The sign for Goodnow Mountain came into view. The pressure of my foot on the gas pedal lightened and my left foot slowly depressed the clutch. My right hand gently fingered the shift lever. The engine revved slightly as the engine speed caught up with the downshift. I flicked on the turn signal and downshifted again and again. I pulled by truck into a parking space. We made adjustments so we could drop the tailgate and remove our gear.
I stepped into my snowshoes, knelt and adjusted the bindings. They feel as comfortable on my feet as the shoes I wear everyday. I double checked my pack and slipped my arms through the shoulder straps. I felt the gentle weight of the pack settle onto my shoulders. We helped each other ensure the straps were adjusted and tightened. Next came trekking poles, adjusted for the trek up the mountain to the summit, straps gently tugging at our hands. As final adjustments were made we silently made eye contact with each other. A smile and quick nod of the head assured each of us that we were ready. Before I took a step, I closed my eyes and tilted my head upward, smiling as the gently falling snow landed on my face. Confident this day would be a good day, we began our trek.
I signed into the trail and checked my gear one last time. I began to hike down the trail, snowshoes compressing the snow beneath our feet. The only other audible sound was my breathing; in…out, in…out, in…out. My arms lightly gripped my trekking poles; they swung rhythmically at my side. My footsteps quickly found the same rhythm. My mind also found this rhythm and I was quickly lost in the solitude around me. I looked ahead and saw my son had found the same rhythm; a smile crossed my face. I was home.
As we continued to hike, we stopped to take in water, a quick snack and to either add or remove items of clothing. At each stop we stood in complete silence and heard…nothing. The silence was almost eerie. As our slow and steady progress drew us nearer to the summit, we began to enter a large stand of pine trees. The new fallen snow continued to coat their outstretched branches weighing them down ever so slightly. As we hiked further into this stand of pines their snow covered branches began to close in on the trail, these same branches also ensuring the continued solitude which we had come to recognize and enjoy.
We arrived at the summit, removed our packs and snowshoes and climbed the additional sixty-feet to the summit of the Firetower. The visual photograph I took it was amazing. The silence even more profound.