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Walking Solo

Nederland Colorado 2013

It was our neighbor Annie’s idea to organize the May full moon hike from our homes on Rocky Knob Lane in Nederland, Colorado. A group of twenty or so of us clad in down parkas and wool ski caps trekked up the road. As we reached the top of the first hill the full moon rose above the pine mountain like one giant gold coin gleaming against a dark blue sky. The casual chatting of the group ceased as we all stopped to silently stare at the surreal magnitude and color of that spectacular moon. It was more spectacular than any Hollywood movie moon I had ever seen. Could it have been the combination of its massive size, its Indian yellow color and that we saw it from 8,200 feet? I felt so close to the moon that night, like if I stuck my tongue out I could lick it. Annie told us to turn and look west at the snowcapped Indian peak mountains. The magnificent domed peaks rose like pearls against a sapphire sky.

I held Tom’s hand as Annie pointed at the small trail leading down the mountain. “This is where we begin our descent into the Switzerland Park Valley,” she explained. I had hiked that trail many times in the summer in daylight when the trail was dry dirt. But tonight, Annie warned the descent would be steep, narrow, snow packed and icy. We had just had a foot of fresh spring snow. I took Tom's arm and together we lead the group down the moonlit pine lined narrow trail. No one spoke. I heard the crunch of snow beneath our boots. Occasionally I hit a deep spot of crusty snow and one of my legs sank to my knees. Pine branches slapped my face and scraped across my cheek bones. I walked on the inside of the trail as we trudged down the snow packed hill. Tom walked close to the edge of the trail. There was just enough light for me to see the steep drop only inches from his feet. One slip could send him tumbling ten to twenty feet down the rocky ravine.

When we reached the bottom of the cliff the trail opened to a wide, flat dirt road. The road had been plowed and was soft. On the southside of the road through some trees I glimpsed the Boulder Creek snaking black through the forest. A meadow opened to the south filled with tall grasses, spruce, pine, and aspen. I looked up into the sky and saw the stars and the now smaller full white moon. A rush of cold air from the stream and the scent of pine from the trees filled my nose.

Annie asked each of us to walk solo on that trail, explaining we would walk alone, in silence for about forty-five minutes. At the end of the road we would come to a bridge where we would stop and gather before beginning our ascent up the hill leading back to her house. Carla volunteered to go first. She would begin, and when she was almost out of sight then I would start walking. The next person would follow me and so on until everyone had walked alone on the trail. We would be a silent stream of solo hikers trekking by the light of the full moon. Annie asked us to begin our walk with a silent intention.

I felt afraid to walk alone in the darkness on that trail, aware that mountain lions, bears and coyotes frequented this area. It was spring and they were all out of their winter hibernation. I wondered if they were hiding in the woods and tall grasses watching us. But the thought of walking alone on this earth silently in the moonlight stirs something deep and primitive within me. That excitement overcomes my fear. Carla begins her walk and suddenly all but her white wool cap disappears in the darkness. I watch as her cap bobs up and down glowing in the moon light. When I feel she is a good fifty paces in front of me I begin my solo journey.

My silent intention is “Grace.” I walk alone listening to the stream rushing beside me. Its dark waters glisten like diamonds sparkling in moonlight. I feel my heart beat up and down in my chest as my breath moves in and out of my lungs. I smell the scent of spruce and pine. Cold air touches my cheeks. Black dark silence is in front of me, moonlit aspen, tall grass meadows and the rushing stream beside me. The rubber soles of my boots touch cold black dirt and pine needles. My body moves through the moonlit night. What Grace has brought me to this moment here on earth, to be in this silent holy spot where I live and breathe?

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