As I was ready to leave Levenworth this morning, I got the call that my friend, Nelle, had passed over the weekend. It was devastating news, as she was one of the most illuminating souls I have ever had the chance to meet—and although I have not seen her in many years, it crushed me. I rebooked my hotel room and decided I would dedicate this day to her. Last night, I was gifted a handful of wine tasting coupons from a couple I had met drinking spiced cider by the fire, and I knew that would have to be part of my tribute to my wine-lover girl, Nelle. I looked up hiking trails in the area, and found pristine reviews about a place called Colchuck lake- a 5 mile hike up to a mind-blowing view in the Enchantment mountain range. I promised I would make it to the top and dedicate the view to my friend, then raise a glass to her at the bottom.
I always get a bit nervous wandering deep into forests alone, but I saw seven other cars in the lot, and found comfort in the fact that if there was a bear or cougar, I wouldn’t be the first to know. I was over an hour in before I came across another soul. The scenery was so captivating—with snow capped boulders, rushing rivers, and frozen waterfalls—that I wasn’t too concerned about being solo. Yet, after another hour, and another thousand or two feet, it hit me that I was by myself, in the middle of a tundra, with only a bottle of water and a camera. Any other day, and I may have just called it good and turned back for fear I’d become the example of why they say not to go hiking alone—but I was able to move forward because I had a promise to keep. The last mile of the hike was grueling, and I was half in tears just begging the mountain Gods to make the lake appear. I said to myself, “If this were easy, it wouldn’t mean as much, one foot in front of the other, keep moving.” When a spot of blue finally peeked out from the trees, I wasn’t fully prepared for what I felt—my breath jumped, my body froze, and tears came to my eyes. I was utterly alone, standing on the edge of a cliff, crying as I witnessed truth in beauty. The water was completely still—frozen into layers of crinkled cellophane, not a ripple, not a sound. The cascading rock face was drizzled with lines of white icing as it looked down at its distorted reflection below. I’ve never witnessed such stillness in the air—it’s like time stopped— the Universe pausing in a moment of silence for its newest angel. I stood on the verge of rock and water, closed my eyes and felt my mind’s eye drift—I could sense my feet leave the ground and float above, existing neither in my world or in hers. It was a beautiful space in time, a oneness of existence with all that has been. I opened my eyes and witnessed the majesty of the mountain once more. I offered my deepest gratitude, warmed my hands against my heart, and began the descent back down below, carrying with me the last memory of me and Nelle, and knowing that now she is surrounding us everywhere—in the crisp fall breeze, in the smell of a freshly baked pie, and in all the little nuances that she appreciated in her very special time on Earth.