All the clouds had disappeared over night. The sun was beating down and I hadn’t seen even a trickle of water since the previous day. I retreated from the company of subalpine firs and walked to the top of the ridgeline to search for water. What I got instead was an unimpeded view of Mt. Klawatti and its magnificent northern glacier. The dirty, blue glacier snout snaked its way downward and sent a thin white stream winding down the rocks into a milky, blue lake—ahh, water.
My mouth was so parched that I had difficulty even swallowing the other half of my granola bar. I quickly scrambled down through a talus slope. Too quickly; for one of the rocks slipped from underneath me and a sharp piece of schist ripped a gash in my lower leg as I fell forward.
Looking back on that day, if I had listened to Mr. Davis’ last clue, patience, I would have made it to the lake much sooner. My leg was gushing blood. Even as I was in teeth-clenching pain, I took out my handkerchief and applied pressure to the wound. The bleeding stopped and I managed to bandage it up with the cloth. But it wasn’t until the late afternoon that I got a drink of that delicious glacial water. The distance down from the ridge was so deceiving. I kept thinking that I was “almost there,” but seemingly small rocks turned out to be nothing less than house-sized boulders. The limping trudge down was painfully slow.
When I finally reached the breezy lakeshore, I dunked my entire head in the water and gulped from below. I regretted that too, because not only did water go up my nose, it was also so cold that after I resurfaced it gave my head a weird feeling of pins and needles. Eventually I drank my fill and I refilled my water bottle. “I sure hope this water doesn’t have any of that giardia that Mr. Davis warned us about,” I thought uneasily. I also washed my wound thoroughly and rinsed the handkerchief and set it out to dry. I enjoyed the warm breeze and later, after I reapplied the bandage, I opened my journal once again.
It’s up to you. It’s your responsibility.” Mr. Davis had written in my journal. He underscored responsibility three times. I supposed that was the clue.
“But why are mountain lakes my responsibility. I have a responsibility to take care of my injured leg, but why is this mountain lake my responsibility? That’s absurd. I might have the responsibility to clean my room and take care of my home, but I’ve never been here before, and if it’s up to me, I’ll never return! This is a long way from my home,” I preached to myself.
The sun had once again gone away. I gathered my wits and my stuff and headed toward a clump of trees to the south. A green meadow stretched out before the trees. It seemed completely filled with avalanche lilies. Mr. Davis had said they were edible, so I delighted in a large dinner salad that tasted like ‘plant’. “Better than nothing,” I supposed.
That night I had a series of dreams that I will possibly remember for the rest of my life. They seemed so real.
I was flying high above the North Cascades with an eagle who guided me to all of the places he lived: from the oceans to the rivers, to great lakes in the far north of British Columbia, and finally to the top of Mt. Klawatti where he told me he had never been. He spoke in my dream, “Even though I have never been here, this is also my home for I can see the top of this peak from the great river below. If I can see it, it is my home.” With that he disappeared and I was left alone atop the peak. Around me, I could see for hundreds of miles with only a few nearby peaks breaking the encircling horizon. I realized that I was in the center of a great circle.
The thought of my family far away broke the spell and I awoke to darkness. The moon must have set also. Shortly after, I fell back asleep only to have the eagle take me on flight after flight to his favorite fishing spots until the sun once again broke my slumber.
I quickly opened my journal and wrote down all that had happened in my dreams. I determined that the only logical way to proceed was to head east. That way I wouldn’t be retracing my steps, nor would I be forced to go over the massive, daunting ridgeline to the west.
Sometime around midday I reentered the miniature forest, but this one was different than before. All the trees were dead, they shone like silver in the noon sun. I picked up my journal to see if Mr. Davis had an explanation.