Hi there friends! I hope the beginning of a new week has found you well. We (my husband, dog & I) have been on adventure after adventure these past few weeks leaving me inspired and excited for more. Saturday evening we ventured out for an out and back sunset summit atop Mt. Axtell.
We had heard the hike to the peak of Axtell was a relatively short one compared to many of the neighboring mountains, as you can drive a significant distance up the foothills of the mountain itself. At one time the road probably went to the summit but has since been closed to vehicular traffic and the land has begun regenerating making the trail or route barely visible. Every once and awhile we would come across a path that looked to be travelled by hikers that came before us as well as the resident wildlife but it would quickly taper off.
There was not much of a view on the ascent as dense foliage covered the regenerating hillside but once you reach the summit there were no shortage of breathtaking views. If you happened to see my Instagram post this morning, you may remember I mentioned how different the perspective is from each mountain I’ve climbed and no experience has ever been remotely the same. So relative to life, yes? Many of the stories we tell ourselves, or situations we come across have the potential to change drastically should we alter our perspectives, viewing it from even a slightly different position than before.
It took around an hour for us to reach the broad, grassy peak. We ate lunch (which thinking back was really dinner) as the sun lowered in the sky. There was a light breeze that complimented the warm August sun. I was torn between capturing the moment on camera or seizing the moment by dancing in the dreamlike essence. So I settled for both.
At both peak markers were glass jars with rusted lids. Inside was a record log of people who had hiked Mt. Axtell before with the date and a word of advice or gratitude. I was really moved by the words left behind and the slight presence that could be felt when taking them in. We left our names, the date, and a few words as well. Who knows who will see them or where they will ultimately end up.
As the sun lowered its rays burst through the tall standing pines and cast a fiery orange, filter overtop the surrounding landscape. This was the first sunset I had witnessed from a summit and it was absolutely more than I had hoped for. Before I knew it, Alex (my husband) was having us head toward the unmarked trail down valley and in the direction of the truck. Normally, you would not find me on a peak at sunset unless I was prepared to camp and hike out in the morning but because this was short in distance I figured we wouldn’t have to do much hiking in the dark if any at all.
The horizon glowed with a red hue for at least 45 minutes into our descent giving us more than enough light for navigating and seeking out landmarks we would recognize. After an hour of hiking down my instinct told me something was off. We came across a stream with running water that I knew we did not pass beforehand. And intuition told me we were too far to one side of the mountain leaving us further from the truck. I scanned the surroundings but by that time it was dark and we were deep into the timber making it tough to see anything but the enveloping trees, even with a headlamp.
For a few moments fear got the best of me. My mind was rambling off the “what ifs”. It was dark, the terrain was slippery and unstable and we were lost. My husband helped me get back to my feet (literally and figuratively) and reminded me that while we may have lost our route to the truck we weren’t so lost as to how to get back to town even if that meant enduring a 30 mile + hike to get there. As I started to calm down I mentally began retracing our steps and communicating where we may have went wrong. With a few deep breaths and what felt like long gazes into the stars I found that place within me, the stillness, the instinct, the place you have to tap into during times of panic or uncertainty. Where there’s a deep sense of knowing and a profound confidence in our own strength.
I started to enjoy the expedition underneath the celestial night sky having no sense of time but having a mission and each other. We had agreed to camp should that be the safest and best option but I think both of us felt so attuned to our direction at that point that we knew we would make it back to the truck that same night. We followed the flowing stream knowing it would lead us to a familiar pass one way or another and eventually we found a bike path which led us to the road our truck was on. We had to walk a few good miles uphill but we made it by midnight. When I allowed myself to surrender to the circumstances instead of trying to resist, my perspective shifted to feel incredibly grateful and fulfilled to have had that time with nature at night, my husband, and our dog, Styx. Again so relative to life, yes? How often do we veer off our paths or get abruptly knocked off only to realize hey, it’s not so bad after all and maybe, just maybe this was the way it was meant to be all along…
As I have mentioned before while the wilderness is an incredible place it is also unforgiving. Please always seek out terrain, weather, and general information before hiking to a place you’re unfamiliar with. Even better go for a tour with an experienced, educated guide who can pass along vital backcountry tips, tools, and knowledge helping you be best prepared for an exciting yet safe journey.
So my friends, another adventure in the book of adventures, and plenty more photos to come. For those interested Mt. Axtell is 12,055 feet above sea level and can be accessed via Kebler pass with parking above Splains Gulch.
What has come up in your life that didn’t go as planned? Did it turn out better or worse? Tell me below!
As always, thank you for joining me here!