our destination.

The occasional breeze was certainly a relief. Fortunately, the trees sheltered us from too much sun, but the warmth was still very thick.  I could feel my heart beating heavy. In part, my heartbeat was from the strenuous walk. In other ways, my heart beat quickly because I knew we were close.

I heard the sound of a small stream chattering through a series of stones that have been there before you, me, and anyone we could imagine. This little run-off has been there for centuries, meandering through the woods, and soaking the grounds of the Harriman Mountain.

At this point, we spoke a little less to each other. Both Lonny and I were taken in. We were deep into the hike. I was tired, but I needed to make it to the next checkpoint. I needed to see a place I have only seen in pictures. And just like that, it was all right in front of me.

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After all the climbing, sweating, and feeling the burn in my legs—all the strain, all the pain, and all the effort were worth every second.

I never saw a mountain lake like this one before. There was nothing manmade about it. The water was clear with a rocky bottom. Nothing was polluted. The water was clean. I have never seen a lake so azure, or so magnificently untouched. There is no place like this on earth, Mom.  No place at all . . .

I was thinking of you as we made it up to this point. I was thinking about your early morning phone calls that never come anymore. I was thinking about the way you would say, “Good morning,” and how the two words sort of combined with one another when you said, “G’mornin, son.”

Taking in the sights, I stood on a rock and lowered my backpack. I took another deep breath of the clean, fresh air, and again, I said the words, “Thank you.”

I saw my second butterfly of the season at this lake. This one was mostly black with a yellow border around its wings. Funny how these butterflies come when I need to see them most.

We took lunch at the lake. I ate a little. Lonny and I talked a little. We looked around some and enjoyed the view. Both of us were connected to the scene and the beauty of everything around us. We could smell an early morning fire from a nearby campsite. This is when we decided to do an overnight trip to that very same spot. That’s when a different butterfly came passed us.

I mentioned something about the butterflies to Lonny. I told him I consider them like a visit from you—or a sign.

I told him, “I don’t care how it makes me sound. I don’t care what anyone else thinks. I don’t care that I’m a grown man and I’m holding on to this because if anything; one thing I am is a son that misses his Mom.”

The walk down the mountain was a long one. I was thinking about The Old Man and how we never had the chance to go camping. I was thinking of anyplace to go, this spot by the lake would be a perfect place to set up camp.

By the time I reached home, my legs were spent. I was on a hike for more than 5 hours that moved across an easy six miles. I was glad to come home. I was grateful to feel the coolness of my air conditioning. Of course, the dogs came up because they could smell the trail on me.

I was thinking about you, me, and the relevance of butterflies. I know what people tell me about this. Sometimes, I wish they would stop telling me.  I wish I knew you were with me. I wish I knew you were proud of me. Deep down, I wish I knew that you consider me a good person.
I miss you Mom. I often wish for you to send me a sign—just something to let me know you’re watching. And when the signs come, I struggle to see if the signs are coincidence or not.

Anyway, yesterday came to an end. I watched the sun go down over the west side of the mountain behind my house.  I could see colors in the horizon and feel the tension from the warm breeze turn down to something much cooler.

My wife showed me something that made me wonder. She told me about something she found outside in the ground. It was a round piece of blue glass with the shape of a butterfly in the middle.

I always wished you could see my place here in the mountains. When I saw what my wife found—a part of me knew you were here. I just wished you would have said something. It would have been nice to sit on the deck and tell you what I’ve been up to.

I find it hard lately. I find it hard to process my grief and guilt.

I wish I could hear from you, Mom

I wish I could hear your voice.
No one cheered for me as much as you did.

I miss hearing you say, “I’m proud of you, son.”

Those words mean a lot to me. And now that you’re gone, they mean even more.

Sleep well, mom

I’ll speak with you soon

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