Today, I ascended the Gimli Ridge Trail with three others; two family friends Tim and Gary, and my grade school teacher Phil. We left early and spent an hour ascending a logging road in Tim’s 4×4. The trail itself starts of tamely. A thin track cuts straight through the trees and Mount Gimli can be seen high in the distance through the gap of the trail itself. The air in the forest was muggy, but the sky was full of clouds so the temperature was relatively low. After crossing a small creek by way of a new bridge, the trail’s incline increases. Spruce and fir trees line the switchbacks which make up the first part of the trail. We took the first half of the climb slowly which gave us the opportunity to fully take in each new vista that came into view. The Valhalla Mountains are some of the most beautiful and un-adulterated mountains in the area and they are truly wondrous to behold.
The trees began to thin after a while and the air became dryer. When we finally breached the tree line, a panoramic view of the valleys below came into view. Towering before us, the great peak of Gimli held sovereignty over the scene. I remember thinking that this mountain might outlast every other peak, some day far from now standing even more lonely than it now appears. Patches of snow dotted this alpine landscape and we sojourned upon one to cool off and escape the flies which call the mountain home.
There were many other very friendly hikers on the trail with us one of whom offered my the use of there insect repellent. I don’t know your name, but thank you again, it was a great kindness. At the base of Gimli’s cliffs the terrain changes to loose rock which we dutifully clambered over and upon. It was here, that we first saw a mountain goat. He was backed against the cliff, near to some hikers but seemed not to mind our presence there. Everyone stopped and pointed and then continued up the slope. This was the toughest part of the entire trail. Loose rocks slipped and fell away beneath us frequently. Phil, who has a fear of heights, did especially well along this final stretch. It is not easy to confront our fears in such a head on manner and doing so made his efforts all the more commendable.
At long last we reached the summit of the trail; a knife edged ridge which drops away almost immediately into sheer cliff. Lying down on my stomach, I could look straight down to where large portions of cliff had fallen away to be dashed apart below. In the valley below, three beautiful mineral lakes are fed by the snowpack at the base of the cliffs. Below them is a forest which many grizzly bears call home. Far into the distance the mountains stretch, until they are obscured in shades of hazy blue. The view from this ridge is something that I will not soon forget nor fully describe. Raw nature defies us, our words are incapable of containing it. We can only pass along hints of majesty to those who have not for themselves seen.
On our descent, we once again came upon the mountain goat. This time, he was very close indeed. It seemed as though every hiker we had seen that day had stopped to behold him on such a close scale. He was not concerned in the least by the small crowd of onlookers gathered so nearby. Instead, he merely continued to graze as if we posed no more a threat to him than the flies. I have never been so close to one of these creatures in my life. Had I so chosen, I could have touched his face with my hand. I did not of course. Wild animals deserve our respect and nature is not a petting zoo. It is an astounding experience to encounter wild creatures in their native habitat. I am always left with the feeling that I am a mere visitor in their land. They will remain in these mountains forever whereas I will always be obliged to leave.