Killer family fun on Mt. Rose II

We hit our first pile of white about half a mile in. If there’s snow here, not far from the Mount Rose Summit Welcome Plaza at 8,900 feet, I’m sure there’ll be more when we climb higher.

It’d be a good time for me, a novice hiker, to turn around. I could zip over to Tahoe for the day, while my husband and daughter enjoy their annual Mt. Rose climb. Instead, I stay the course, anticipating a breath-taking mountaintop experience.

My head aches. I take ibuprofen and drink water.

By early July, most of the snow is usually gone on Rose. Not this year. We climb up and over dozens of drifts, making our 10-mile hike longer and, heh, more challenging.

A couple miles in, we lose the path in the snow. My Significant Republican, armed with a GPS unit, takes us through the woods and into a green field. Across it, a tall snowmelt waterfall flows into the field. Lovely. Wet. And we’re off through the squishy vegetation.

Sqwearch, thwup. Leap over running stream. Sink into mud. My waterproof Gore-Tex boots fail to keep my feet dry. We merge with The Path winding up the mountain. Then up, up, up we go.

Popping more ibuprofen, I’m painfully aware that I’m thinking too much—and about negative stuff. The depressing state of our nation. The Washoe County schools. My age.

I turned 40 this year.

I devise strategies to avoid thinking too much. Though Socrates claimed that, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” I agree more with Kurt Cobain, who said, “Here we are now, entertain us.” Cobain would be pushing 40, too, if he hadn’t shot himself.

On the mountain, no MP3s or radio talk shows distract. Quietude is plentiful and contemplation inevitable. I try to be Zen, at one with pine trees, spring flowers and wet stuff, but, at 10,000 feet, I’m feeling dizzy. My ears ring. Whong, whong, whong. Altitude sickness, which can kick in at elevations of 8,000 feet or higher, feels like a bad hangover. You know, where you keep your head still to keep your brain from sloshing into your skull.

I quote song lyrics, rhymes and bits of Dr. Seuss.

“And all that the Lorax left here in this mess was a small pile of rocks with the one word, ‘unless.'”

“Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear. Beer before liquor, you’ve never been sicker.”

My feet turn to soft white prunes in my squishy boots. The muddy, snowy upward path feels endless.

My daughter tells me that, every year at some point during the climb, she throws up.

Has anyone mentioned this to me? All I ever hear is the glory of the summit, expansive views, “awesome” top-of-the-world whoo-ha.

As the path gets busier—with real hikers who don’t have me along to slow them down—my thoughts get uglier.

At one point, past the tree line, I feel like I can’t drag myself another foot. I sit down and cry. Then a family with a preschooler rounds the bend. A preschooler.

The last bit of ascent involves walking along a ridge with whipping 800-mile-per-hour gales. My husband cheerfully relates how, one year, the wind swept him off his feet.

Then we’re there.

“You made it, dear,” he says kindly.

“Don’t talk to me,” I hiss.

The summit is high, yes. From here at 10,776 feet, standing on the grey-black rocks, I can see 360 degrees of northern Nevada—Tahoe, Reno, the reservoirs, everything. I remember reading that, in prehistoric times, humans who appreciated scenic vistas survived and procreated. From high places, you can see predators coming at you from any direction.

I’ll feel better—great, in fact—tomorrow, and I’ll apologize to my family then. But for now, I’m too sick to eat my sandwich.