I was climbing quickly and making very good time.
Just past the halfway point I reached an old, wooden cabin. It was meant for emergency use during snowstorms but my legs were tired and I decided a power-nap couldn’t hurt.
I struggled with the stiff door and ducked inside. I scanned the room with my flashlight, finding emergency supplies, a few bunks, and -- ahh! -- a man was staring at me. I'm not sure who was more shocked but we both apologized shamefully – I for the intrusion and him, well, being Japanese I believe he was apologizing for his mere existence.
I trust that we both found forgiveness, though very little was spoken. I found a dry spot on the floor and lay uncomfortably under my sleeping bag. Sleep was impossible though – the man snored like a chainsaw. No – like several chainsaws. I wrapped my head in a sweater but it was no use. The cabin’s walls shook with each rumbling intake of breath. With no hope of sleeping or even an uninterrupted thought, I left. If you are reading this, sir, please accept my apology and I shall accept yours for corroding my newfound inner peace.
The last hours were a struggle. The path was steep and covered with loose volcanic rock – I often lost my footing. I was using my hands in a lot of places and wished I’d had gloves.
Finally, (finally!) I made it. If you haven’t climbed a mountain before, let me tell you, all the clichés are true. There really is no feeling like being on top of a mountain. There is something in our nature that drives us to be at the top of things and I was rewarded with a rush of adrenaline – the rush that never fails to justify the effort of the climb.
The sunrise brought with it a panoramic view of snow-specked cliffs, green pine forests, and sleepy towns nestled beside the great Sea of Japan.
I breathed in the cool mountain air. Life was good.