The quietest place I’ve been this year was the inside of a volcano. A dead one, fine—but still!
With the others out of sight behind me, I couldn’t ask if there was any point to the long slog up the steep and sliding scree slope, the sweat in my eyes and rocks in my shoes. As a graduate of, you know, sixth-grade science, possibly I should have been anticipating a crater at the top of something named “Cinder Cone”—but I wasn’t, and so when I reached the rim I felt the flare and joy of a true surprise.
It had been a long time, I realized afterward. The thing about diligence, doggedness, damn-well-will, is that it leaves little room for the unexpected. Planning precludes it. Had I even looked up “Lassen hikes,” someone on the Internet would have spoiled mine with an expectation (as perhaps I’m spoiling yours for you now). It’s an argument for pursuit of not a bucket list but balance: between Getting AfterTM the skills and the time and the money, and yielding—for lack for a better word—to grace.
But revision to the weekend-warrior’s code came later. Then, I ran to the bottom of the pit grinning like a mad dog, knelt at the cairns as before a shrine. And when I looked up and around the crater walls I found them strung, for some reason, with thousands of single-strand spiderwebs, blazing blinding white in the low bright sun.
P.S. I realize it sounds as if I’ve fled to a mountain hermitage to commune with rocks and wait for the rapture—but I was on a totally normal camping trip for my friend Xiu’s birthday, I swear. Look, photo evidence: