This day was a gift. A beautiful mid-January day with very little wind, warm temps, clear skies and bright sunshine, the kind of day we call a "Bluebird Day", or better yet, a "Presi Day". Indeed, it would have been a great day to knock off some Presidentials or to visit Franconia Ridge. Our thinking was, "This would be a great day to go into the mountains and take it easy, to enjoy this "Gift", so that is just what we did. Sure, there are mountains on our winter list that we still "need", but sometimes it is just nice to shift gears, enjoy the day for what it is rather than going on a grueling trek, venturing above tree-line and wearing ourselves out. On this day we picked a hike we very much enjoy and we took our time at it, enjoying what the mountain gods had sent.
We do keep track of our mountains and we do hike lists. With each summit comes the feeling of accomplishment, the feeling of gratefulness that we were allowed safe passage and a greater overall appreciation of our little corner of the universe. Lately, the lists and accomplishment side of the hikes has become secondary to the simple need to just go out and enjoy ourselves. As we age, and as our little hiking partner Emma ages at a quickened pace, our priorities have begun to shift. What once seemed like a "need" has become more of a "If it happens, it happens. If not, we still had a good run!" Emma's comfort on these long forays has become the most important factor for us, not a check-mark that will not be remembered when we are gone.
I do not mean to belittle those who hike for lists or check-marks. Quite the opposite. I am always amazed by those who have and those who will do such incredible feats as "The Grid" and "Single Season Completions of the 48". They are stronger in body and will than we are, we look up to them and hope to aspire to be in some small way like they are, but we are not them. We are what we are, and we are fine with that. Often, we are just as inspired by the little dog who finds a way up and around every obstacle in her path, who seemingly shows us the way.
Over the years she has been a great trail companion. It is probably true that we would not have as many peaks as we do if it were not for obvious joy of the trail. So we continue to follow her, and as long as she is willing and able to lead we will do so. The sad part is that she will age quicker and slow down sooner than we will. It is already beginning to happen. The push that we felt to accomplish lists and check off peaks while she was young has been replaced with a new "need", the need to allow her to enjoy her hikes as her short life begins to wind down. After all, she is just a little dog. Those little legs have crossed a lot of miles and climbed a lot of meters.
So, this was a day when we just said, "Forget the lists." What is important is that we go out the door and walk in a beautiful place where no one has to over exert themselves, to let her do what she so enjoys and to not push to a point that may be over doing it. There will be other "Bluebird Days" and the mountains aren't going anywhere. It may come to pass that we use some of those days to visit our final winter peaks, to check them off our lists, but this was not one of those days. We used it to enjoy what we have. To live in the here and now, like she does. There's a lot to be said for that. It is one of the greatest lessons she has given us, this little dog.