On This Mountain

Entry by: Lainie Senechal

3rd April 2015
To Climb a Mountain

A decision to climb a mountain
from our small troop of girls
who want to be adventurous women,
not decorative Southern belles.
A refusal from those in charge,
we firmly hold our ground;
mount a boycott, finally approval.
With a wizened guide
and borrowed equipment,
we head to the Great Smokies;
arrive at Newfound Gap
to begin ascent of Mt. LeConte.
Loaded with heavy packs, proceed
up strenuous Alum Cave Trail,
which begins gradually
through shady hemlock grove.

Trail steadily steepens; we tire -
a respite in shelter of Arch Rock.
Never have we hiked
a path so long and precipitous,
five miles up to the summit.
At Inspiration Point first
panoramic views of Smokies,
Mists are gradually lifting from
valley floor in morning's warmth.
Vista spurs desire to forge ahead.
Arrive at Alum Cave, a concave bluff,
where materials were mined
to fill Confederate rifles.
A storm sweeps through
the lowlands with brilliant
lightening flashes that
illuminate the gray clouds.

After an exhausting ascent
up rugged rocks, a rest at
Gracie's Pulpit, halfway point.
The knowledge that she made
the climb at age ninety-two
gives hope for our success.
Clouds have parted above valley
to reveal peaks clothed in
dark stands of mature hemlocks;
some over five hundred years old.
Further on, overhang above
releases small waterfalls
to cool the hot afternoon
has we cling to cables;
over smooth, slippery stones.
Finally, path flattens into
a shady spruce-fir forest;
switch onto Rainbow Trail
to set foot on the summit.

We sleep outdoors in lean-to,
cook over an open fire;
hike to Cliff Top to see sunset.
A pair of peregrine falcons
pirouette in updrafts of evening;
a bear visits in the night,
searches for dinner's scraps.
Dawn begins with a stroll
along Boulevard Trail to spy
the sunrise cast patterns of
shadow and light along ridges.

Here, on mountain's summit,
only the moment matters.
Free, for a time, from adolescent
angst of customary demands,
in nature's boundless beauty;
secure in our certitude that
we are up for the challenge.
It is with some melancholy
that we break camp and descend.