K and I took a hike up high on the day before her birthday as a way of celebrating our years together.
I was elated that she was able to be climbing the rocky slopes with me for, one year ago, she was having a toe amputated. She seemed to feel fabulous right from the start. When we were still down in the land of green and red vegetation, she sparkled, ready to climb high.
Alas, I rapidly realized that I was the weak partner on this hike. Every step hurt like someone putting a hot iron against my back and then sending electrical jolts down my leg. Often, however, I am surprised to find that I get better as a hike goes on. So, I kept hiking upward with my girl.
I forgot everything else as I reveled in the autumn color of the tundra and K's reddish chocolate fur.
We rapidly exceeded our highest hike of the season to that point. We gazed down upon places that we'd hiked earlier this summer.
K found snow, fresh snow that had fallen in the previous few days. She stopped at each patch to cool her belly and eat a birthday snow cone.
I was feeling a familiar high altitude happiness except for that awful soul-shaking pain. My back pain wouldn't leave me alone, not for a single step. Although I tried to ignore it, I found myself emitting loud sighs of pain which evoked worried looks from K. When we reached the point in the hike shown in the photo below, I knew that I wasn't going to be able to climb to the top of the mountain. I climbed it last year with no problem. Not this year...
K didn't seem ready to give up on the climb yet.
But, being an easy-going dog, she was also happy to play on the tundra, leaving the peak for next year.
I found the mental strength to climb up to the edge of the mountain, where it appears that the far side of mountain fell off, leaving jagged and steep cliffs, covered in a glacier that feeds turquoise lakes.
K expected that we'd keep climbing, and she focused on the peak as I tried to explain to her that I couldn't go up there.
I took lots of photos of her in the glowing alpine light. You can see the fresh snow clinging to the cracks in the mountainside to the right of K.
Finally, she turned around as I pointed us down the mountain.
Oh what amazing views. I wished that I could stay there, on top of the world, forever.
We descended as the sun fell lower in the sky. I knew that we had plenty of daylight to make it to the car but I'd brought a headlamp just in case...
We chatted with a family of marmots on our way down (we hadn't seen any humans since the trailhead parking lot). They looked fat and ready for a long winter's sleep which will undoubtedly start soon. It won't be long until this mountain gets its first real coating of snow.
As the sun fell behind a pointy mountain, I captured a soulful look from K, my gorgeous birthday girl. Despite my back pain, I was giddily happy to have spent the day above treeline with her.
On that day, I wondered which of us was aging faster. It might very well be me.